Brett Gleason: Strong and, Thankfully, not so Silent

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The one thing I have always loved about NYC is the music scene. As a matter of fact, the reason I started blogging about ten years ago was to highlight musicians I met around the city. Brett Gleason happens to be one of the first people I interviewed. Since then he’s become a great friend and I’ve seen him perform numerous times over the years.
The thing I’ve always loved about Brett is that his music is truly an extension of who he is. When I first heard him, it was very unique to me because I was going through a mostly pop and R&B phase. His lyrics were and are like poetry, but not the everyday kind, they remind me of deep literature class poems.
Besides being a wonderful musician, Brett is also a very vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community (He’s written for HuffPost) and he advocates for mental health. As you’ll read, it is very inspiring that a boy who was mostly shy as a child because of a speech impediment became such an advocate and performer.
Getting a chance to interview Brett is always a treat and a pleasure. He’s got so much going on, like adding a band to his performances, changing up his sound a little, AND this amazing Patreon community he is building (if you aren’t part of it yet, you will want to join to keep up with him). I invite you to join our conversation to learn more about him, make sure you follow him on social media, and reach out to say HI to him (and to me too). Check out his videos for Expiration Date and Alive at the end.
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Q: For those who don’t know all about you, tell us a little about Brett Gleason’s beginnings and Brett growing up. Was music always a part of your life?
Brett Gleason: Hey Tommy, thanks for asking.  I’ve always played music but the role it played in my life has varied – as a kid, piano lessons started as just one of my many activities, my main one being gymnastics.  As I grew into my teens I was a seriously competitive gymnast but as I developed emotionally and dealt with injuries, I took to music more personally and started listening to Tori Amos and the Smashing Pumpkins and realized music was something really important to me and was going to be my life’s path and I started writing songs.
Q: I’ve known you for a long time and I’ve always said your lyrics are very intellectual, kind of like musical literature. Will we ever hear a pop song from Brett?
Brett Gleason: To be honest, I think that my music isn’t too far from pop, especially my new songs, which I guess are still to be heard by most.  My sounds are more rock, or even folk sometimes but my structures are getting more simple as I’m trying really hard to get my message across. I  used to write more complex songs but I think I was just hiding, or even showing off.  I’m using more simple song structures now which is kind of what pop is.  It’s not obvious mainstream but it’s simple & heartfelt.
Q: How many instruments do you play? And did they all come naturally to you?
Brett Gleason: The piano is my main instrument but I’m also a fairly accomplished guitar player, a proficient bassist, and an intermediate ukulele player.  NONE of them came naturally to me, it was all work.  Most people think musicians were just born with ‘talent’ and it may be easier for some but it’s been a long journey, I’ve been playing for 25 years and I still have a lot of limitations but our limitations are what we work around and that’s how ‘style’ is born.
Q: The definition of Indie Artists has become a bit misunderstood by many. What does it mean to you to be an Indie Artist?
Brett Gleason: The phrase ‘indie’ has been co-opted by corporations to mean ‘rock’ music these days so now I say DIY. If you’re on a label, have funding, you’re not ‘indie’.  I know there are ‘indie’ labels but some of them are pretty damn big.  I’m DIY.  I do it myself with the support of my fans.  They support me financially and emotionally and I make the decisions that I think are best for the music & them.  It’s a really slow process but I’m thinking big picture.  A label could help me blow up fast but they’d own everything and could quickly abandon me if things go wrong, take all my music and leave me with all the debt.
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Q: You recently added a band to the Brett Gleason experience. How did this come about?
Brett Gleason: My recordings have always had a ‘band’ but as a multi-instrumentalist, I played most of the instruments which has been tricky to pull off live.  I don’t play drums so I’ve always had a great relationship with my drummer and often play live together but it hasn’t been financially feasible to consistently hire a full band. However, I’m stepping things up this year and now that I have some consistent support through my Patreon and new music that really calls for a special sound, I think it’s finally worth it.
Q: You have said that you had a solitary childhood because of a speech impediment. How did you overcome that and what/who helped you to get through/past it?
