What does is mean to be a gay musician in Northern Ireland?
When I was asked the first question at a BBC interview this week I didn’t know where to start. I stumbled. I had never spoken about LGBT issues publicly before never mind in relation to my music. After over eleven years of songwriting and performing, I had never talked about my music in this way, always circumventing the integral queer narratives that I communicate through songwriting.
My songs are a personal reflection on specific moments with specific men. About love and the lack of love whilst never overtly mentioning the orientation of that love. In the interview I mainly reflected on my first album, Walk Into The Sea, an album I inwardly describe as a collection of tragic gay love songs. It was through songwriting that I discovered a way to articulate those intimate feelings I was experiencing with other men. It was something that I couldn’t convey in my day-to-day life, nor my visual art, so I began to indulge in expressing it through this therapeutic medium.
To this day though, nearly a decade later, I had never really openly spoke about those songs as being gay songs. My friends knew I was gay, but my family at that time did not. Northern Ireland likes to use the word progressive these days and it is trying to be, but the conservative and religious society I grew up in still dominates. Our leading political party has been openly homophobic and refuses equal rights for the LGBT community. So what does that say about the current mindset of this society? Growing up, being gay wasn’t an option. The repression was very real and it has affected me long into adult life in a more internal way, suffering from internalised homophobia. As our society has become more accepting over the years it’s hard to remove a feeling so engrained, but change is happening and it is great to see that.
Other musicians who have been interviewed for this radio piece have spoken about how LGBT politics is very predominant in their songwriting. For me, songwriting was always inward and reflective on a very personal level of experience, capturing moments from falling in love to obsession and heartache.
It feels like a pivotal moment for me to all of a sudden be discussing it on the radio. It comes along at a time where I am actively trying to be more honest and open as a gay man in all aspects of my life as well as through my music. Music is the one true vehicle I’ve had to be able to express and communicate my sexuality. It’s been very important to me. As I continue to write new music, it feels good to finally be comfortable enough with myself to express these feelings more openly.
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