Josh Strickland is best known as the southern belle gay BFF to former Playboy playmate Holly Madison on E!'s Holly's World. The two currently star in Peep Show in Vegas, but Strickland's also just launched his music career, which he's been prepping for quite some time. Strickland recently chatted with Out about the hit reality show, his new dance single, 'Report to the Floor,' and of course, that infamous Tarzan wig.
Out: What made you decide to release a single?
Josh Strickland: It's kind of always been a dream of mine -- recording stuff. It's just the right time. I met my producer Damon [Elliott] through Holly, while he was doing the Holly's World theme song in the first season. And then he really liked my voice so we were just kind of collaborating and talking, and got some tracks down. The rest is history.
Did you know from the beginning you wanted to go for the gay club vibe?
Yeah, that's the type of music that I really like. And that's more my genre and my voice type. A lot of people think that I'm a white boy but I have a black girl's voice trapped inside there somewhere. I've always wanted to do that type of music and genre, and it's just my passion. I'm not trying to be the next Justin Timberlake. I just want to put out some good music.
Are you looking to fully transition from performance to recording artist?
Absolutely. I think performance and recording come hand in hand. To be a recording artist, you kind of have to be a performer because you're going to be performing your songs and your singles in clubs. Now, I'm just excited that the two can connect together.
Who has influenced you musically?
It's all the greats: Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra, and the Rat Pack. Different types of music that really molded what the industry is today. I grew up listening to Mariah and that type of stuff. And also Broadway. Going to college for vocal performance, I definitely learned to place my voice in the right places, and do the right things. It's cool to see how my voice has grown. It only gets different as you get older, and I'm happy with the way it's turned out.
Why don't we hear your prominent Southern accent seep through in your singing?
It's kind of like Australians, who when they sing, they don't sound Australian. I don't really know what it is about singing that takes away that accent. It's funny because sometimes I can take it away myself because I was in New York for so long. Whenever I get comfortable, whenever I'm just chatting, it's who I am. I'm just a Southern boy. I grew up in the South, always had a passion for music, and now I'm trying to achieve that.
Would you ever record a country single?
Country? Who knows! Obviously I've got that twang, so if the right song came around, we'd probably attack that too.
The chorus of your single mentions 'haters.' Do you have a lot of those?
I think everybody has haters. Everybody has their own opinions. Everybody has their own things they want to say. That's what makes it great to live in America, that we can say whatever we want. But obviously not everyone's going to like you, and not everybody can be friends. I'm not trying to say that everybody should love each other -- we should all try and get along, but everybody's not going to like what you're doing. Everybody's not going to like something that you stand for. That's the haters part. We're in a club, we're dancing. It's just supposed to be fun. So the 'haters go home' is like, we don't need that vibe or energy in the air.
Last summer you told The Advocate that Holly's World was sort of your place to come out to the public, since your sexuality hadn't been revealed one way or the other before then. How has life changed since you publicly came out?
It was never something I was hiding. I just never really addressed it. So people formed their own opinions. But since it was such a public show, and it is on television, and people are going to see it, there was no point hiding it. When you're in a [theatrical] show, and you're doing your own thing from day to day, it's not really anybody's business. But if people are going to watch the [television] show, you're going to see that on the show. So it's all about timing. Nobody should ever be forced to come out of the closet. If you feel that it's the right time in your life, and you feel that you need to address that for people, then you should. It's very liberating. It's very wonderful to be able to say out loud that you're gay and you're proud to be who you are.
What has been the best part of being on Holly's World?
The best part is people being able to see my talent. And just being out and living our lives. Everyone likes to say, 'Are they friends just for the show?' But it's really not like that. We were all friends before the show even started. It's just really cool to see how all of us have blossomed as people. I'm really excited that everybody enjoyed watching it. And me and my music, and seeing me not be afraid to be who I am, and I think that's really important especially for the gay community -- to see someone who's on television and is not afraid to be who they are inside.
What was it that drew you to Holly in Peep Show, as opposed to Mel B. or Aubrey O'Day, who have also starred in the show?
That's a question that I don't know if could be answered even in any kind of friendship. Whenever you spend time with somebody and just click, the friendship just blossoms and becomes what it is. We worked together throughout the rehearsals for Peep Show, and spent a lot of time together, and we just really get along and have fun. And we're really loyal to each other, and I think that's what's really important in a friendship.
Is it true that you don't actually strip down in Peep Show?
I do not. No, I just have some low-cut shirts. It's about the evolution of a woman and her sexuality, in a way. And it is Vegas. If it was a Thunder Down Under show, maybe I'd have my shirt off. But it's more about the women and empowerment. That's what it is, and that's what it blossoms to be. Now definitely it's based upon Broadway Bares in New York, and a lot of guys and gals strip down there. But this is kind of a different take on it because it is Vegas and it's more about women's empowerment.
Let's go back in time a bit. Had you seen the Disney Tarzan movie before you were cast in the musical?
I had, and I obviously loved his music, and the music from the film. I was so lucky to have Disney to have such faith in me and just go with it. With that company, I couldn't have asked for a better start. To have a lead title character original role on Broadway -- I don't know if it gets much better than that.
Was it hard to adapt a character who was so-well known and beloved?
Of course it was. We definitely had to go through training with flying and acrobatic stuff, and learning how to walk like apes and that type of stuff. And the character is different than from the cartoon. We were going more for the character in the book. He's this really na've, young guy that doesn't have a razor, so he can't shave. We really wanted to get the raw, realness of it, and I hope I did the best job I could.
Did you ever get rope burn from all the swinging around?
Oh, absolutely, all over the place. It was non-stop, all the bruises from the harnesses on our thighs and in between our legs. It looked like we had just gotten beaten up, but it was just another day at work.
Do you miss the hair?
Yes, I wish I could have taken the wig home. It was kind of hot.
You had a stint on American Idol that didn't work out so well.
I'm glad because I think my life and career would have gone a totally different way. I think it was a great opportunity and a great learning experience. I'm glad I did it, and it helped my career because putting it on my resume, people will listen. It's a reality show like any other, and I'm happy for the people that did win and did have success from the show. I think it's a great way to let people who have talent who may not have another way of showing it get into the business. I really do have respect for the show.
Are you a hometown hero in Charleston?
I guess you would say that, but it's not like they throw me a parade or anything like that. It's cool, I grew up in Charleston singing and dancing. Some big highlights of my career came from there, doing some opera with the Spoleto Festival USA and when I was in middle school I got to sing with Shania Twain when she came. It was great. Singing in front of 12,000 people at 13 years old, it was a fun experience.
What are your plans for the future?
We have some more songs for our full EP that we're going to release. Hopefully if people like me, they'll invite me to do some club tours. I'd love to come be able to sing my songs and do my thing. And hopefully we'll grab another season of Holly's World by the year's end.
All photos by Andrew Sea James