Brett Gleason: Kids are amazingly resilient and I was so young that I just rolled with it.  My parents were smart and kept me busy, they put me in gymnastics, music lessons, lots of individual things that I could do alone to build up my confidence.  I had speech therapy, worked on creative writing – it definitely affected me socially but that’s where art comes in.
Q: You have been so open about your own struggles and mental health. What advice can you offer to those who are struggling and especially to those struggling in silence?
Brett Gleason: Open up to someone.  And if they don’t listen, open up to someone else.  The sooner the better.  I waited way too long until I was in crisis because I didn’t think it was serious enough but it usually doesn’t get better until it gets worse and there are so many resources out there but you can’t access them alone, especially as a kid.  I needed help when I was 13 but I didn’t get it until I was 19 and then I had to drop out of college and get hospitalized but still, at least I did that then.
Q: There’s new music coming! Tell us a bit about it. Will these songs reflect the changes like the band and the work you’ve been doing on you?
Brett Gleason: Thanks for asking! I have a new single coming out on June 7th called, ‘The Strong & The Silent’ that will kick off a new sound for me.  It’s about a proud man who uses his strength as a shield against vulnerability…
Q: What’s one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?
Brett Gleason: I really can’t live without coffee but I wish I could.  This sounds very idealistic but I wish the world could live without borders dividing and defining us.
Q: You’ve also been vocal and open about your sexuality. What does it mean to be an out artist, especially in today’s climate?
Brett Gleason: I really don’t know anymore…I’m very open about being gay and bipolar as I like to be transparent and give my music context but I don’t call myself an out artist anymore because my music doesn’t really vibe with the ‘gay music community’ very much and as a cis-white gay man, music mags that focus on queer content aren’t interested in posting about what I do so its kind of pointless to promote myself as such.  I just like sharing who I am, looking for nothing in return other than connecting with other people.
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Q: What would you tell your younger self about being gay and what would you say to the young people who are having a hard time that is being made worse by all of the political stress going on now?
Brett Gleason: I would say to my younger self that being gay is like the 3rd or 4th thing that defines you.  I spent much of my 20’s trying to find where in the gay scene I fit in and it tortured me because I never felt like I belonged.  Now I spend my time in the music community specifically and meet lots of cool gay musicians and non-gay musicians who really don’t care whether I’m gay or not.
To young people stressed out by the political times happening now, I really don’t know what to say other than to tell them they really need to educate themselves on the last 5 decades of gay struggles to see the overall arc of progress and to see that people have been fighting hard for their rights and that there is always a push and pull.  There will be more progress, things have been worse and things will be better.  But you need to educate yourself, be grateful for those who came before you and advocate for your future.
Q: You have been using Patreon to connect with your fans. What has that been like and what can people expect when they join you there?
Brett Gleason: Patreon is the future of music.  It’s a fan club for artists to connect with their fans.  It’s a semi-private site/app where I post all my work in progress and more personal, substantive blogs that I wouldn’t put publicly online.  In return, my fans choose a monthly amount to support me with, anywhere from $1 to $100/month.  This has changed my life – allowed to consistently create new music, explore new sounds, work in a proper studio and hire a band, mostly from small donations.  It has also helped me connect with people who really care about my work as opposed to people who just click ‘like’ on my photos but never listen to or support my work.  It’s deeply changed how I view myself as an artist in the most profound ways.  I highly recommend checking it out, there’s no contract or anything.
Q: Where else can people find you and your music online?
Brett Gleason: Google me! I use social media a lot and would be grateful if you’d follow my Spotify for when my new music comes out.
Here is my SpotifyInstagramTwitterFaceBook & of course my Patreon!
Q: What’s up next for Brett Gleason?
Brett Gleason: The ‘The Strong & The Silent’ comes out on June 7th, I’m doing a release show in NYC on June 20th at Berlin and then a Northeast tour in August.  I’ll be following that up with another single in the Fall then a new album in 2020.  Hit me up, shoot me an email. Say hi! Thanks Tommy, love you!

