I never thought that I could put my experiences into a melody and have people latch onto it, or that they were something people would care about. It’s weird to write and sing about your own feelings and for someone to say they felt that way as well. I’ve always had this command of my emotions, I think I was a super emotional child. I’m quite open and I know it’s something that people struggle with, that they might not have that same emotional valve or switch. It makes sense for me to do music, and there’s a reason why I went down that path: I need to channel my emotions somewhere.
Coming out opened a bigger flood gate that I didn’t realise was there. My songwriting was vague before I came out and it was super specific afterwards. For a long while I felt I should keep that part of myself estranged. With older songs, the first ones I ever recorded, I don’t really know what I was singing about. I knew that I wanted to say something but I was tip-toeing around it, there weren’t specifics that people could hold onto. Coming out catapulted that and turned me into the writer I am today.
Coming out catapulted that and turned me into the writer I am today.
Now, people are listening and actively engaging with what I’m making. It’s what I’ve wanted for a while but it scares me. There’s been a big influx in my gay listenership and I don’t know what they want. Something I struggle with is if I’m ‘gay enough’ to be some ‘icon’ for someone who is also in the community, someone to look up to in a certain way. I was described in an article as Ireland’s newest queer male artist and I thought, ‘oh, so I am a queer artist’. It’s written in front of me but I don’t know what to do with that. I don’t know if I am that.
How do I handle that level of expectation? Clearly quite badly. I handle it insofar as the only thing I can do is keep writing, and keep putting my experiences of navigating my identity, the gay community and the artist community, and that doesn’t always come out as an easily accessible pop song. I didn’t think anyone would get ‘I Need to Know’ and they did so I think the best thing for me to do is keep releasing music, see what people think and perhaps challenge people.
I didn’t think anyone would get ‘I Need to Know’ and they did so I think the best thing for me to do is keep releasing music, see what people think and perhaps challenge people.
Ireland knows exactly what it likes for music to be readily accessible for everyone, and that’s been well established by really successful boybands and male singers. I used to wonder if I had to use female pronouns, or ‘girl’ to capture someone’s attention with a song. I used to wonder if a radio DJ wouldn’t really ‘get’ it and not play it. If I started talking about boys and my experience – would people get that? In the last couple of months I’ve been thinking that maybe people don’t need to get it and I just need to do it. That’s the bit that scares me.
For so long I tried to not draw attention to myself. For so long I tried not to draw attention to that part of myself, my true self, and I’m still figuring out what that is. It’s weird, when something good happens, I’m like, ‘oh, you asked for this but you’re kind of afraid of it and want to stay in the shadows a bit, or you just aren’t used to coming out of them’. I’m an introvert posing as an extrovert and I’ve had to create this kind of confident character and that’s extremely hard, especially on social media.
Did my early musical self ever foresee this moment of selling out a venue? No. I don’t think I ever felt like I was good enough. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I compare myself to everyone constantly. I hate that part of myself: it stalls me. I could be really stuck in it, thinking about it over and over but that’s counterproductive. I think, as gay men, as gay people, there’s a constant need to get approval, to one-up, to be successful.
I think, as gay men, as gay people, there’s a constant need to get approval, to one-up, to be successful.
There was a time when I thought that if I came out I would be treated differently, or treated as the token gay singer. I felt if I revealed this part of myself people weren’t going to like it and it would draw people away. I feel I was quite late to the game in coming out as well so I think I have these really bad habits around not believing that something I do is good.
It’s been top of my list to sell out a venue, and this will be the most people I’ve played to for myself. I’ve waited for it for a while. I’ve wanted it for a very, very long time. I’ve had lots of false starts with music and I can take setbacks quite badly. The fact that it sold out shows that people actually care. Normally, for the last three or four years, I knew everyone who was going to my gig but this time I barely know a fraction of the people going. There’s an interest, people care and it’s not just friends and family doing you a favour like it felt before. Maybe my time is now.
Follow Tim Chadwick on Twitter.
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