Hot on the heels of Decembers East Coast smash, Out magazine and here! Tunes Rock the Folk OUT! tour heads west to bring the folk-rock talents of gay singer-songwriters Stewart Lewis, Tom Goss and Jake Walden to fans from Salt Lake City to Missoula, Flagstaff to Seattle -- and of course at our fave Cali venues.
In between promoting the beautiful and dark, heartbreak and hope of his album Alive and Screaming, songs from which were featured on MTV's Real World: Brooklyn and recently performing at the opening ceremonies of the Las Vegas AIDS Walk on April 19th, the 28-year-old former actor (spot him in the Friends coffeeshop?), Orlando theme park ride guide and smoldering Los Angeles hottie Jake Walden (yes, boys, hes single very single) sat down with Out to discuss the upcoming tour, the pleasures of BandAids and what exactly gay folk rock might be.
Out:What do you consider folk music? Does it mesh with the sounds of the Rock the Folk OUT tour?
Jake Walden: I think using folk in the title is more a play on what people think folk is, which really is what it isnt. People tend to think folk music is boring, old timeyfolksy. I was raised on Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, artists that were considered folk artists but really just were singer-songwriters. Its mostly semantics I suppose. Folk has come to mean the singer-songwriter genre: people that write their own music thats very personal and mainly acoustic. Thats what the tour is, but the three of us are very different in who we are and the type of music that we play.
So is there such a thing as gay folk music?
No, not really. For me, my music has nothing to do with being gay or not, but has everything to do with being honest and understanding who you are. It has to do with truth. Theres a perception still in the mainstream world of what out art is or who out artists are. And I rebel against that. So this tour is very topical and of the time. Especially in the smaller towns that were playing, the communities, gay and straight, have really risen up to make each concert an event. The crowd is really mixed: half gay, half straight, young and old, male and female and that is to me, says a lot. It is the most important thing for me. Im trying to get rid of definitions. I want people to just be people. What connects us is more interesting to me than what makes us different.
Certainly with whats happened in Iowa and Vermont, theres definitely a lot to celebrate, a big high to ride.
There is, really! I could have been like a lot of gay artists who arent out, out of fear or greed or what have you, to just be another cog in the wheel. I thought of it as a chance to be a part of an evolution -- a revolution -- of our time. Thats a real opportunity. Im not really a social advocate or a political person, but theres such movement. I chose to fight with a one-on-one sort of thing by being myself.
How do you, Stewart Lewis and Tom Goss all fit together as artists?
Im definitely the least rocking of the three, but not for a lack of passion. My music is more piano-ballad driven and Tom and Stewart are a little more upbeat. I think Im kind of like the dark poet, ya know? Tom is very light. And Stewart is kind of all over the place. He has incredible song writing and harmony skills, and is just a beautiful singer. He uses a loop machine to create a big choral, kinda big band effect with just his voice and a guitar. And Tommy is Mr. Wisconsin. Hes an advocate, and I think his music really is based on his goals for gay rights and the gay community. Its a lot more upbeat, up-tempo and fun, yet serious, too. What I love so much about him is his willingness to talk hes such a great storyteller. He has this kind of uppity do-do-do thing and then hell sit at the piano and get serious and do a monologue before each song. But I tell ya man, the three of our voices together is something to be heard!
Are you switching anything up for the west coast version of the tour?
We might have some dates where we play in the round, where all three of us are on stage at the same time, each singing a couple songs and going back and forth like that. When we first started on the last tour we didnt know each other, we didnt know each others music and we would just each do our own sets. But as it went along, wed each come up harmonizing or play each others instruments, and that was really special. But its so dependent on each city. In New York we played at a beautiful theater and then we got down to some lesbian bar in Virginia and it was just like being in a different universe. You just never know what to expect -- and thats whats exciting. What I can guarantee is three guys that all put their hearts out there. Stewart and Toms passion for what they do is the same as mine Its gonna be amazing!
Is there any particular town you are most looking forward to playing?
Im playing my hometown for the first time: Cotati, this little hippie town about an hour north of San Francisco. And of course my home venue in LA, the Hotel Caf. Im really excited to be able to share Tom and Stewart with them. For me, part of it is just seeing the country. We start in Colorado this time and then go all the way up to Seattle and then down the coast to San Diego and all the way over to Arizona, so Im just so excited to see every city that I have never seen before.
Whats it like to be on the road for so long?
Its incredible -- especially how we do it with no budget in a big station wagon! [Laughs] You drive all day. You set up your show. You play your show. You meet the most incredible, incredible people. You pack it up. You stay either in a hotel, or if were lucky we get to stay with friends, or fans. Thats the best when we get to stay in peoples homes. You get up the next day and you drive to the next city. You get in a rhythm, but its also exhausting. The most exhausting experience I can imagine. I think we do something like 18 days straight before we get one day off.
The way your music has been described -- sensitive, expressive, bittersweet and with an elegant growl, bristling and lusty -- and with your name sounding a bit like a porn stars, its all pretty sexy for folk music. Any offers to be your BandAid?
Ohhh there will be, believe me! [Laughs] But a lot of them will be women. A lot of women seem to really identify with me. And a lot of gay men, too. But really its not how youd imagine it I suppose. Or how I imagined it. [Laughs] Perhaps its just the vibe I put off. Im very warm. I love touch and hugging people. And yet theres not a real sexuality to my music. There are superfans and such, who have driven 1000 miles to come to my shows, from the top of Canada. Obviously theyre fans but not in that kind of 80s Sunset Strip kind of way. People arent quite so overt. And Im not a player... I wish I was! Itd be a lot more fun. Hey, I look at it as an awesome opportunity. You never know. Maybe Ill meet the love of my life.
Rock the Folk OUT! kicks off on April 22 in Boulder, CO. For a full list of dates and more info visit the tour's Myspace page here.