Daniel’s Husband touches on some very important issues

Daniel's Husband

There are so many things we are dealing with now and so many things we need to shed light on. These issues have, thankfully, been showing up in our art to bring awareness and hopefully let people who are going through them know they aren’t alone. I always say great entertainment does more than simply entertain and I love when there is a touch of social good mingled in with my art.

Daniel’s Husband is a touching, heartwarming, funny, impactful, and sad story that may be all to familiar to many. It deals with what happens when a couple (in this case a gay couple) isn’t married and they haven’t taken care of the proper legal steps they need to in case of a medical emergency. It also addresses family drama and the differences in individual beliefs when it comes to marriage.  I suggest bringing some tissues because the play (and the acting) definitely hits you in the feels.

“Daniel and Mitchell are the perfect couple. Perfect house, perfect friends – even a mother who wants them married. They’d have the perfect wedding, too, except that Mitchell doesn’t believe in gay marriage. A turn of events puts their perfect life in jeopardy, and Mitchell is thrust into a future where even his love may not prove to be enough. Daniel’s Husband is a bold reflection of love, commitment, and family in our perilous new world.”

Daniel’s Husband is playing Off-Broadway right now and I suggest you catch it, it will leave you with plenty to think about as well as plenty to discuss with whoever sees it with you.

Daniel's husband Poster

Here’s a bit about the stars:

Matthew Montelongo (Mitchell, Daniel’s Husband) has appeared in numerous New York productions, including the Broadway revivals of A View from the Bridge and The Ritz. Off-Broadway, he has been seen in One Night (Cherry Lane); This Backstage Life (Atlantic Theatre); His Daddy (Ensemble Studio Theatre); Whore (Summer Play Festival); God’s Ear (Vineyard Theatre/New Georges); Five Flights (Rattlestick Playwright’s Theatre); The Mineola Twins and Arms and the Man (Roundabout Theatre Company); and Tartuffe (Shakespeare in the Park/Public Theatre). Regionally, Matthew has performed in the national tour of Looped and in productions at Washington D.C.’s Studio Theatre, Hartford TheaterWorks, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, Signature Theatre, Westport Country Playhouse, Woolly Mammoth Theatre (Helen Hayes Nomination for Best Ensemble), Alliance Theatre, Folger Shakespeare Theatre, St. Louis Repertory Theatre, Hangar Theatre, Delaware Theatre Company, Capital Repertory Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, The Old Globe, Two River Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Festival, and Seattle Repertory Theatre. Matthew’s television appearances include “Ray Donovan,” “Elementary,” “Sneaky Pete,” “Forever,” “Gossip Girl,” “Law & Order: SVU” (x2), and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” He recently starred in the feature film Bear City 3 and the popular new web series “West 40s.”

Ryan Spahn (Daniel) began his Off-Broadway career in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Pulitzer Prize finalist Gloria at the Vineyard Theatre. He went on to appear in Michael McKeever’s Daniel’s Husband and Ike Holter’s Exit Strategy, both for Primary Stages, as well as the revival of Summer and Smoke with Transport Group and Classic Stage Company. His recent regional credits include Hamlet at Shakespeare Theatre Company, Halley Feiffer’s Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Gloria at Goodman Theatre, Exit Strategy at Philadelphia Theatre Company, and Nina Raine’s Tribes at Actors Theatre of Louisville. His feature film credits include Woven (co-writer), He’s Way More Famous Than You (co-writer), and Grantham & Rose (writer). He co-created the digital series “What’s Your Emergency,” was a writer and producer on Logo’s “Cocktails and Classics,” and appeared on TV in “Tanner on Tanner,” “Ugly Betty,” and “Star Trek: Voyager.” He will be seen next in episodes of “Half Life” and “The Blacklist” and the upcoming film Shirley, directed by Josephine Decker. Ryan received his BFA from The Juilliard School.

Anna HolbrookRaising (Daniel’s Mom)  has appeared in Jo (Theatre Row), Skeletons (Broadway Bound Festival), Daniel’s Husband, The Dolphin Position (Primary Stages), Natural Life, Hot L Baltimore (Gloria Maddox Theater). Regional: Crimes of the Heart, Three Viewings, My Fair Lady. Film: I Love Trouble, Those Who Wander, Boxed. Television: “Blue Bloods,” “Bull,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Law & Order,” “L&O SVU,” “The West Wing,” “Spin City,” “One Life to Live,” “All My Children,” “Another World” – Daytime Emmy®www.annaholbrook.com

Leland Wheeler: Off-Broadway: Daniel’s Husband (Dir. Joe Brancato, Primary Stages/Penguin Rep). Film & Television: 1/1 (with Lindsey Shaw & Judd Nelson), We Need to Talk about Kevin (Dir. Lynne Ramsay), “Blue Bloods” (CBS). Student of Deborah Hedwall. Since 2001, Leland & his family annually produce the award-winning Heritage Music BluesFest in Wheeling, WV.

