Three years ago, if you wanted to know which Broadway leading man was most likely to break out onto the national scene, the answer was clear: Cheyenne Jackson. But that was three years ago, before Glee catapulted Matthew Morrison to global stardom (Jackson made it big, too, by the way). Now, Morrison is using his Glee platform to launch his solo music career, which he kicked off with the release of his new single, 'Summer Rain,' to be followed by an album in May. Out chatted with the man better known as Mr. Schuester about recording a track with Elton John, his underwear habits, and what's next on the career to-do list.
Out: We first saw you with your ukulele on Glee. And now it's back for your new single, 'Summer Rain.' What's up with you and that little instrument?
Matthew Morrison: That's my girlfriend [laughs]. I just love Hawaiian culture. When I was in high school, I spent a couple of summers in Hawaii singing backup for Don Ho. But the first time I picked up the ukulele was actually for my Glee audition. I sang 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow,' so that song came full circle when I did it at the end of the first season. I thought it was a very teacherly instrument, so I decided to use it. Obviously, the audition went pretty well.
Clearly. In your song you talk about making love on a rooftop in the summer rain. So' have you?
That's a true story. I was with my girlfriend at the time on top of my apartment building on 51st Street and 9th Avenue, and it was a beautiful summer day. This great rain started and we went to run inside and we didn't quite make it inside. People are like, 'Mr. Schuester likes to have sex in public!' But the song's about being young and in love and in New York. I thought it was so beautiful and wanted to write a song about it.
Was that the craziest place you've had sex?
No. I'm going to leave it at that.
I'm sure the gays in Hell's Kitchen will be pretty excited to hear that you had sex in their neighborhood.
Some of them might have seen me, who knows?
Gwyneth Paltrow's Glee character, Holly, seems like she would have been down for a little public sexy time.
Yeah, I think she would have been way into that.
What with Gwyneth's new record deal, is there a Morrison/Paltrow collaboration in the works?
I think our voices blend so beautifully together. That would be incredible. I'm going on a world tour this summer, and I'm hoping maybe in London she'll come on stage and help me out with a song.
What would you sing?
I don't know, a Prince song?
Speaking of collaborations, what was it like recording with Sir Elton John for your album?
We did a mashup of 'Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters' and it goes into 'Rocket Man.' I wanted to pay homage to him with his music, and he could not have been nicer. He was so game for anything and had such great ideas. It took me a few days afterward to be like, Wait, that wasn't a dream. I sang a duet with Elton John. That actually happened.
I know you don't control these things, but all I'm saying is an Elton John episode of Glee would be pretty awesome.
I'm pushing for it.
You're performing on Ellen next month, and last time you were there she gave you her signature Ellen undies. Do you wear them?
They're pretty big on me. They're all extra-large, so maybe next time they'll get it right.
How could she not know your size? She showed that picture of you in your underwear from Broadway Bares.
It took me by surprise that she did that, but it was the first time I got to explain the pictures and what Broadway Bares was. If I would I have known back then that those pictures would cause so much craziness, I don't know'
Can you still participate in the Broadway Bares now that you're so well known?
I'm a big supporter and still participate in anything that Broadway Cares and Equity Fights AIDS does, but I don't think I can do that anymore.
What was it like to live out your stripper's fantasy?
[Laughs] It was exhilarating. People don't know this, but everyone is nervous about going out there, so everyone's backstage getting drunk -- kind of easing the nerves a little bit. I didn't think of it as a strip show. It's a performance. And the audience is so into it. They're all drunk, too. It's a fun show to be a part of.
Well, Glee's basically the gayest show on TV right now'
No, it's the gayest show on TV.
...OK, but before that you were also on another gay gay gay show, Sex and the City. What's your best memory from the set?
I had one line with Sarah Jessica Parker. I was in this little scene as a bus boy and I said something like, 'Is anyone going to be joining you?' We were shooting it at a storefront that they made look like an outdoor caf'. It's not even a great memory, but after I said my line, I had to hide in the little storefront -- because it looked like I was going into the restaurant -- but if you look back you can see my reflection in the window. You just see me standing there, like a ghost, just hanging out. That's my big story.
Coming from a Broadway background where it's live theater and moving into TV, do you now watch yourself?
I watch every episode of Glee once, and some of them twice, but that's as much as I do. I have a hard time watching myself back, because I'm very nit-picky. I tear myself apart. But it's a learning process. When I look back, I fix things and it helps me evolve as a television actor.
Even though he's not gay, do you see Mr. Schuester as an important part of the conversation about LGBT visibility on TV?
Yeah, because he's very supportive. He has such a love for Kurt and is instrumental in getting him to be who he is. I'm so proud of our show for that relationship. The episode about the birds and the bees really got to me. I never thought about how different the conversation is between a father and a gay son or daughter. That was so beautifully done. That moment in television could change lives. A lot of the storyline is what Ryan Murphy wanted as a kid. He writes through Kurt. I'm so proud of it.
Remembering back to the pilot, were you nervous about a teenage musical TV show taking off?
None of us expected it. It was really great that they put us after American Idol. When it started, it had a great fan base, but the numbers weren't astronomical. Gradually it's become a real global phenomenon and none of us could have seen that coming. Doing the pilot, we all felt that we were a part of something special, but for more of a niche audience.
You've achieved Broadway stardom, and then TV stardom, and now you're launching a music career. What's next on the to-do list?
Um, sleep? [Laughs] I have a date with my bed one of these days. I think film. I would love to be the next Gene Kelly. I love those old school musicals, so I want to be a great song-and-dance man. I'm getting toward the end of my dance days, so I want to get in as much dance as I can.
Finally, you're from Orange County, so do you watch the Real Housewives of your homeland?
No, I don't. I actually don't watch much TV at all anymore.
Oh come on, everyone has a DVR.
Honestly, I come home and watch ESPN. I'm a big Mets fan, I love the Steelers -- but I grew up playing soccer, so I love watching soccer matches.
Well that's sort of the dance of sports.
I totally agree! I think the reason I picked up dancing so easily was because I played soccer for so long. You get that coordination in your body.
So maybe we'll see Mr. Schuester the soccer coach?
I'm gonna try to get away from teaching [laughs].