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 Hollywoods Not America -- featured as the goodbye song on two episodes of last seasons 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 fathers native Jordan during a custody battle. (Oh, and hes 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 Out.com 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 hes writing for Lamberts album beyond what hes Twittered and >blogged -- other than saying that it wasnt one of several new and very catchy tunes he played that night.)
Out.com: How much of your time do you spend writing for other people right now?
Ferras: I would say its about 50-50. My first record actually established me more as a songwriter, so Ive been getting a lot of calls. You take the work when it comes. Ive 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. Im just trying to write big hits for major artists.
What about big hits for you?
Ive been doing an EP. Some of the songs that you heard tonight, like >Fraction and Touchthats more in the style of where Im going. Its going to have a string section, and beats. Im 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 lifeas opposed to this is what makes me tick, Im so dark, oh my God, my life. Its such a discovery process. Im not going to put something out there that I dont really think is fucking amazing.
Do you have a different approach for your own material?
If Im writing for me, it comes from a place thats 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 dont see gender or sexuality or sexual preference in my songs. I just write from love or desire or whatever. Im not thinking, Okay, this was originally written for my gay lover-boyfriend-whatever and now I have to make it about a girl. But thats a valid question. When I was younger and I wasnt so comfortable in who I was, maybe that would have been a different story.
What happened with your Capitol Records contract? The big fear when an out artist lands a big deal that doesnt last is that it was because theyre gay. Was it?
I think, honestly, no. The person who signed me to Capitol left, and new people came in from the UK. I wasnt their project. My first single went to the top 15 on the charts. We should have released a second single, and we were poised to do that. But then there wasnt anyone there to approve budgets and whatever, and you just get lost in the shuffle. Im not going to say anything bad about them, but you know when you have the right connection, and it wasnt the right fit for me.
Whats the upside to striking out on your own?
The music industry isnt what it was 10 years ago, and its never going to be the same. I have the ability to do and say exactly what I want without anybody putting a piece of tape over my mouth and saying, Wed prefer if you werent saying these things.
Did people tell you that?
A little bit, yeah. I think when you have somebody as flamboyant as me, it can be a scary thing for an audience thats not necessarily made up of, you know, other crazy people.
Has Adam Lambert already changed the game?
Hopefully he will open up some doors for others to follow. I think were very fortunate to have somebody like Adam who the world has gravitated to because of his sheer talent. But its also time. Its nothing new. Its just finally happening because of the vehicle of 40 million people watching the show. I do think it says something that hes getting all this press. And its because hes great, but its also because he doesnt give a fuck. He is who he is, and thats something thats very noveland respectable.
Tell me about your jacket. Its very Prince meets Tchaikovsky.
I got it at a thrift store. I really like the whole military style. It juxtaposes my personality.
You said youre not dating anyone. But what are you looking for?
A sense of humor. And a great ass.
For more on Ferras, check out his MySpace page.