Lou Liberatore: BroadwayBurn This (Tony®, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Award Nominations), As IsLondonBurn ThisOff-BroadwayPushkin (american vicarious/Sheen Center), Daniel’s Husband (Primary Stages, Penguin Rep), A Class Act (New World Stages), Orpheus Descending (Bartley/Glezos Prods), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Masterworks Theatre Co.), Rocket to the Moon (Peccadillo Theatre Co.), Turnabout (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Sight Unseen (Manhattan Theatre Club). Also: The Vineyard, Naked Angels, The Lark, Orpheum, Second Stage, Circle Repertory Company. RegionalAngels in America, Parts 1 & 2 (Actors Theatre of Louisville), The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide… (Berkeley Rep), The Diary of Anne Frank and That Championship Season (Westport Playhouse), A Thousand Clowns (Two River Theatre). Also: The Alley, Theatre J, Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival, Baltimore Center Stage, Pioneer Theatre, Steppenwolf, Mark Taper Forum. FilmSleeping with the Fish (upcoming), Barrio BoyBlood from a Stoner, Box, Mary and Louise, It’s My PartyRosen’s Son, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (Disney World, Epcot Center). TV: “Deception,” “The Affair,” “The Good Wife,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Sex and the City,” “Law & Order.” Education: Fordham University (Lincoln Center), William Esper. Member Artist: Ensemble Studio Theatre, Actor’s Center, Circle Repertory Company (1985-1996).

Let The Other Day take you where it began and began again

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I was very lucky and thrilled to be invited to see a touching, important off Broadway play called The Other Day. Theater is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening, especially on the weekends. I can get lost in the city for an entire day and then end it by seeing a great play or musical. It is all so very entertaining and in some cases, as is with The Other Day, it can leave you thinking about so much.

The other day is a story about relationships, the good and the bad parts, the sweet and the sad parts. It’s about two couples: a gay couple who meet in rehab and a straight couple where the husband is so consumed by his job and success that he is driving his wife away (and straight to a flask).

TheOtherDay-Play

Unfortunately, it was a very limited run this time around but I’m hoping it comes around again and you all get to see it. There are so many powerful moments, so many touching moments, and just so many life moments. What impressed me most is that a character’s sexuality is becoming less important as we all realize these stories, the things that happen to us in life, are so universal. In the case of this play, you could interchange the straight characters and their situations with the gay characters and their situations. Love is love and being human just means we all basically experience the same things when it comes to life, love, losses, and vices.

Look out for it and of course, I will keep you updated as to when and where you can see it as soon as I know! This one is worth catching, tears and all.

The Book of Merman

book of merman

Yes, you read that correctly, The Book Of MERMAN. This is a delightful Off-Broadway musical comedy where two Mormon missionaries ring the doorbell of Ethel Merman and you can just imagine where the hilarity begins.

It’s a three person cast of performers who posses some of the biggest voices I’ve experienced on or off Broadway and their comedic timing is completely on point throughout.

How can you go wrong with a show about two Mormon Missionaries who happen upon Ethel Merman’s apartment? Ethel causes quite the stir an a few cathartic moments for the young men and the young men provide Ms Merman with a few self realizations of her own.

Here’s a little about the cast from the night I was lucky enough to see it:

Carly Sakolove is Ethel and absolutely does Ms Merman proud. Carly is a long time fan of Ethel Merman and pays tribute to her, other Broadway divas, as wells as pop divas in her one woman show, “I’m Every Woman”. Her viral YouTube video “Broadway Divas Send in the Clowns” featuring her diva impersonations, has been hailed by Timemagazine and The New York Times. Off-Broadway: The Marvelous Wonderettes (Betty Jean),NEWSical the Musical and Girls Night: The Musical (Carol). She was recently seen in the national tour and Royal Caribbean companies of Mamma Mia! as Rosie. Favorite credits: Mazeppa in Gypsy (Sharon Playhouse) and Helena in The Mystery of Edwin Drood(Speakeasy Stage) and Robert Anne in Nunsense (Feinstein’s 54 Below)

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So, Carly supplies the Ethel part and two more talented actors provide the Mormon part. Kyle Ashe Wilkinson (Elder Braithwaite) and Chad Burris (Elder Shumway) do that wonderfully. In this cast, each voice is as grand as the others. At one point we are even treated to a Merman-off where Ethel challenges Elder Shumway to a voice-off.

