Shane Stevens interview with ChicagoPride.com
Wed. December 7, 2011 by Windy City Times
Songwriter Shane Stevens tackle the buckle of the Bible belt and the world of country music in the deep south
Songwriter Shane Stevens and singer Sherrié Austin tackle the buckle of the Bible belt and the world of country music in the deep south before a camera crew.
Austin is a former actress on the Facts of Life and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air; Stevens has written hits for Lady Antebellum, Kellie Pickler and Jordin Sparks.
Stevens talked Jesus, George Michael and drag queens one afternoon with Jerry Nunn.
WCT: (Windy City Times) Hey, Shane. Are you in Nashville now?
SS: (Shane Stevens) No, I am in New York City. I live here, L.A. and Nashville. My apartment is being renovated and I am calling from a hotel.
WCT: How are connected with Nashville—from the music business?
SS: Yes. I moved there when I was 17. I didn't know if I could be a country singer being a gay man but I wanted to go to Nashville and figure myself out! [Laughs] I packed up my little pickup truck and drove from Myrtle Beach, S.C. I have been there ever since. I moved to New York in 2001 and have been going back and forth.
WCT: Well, let's talk about the stigma of country music and being gay.
SS: That's a tough road to go down. Fortunately, it has been okay being a writer. They have welcomed me with open arms. I think it would have been a lot different 10 years ago. From what people have told me I was the first openly gay country hit songwriter. It worked out for me and I haven't had any resistance.
I made a pop record that comes out in January but I am doing a trio record with Hilary Lindsey and Cary Barlowe, who I wrote "American Honey" with. We love writing and singing together and performing onstage so we decided to make a Dixie Chicks country pop record together. It remains to be seen if we will get played because of the gay guy in the band but it's time to shake it up!
WCT: In the last 10 years things have changed like you said. There are new Nashville gay bars like Tribe and Play.
SS: Before it was the Connection. That was where I met my first boyfriend.
WCT: I was just telling someone that they know how to put on a drag show in Tennessee.
SS: Honey, drag in Nashville kicks everybody's ass!
WCT: So true. Where did you meet your best friend Sherrié?
SS: I met her in New York City. She was in a Broadway show called Ring of Fire. We hit it off immediately when we met. I had been a fan of hers forever and loved her music. My boyfriend fell in love with her and she fell in love with him. They are a lot alike so that helped.
WCT: Where did you meet your boyfriend, Matt?
SS: [We met] in New York—also through a friend of mine. We met at Therapy. It's a bar not actually in mental therapy!
WCT: You deal with religion versus sexuality on the show.
SS: Well, I am a Jesus freak. He changed my life and I am never going back. I love God so much and I know he loves us so much exactly for who we are. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of many Christians.
WCT: I like the T-shirts you had made—how fun to wear to the gay bars.
SS: [Laughs] I am so excited about doing that. Those were the prototypes so we need smaller versions because Sherrié's engulfed her. We are going to have tighter ones made and go rock it!
WCT: How did you get on this Sundance series?
SS: I got a phone call from Sherrié. Her publicist wanted to know if she had a gay best friend and would be willing to do a show together. We met the producers and they found out that we were the real deal.
We actually turned the show down three times. We are songwriters for a living and we had to make sure this was the right road. Sherrié's comeback CD, Circus Girl, just came out this week. She is standing up for the gays.
Country music hasn't been so welcoming to our community. She felt it was really important to do it. We decided to jump in and go for it. We told them if they wanted to follow us around and see what is going on in our lives that's okay but we are not making up anything. We had stuff to do and records to make. "If you think that is interesting television then come on!"
I thought it was important to show the fact that God really does love us exactly how we are. I don't pretend to have everything figured out. I am on chapter three. I am questioning a lot of things in my life and trying to figure it out.
WCT: You could even record a gospel album.
SS: You know what? I am going to put out a Christian song called "This is Why I Worship." It is the very first Christian song I ever wrote. I am going to put it up online on my website.
WCT: Your solo album comes out next year?
SS: In January. It will be a seven-song EP I will put out a few different records. The first one will be Train meets Maroon 5. The second one will be all hopeful songs called Holy Graffiti. The third one will be more uptempo George Michael pop. The next will be country singer/songwriter. I do it all. I write songs for everybody. I just want to write and sing songs that make me feel good and hopefully touch people. That is what my goal is.
WCT: You have done very well with writing for Lady Antebellum.
SS: It has been really good. My track record has been good.
WCT: Did you know George Michael is working on a gay artist album?
SS: He is? He has agreed to work with me. He's my idol. My teacher in the fourth grade told me that one day I would sing like him. She played a tape of "One More Try" for me, and he became my idol. Hopefully, it comes to fruition that I get to work with him in March.
WCT: "You gotta have Faith," Shane!
Look for new episodes every Friday on the Sundance Channel and information at www.sundancechannel.com. Find out more about Shane Stevens at www.shanestevensmusic.com.
Interviewed by Windy City Times
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