It was winter of 2013 and I was drinking heavily alone in my parents house late on a January night. The Christmas decorations were still up. Angel ornaments and jovial lights ignited every surface of my mother's home. It looked as beautiful as it did every year. You would never know that we had been to seven funerals in the past four weeks.
We were already that family that usually takes down our decorations after Little Christmas, January 6th. But this year, they stayed up even longer. Wearing nothing but a holiday bath robe I had been wearing for two days, I stared at the untouched Lanikai ukulele propped up on the piano in the corner. It's a Wonderful Life was on the television. Jameson was in my mug and a feeling of defeat followed every chug. One of my best and dearest friends Brendan died of a sudden heart attack the same week as Thanksgiving, nine days after his 28th birthday. I just accidentally called him and heard his voicemail.
Brendan and I met through one of my friends Nellie in December of 2008 during her birthday pub crawl in South Philadelphia. At first we didn't know how we felt about each other because he and I shared Nellie as a best friend. At first, we were rivals for her heart. But once he heard my tipsy impersonation of Britney Spears, our friendship began and was solidified forever.
Brendan became my "gay best friend."
Throughout our friendship, we bonded hard over our undying love for everything theater, pop culture, and of course, Britney. Brendan was an enormous supporter of me in my artistic pursuits, loved my original music, and would be front row screaming "WERQ" with my band shirt on at any live show big or small. Brendan was the friend that would enter to win free movie or concert tickets and always manage to win. If he won and knew you were a fan of a show or artist he would take you. He took me on probably the most romantic dates I'd ever been on to see plays, films, and most importantly, Robyn at the Electric Factory in February of 2010.
Brendan was also with me in Philadelphia's Old City when I went shopping for a ukulele even though I didn't know how to play it. "Just go for it," he told me. His faith in me as an artist was boundless. Whether it was doing makeup on drag queens or learning instruments, he taught me to trust my gut and follow my heart.
Brendan's death was sudden and I had never had a friend pass away in my life until that point. I didn't take it well. I remember feeling really alone. I remember feeling I had lost myself. I didn't realize that when a friend dies most of your friends are grieving, too. We all couldn't really lean on one another. We just had to be strong and muddle through on our own. In the middle of my grief on that January night I chose to put it in song while watching It's a Wonderful Life (which is the inspiration for the lyrics to the first verse). Sonically, I wanted to capture a haunting, vulnerable feeling. I felt a real need to capture the weather of the song because the last time I had sung for him it was "Ave Maria" at his funeral. I didn't want that to be the last song between us. I want to say to him what I would say to him if he came back. As if he was here. I even poke fun at him in the second verse because I still want to make him laugh. I also want to communicate my grief in a universal song about loss and to be able to carry him in any room I perform in.
About a year and a half ago, I thought I had lost my voice foreever. I came back from gigging in LA and couldn't talk. After a few months of vocal therapy, I've just gotten my voice back and after years of my spaghetti not sticking to the wall with studios flooding or producers not working out, I finally have my voice, my dream, and a song I'm the most proud of. I'm beginning again with Brendan's song and with him holding my hand.
This song will always be for you... my Britney stan, my dancehall queen, my Brendan.
"Dream" was produced by Robert Smith of Defy Recordings at The Bunker Studios in Brooklyn and is available now on all platforms.