Kyle recently made his NYC debut in the developmental presentation of Manifesto: The Diaghilev Project at the Robert Moss Theatre. Some favorite credits include Harold Bride in Titanic: The Musical (Rocky Mountain Rep), Chris inBecky’s New Car (Florida Rep), Justin in Good Boys and True (Theatre UCF), and Man 1 in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (Theatre UCF). BFA in Musical Theatre from the University of Central Florida.  www.kyleashewilkinson.com 

Chad has been part of: National Tour: The Book of Mormon (Elder Cunningham) Regional: Cleveland Playhouse, Cape Playhouse, Arkansas Repertory Theatre. He is the co-creator of the web series, City Boyz.

I thoroughly enjoyed Saturday night at this musical and so did my guest. I left with a few of the songs stuck in my head and a smile on my face.

If you’re looking for some fun, to be entertained, and to have a reason to tap your feet, get yourself over to see The Book of Merman. I think you’ll find it’s a great way to spend the evening, part of a date, or to entertain out of town guests. Since it’s an off-broadway production, the price point is quite affordable and the theater setup makes every seat a great one!

 

She Calls Me Firefly will take you on a journey you’ll remember

sean fireflyI was blessed to see She Calls me Firefly on a dress rehearsal night a few weeks ago at the Soho Playhouse. It’s only running for about a month for Pride Month in NYC and sadly, ends it’s run Pride weekend. That means you only have one more week left to catch it before it’s gone. I plan on seeing it at least once this week, if not a few times before Sunday June 24th! It’s totally worth checking out a few times because I feel like it’s the type of art that will present new facets each time you see it.

Full disclosure, one of the stars, Sean Hudock is a good friend of mine but my desire to see the play has all to do with his amazing talent. During the rehearsal show, his performance moved me to tears, made me laugh, and touched my heart. He soars in any role he takes on and is one of the biggest supporters and allies of the LGBTQ community I know. I don’t think I’ve ever actually told him before but he constantly inspires me on my own journey and gives me so much strength when I need it. He has encouraged me to continue to be involved, fight, and be there for others in my community.

The show takes place in a Kentucky dive bar called Freddie’s Place, where it’s always nickel beer night and there’s live musical entertainment to start out each evening. You’ll be transported there for each performance because you’ll be seated in the bar, enjoying the live performance until the show begins around you.

cast fireflyHere’s the official description from the website:

‘It’s Nickel Beer Night at Freddie’s Place. Ken has come to drown his sorrows, but no amount of alcohol can wash away the pain of his broken relationship with Levi, nor the dark and difficult secrets of his past. As you enter Freddie’s you will instantly be transported from New York City streets to a Kentucky dive bar. Pull up a stool, grab a drink, and find yourself immersed in the searing world of She Calls Me Firefly.’

A new play written by Teresa Lotz, directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser.
​​A co-production by Parity Productions and New Perspectives Theatre Company.

It’s the broken relationship that brings Ken into Freddie’s Place and this will tug at your heart-strings but it’s the dark and difficult secrets of his past that will shock you and bring you to tears. This play is a reminder that sometimes we must deal with our past in order to move on to the future we deserve. What holds us back and keeps us from happiness does not serve us. I don’t want to give away any of the important parts of the story but I feel like everyone can relate to it for sure!

She Calls Me Firefly is an official NYC Pride Partner and a perfect partner it is! If you are in NYC visiting for Pride or you live here, make this show part of your NYC Pride experience….You won’t be sorry. You can get tickets here for Monday June 18th, Wednesday June 20th, Thursday June 21st, Friday June 22nd, and Saturday June 23rd.