Aliens & Rainbows


By Shana Naomi Krochmal

As his friend Adam Lambert was on the cusp of cover story chaos last week, singer-songwriter Ferras was taking the tiny stage at Los Angeles' Hotel Caf' to try out some new material for a small crowd of loyal listeners. Ferras' 2008 debut Aliens & Rainbows spawned 'Hollywood's Not America' -- featured as the goodbye song on two episodes of last season's American Idol -- as well as a flurry of press as much about Ferras' piano-driven pop-rock as his dramatic family backstory -- he grew up in Illinois but was dragged back to his father's native Jordan during a custody battle. (Oh, and he's gay.)

While a steady of stream of fans came up after the Hotel Caf' show (also the acoustic alma mater of his gal pal Katy Perry), Ferras talked with about writing love songs for big-time straight singers, breaking free from his Capitol Records contract, and how Lambert has already changed the game for guys like them. (He was unfortunately mum on more details about the song he's writing for Lambert's album beyond what he's Twittered and >blogged -- other than saying that it wasn't one of several new and very catchy tunes he played that night.) How much of your time do you spend writing for other people right now?
Ferras: I would say it's about 50-50. My first record actually established me more as a songwriter, so I've been getting a lot of calls. You take the work when it comes. I've been getting a lot of work lately.

Who are you working with that you can tell me about?
Well, of course you know about Adam. I'm just trying to write big hits for major artists.

What about big hits for you?
I've been doing an EP. Some of the songs that you heard tonight, like >'Fraction' and 'Touch''that's more in the style of where I'm going. It's going to have a string section, and beats. I'm going to try to channel early Prince and 'Little Red Corvette,' in that kind of vein. And just be more sexual, and explore the fun side of life'as opposed to this is what makes me tick, I'm so dark, oh my God, my life. It's such a discovery process. I'm not going to put something out there that I don't really think is fucking amazing.

Do you have a different approach for your own material?
If I'm writing for me, it comes from a place that's hurtful. Something happens to me and then I write a song because of a certain feeling.

Does it matter if the person singing your songs is not queer?
Truthfully, I don't see gender or sexuality or sexual preference in my songs. I just write from love or desire or whatever. I'm not thinking, Okay, this was originally written for my gay lover-boyfriend-whatever and now I have to make it about a girl. But that's a valid question. When I was younger and I wasn't so comfortable in who I was, maybe that would have been a different story.