Openly gay dance/pop chart topper Brian Kent released his first album Breathe Life in 2007. Since then this musical journey of self-awareness, discovery and “the recovery of one’s authentic self” as his site describes the album has garnered critical acclaim and rotation time on dance floors across the country. Previously the video for his hit single “I’m Not Crazy” spent over 15 weeks on LOGO’s top ten countdown show, The Click List and also appeared on HBO and VH-1. Kent has toured several Pride Festivals and before cutting his debut album, he performed in several shows in Las Vegas and was member of the original cast of the gay-favorite musical Naked Boys Singing. A video for “Breathe Life” premiered on LOGO this May.
JoSelle Vanderhooft: So you spent some time in Las Vegas. Were you a singer there? A dancer?
Brian Kent: I as actually both, plus I was a competitive ice skater for many years. When I first moved to Vegas one of my first shows was an ice show at the MGM Grand Hotel. I worked that during the day and in between my shows I would run out into the theme park they had there where I was a singer and dancer there. And at night I would work at another show, so I had really long days! It was a great experience, and at that point I was so excited to be making money performing and living somewhere where the entertainment was a key factor.
JV: What drew you from Vegas to New York City? Was it just that you wanted to pursue your musical career?
BK: Yeah, it was one of those things. When I was a little kid I wanted to move here. I was just wowed by New York and the lights. Vegas was great but I kind of decided if I was going to do this music thing with my life it was time to go somewhere where I could make that happen a little bit better. I came to New York about ten years ago.
JV: I just love your cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” In fact, I think it’s one of the best covers of that song I’ve heard. What drew you to that particular song?
BK: When I was first trying to break in I just new that [I needed to do] a cover, because I really hadn’t written anything. So I thought it was a good route to go, to choose a song that everybody loved and that meant something and that we could all have fun listening to on the dance floor. I loved that song and I thought it was a great way to start my career with a positive note.
JV: Do you write all your music, or do you often work with others’ songs?
BK: I wrote or co-wrote most of the songs on Breathe Life. I got into song writing with [the second single] “I’m Not Crazy,” and when I went to do the album I decided I really wanted to write as much as possible.
JV: A lot of people classify your work as dance club music. Do you think that’s fair, and is that the audience you wanted to reach?
BK: I think people classify me as dance because those are the tracks that have gotten the most exposure. But if you listen to the whole album you’ll see that there are a lot of tracks on there that are not dance at all. I would consider myself a dance/pop artist because dance/pop is its own genre. … If you go back to the 70s and you listen to some of the great artists back then the songs on each album were different [in style.] You had ballads, you had your up-tempos, and it was more of a journey. That’s why I have stuff on my album that is dance for sure, and stuff that is more rock-sounding. But being in the dance category certainly hasn’t hurt me, so I’m OK with that.
JV: What would you say some of your musical influences are?
BK: You know, it’s always hard for me to answer that question. I was one of those kids growing up who was a little different in that I listened to – and I’m not exaggerating – every type of music. I would have a Carol King album sitting next to Ella Fitzgerald sitting next to a punk rock band, and my mother could never figure out what it was that I was into. There are so many artists whose work I respect that I feel like all types of music have informed me. I think music is so subjective and different types of music fit different moods.
JV: How would you say being gay has shaped your music?
BK: I think that being gay presents many challenges you have to overcome. [These] inspire me and help me be myself, but also I use those struggles to write music and tell the story. I thank God every day that I’m gay. I think being gay is such a beautiful gift because we’re forced to look at life [in a way] that many heterosexuals don’t have to. And instead of following a more sheepish path, we’re forced to go, ‘Wow, we’re different,’ and that causes us to be a little more well-rounded.
JV: I know that RJO artists [Kent’s booking agent] were in charge of a lot of the booking, but can you tell me a little bit about how you got involved with Southern Utah Pride?
BK: Rich [Overton of RJO] had brought up that he was working on some level with SUP and [asked] would it be something I would be interested in, and I said absolutely I am. I love Utah. I’ve been there for different reasons, whether it was skiing or rock climbing and I think it’s really beautiful. And having lived in Vegas it’s not too far from there.
JV: Have you heard from any Utah fans so far?
BK: I have received a couple of emails actually from – do you call yourself Utah-ians?
BK: Just saying they’re looking forward to seeing my performance, which is exciting because I didn’t know I had fans in Utah. I don’t know much about Zion specifically as far as the gay community goes or what to expect, but that makes it more exciting for me. I do know just based on the people putting it together that it’s going to be a real fun show.