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December 2013 Script

Nathan Leigh Jones Interview

Nathan Leigh Jones - Deck the Halls (2013)

Happy Holidays from me! I'm JD Doyle and on Queer Music Heritage this is one of my favorite shows of the year. I gather xmas-related music all year long to bring you a whole bunch of songs by LGBT artists that you likely have not heard before. And Part one of the show this year will be a departure from what I usually do, because I have a special interview about what I think is one of the coolest holiday CDs I've heard in years. All the way from Sydney, Australia, is Nathan Leigh Jones and his new project is called "Brand New Christmas."

JD: Nathan Leigh Jones, welcome to Queer Music Heritage.

NLJ: Thank you so much, it's amazing to be here.

JD: And we just heard at the opening of the show "Deck the Halls," which is from your new CD, and I'd like you to tell us about the CD.

NLJ: Well, this album is a different concept, I think, as far as Christmas albums go. I wanted to do a Christmas album that had that classic kind of feel that contain elements of Christmas that we all know and love from songs we grew up with, but I did want to inject a bit of my own musicality into it and I found that really hard to when I was just sticking to the strict melodies of some of the songs. I thought I'd just mix it up a little bit and change all the melodies to all the songs and I guess I'm just bracing myself for the traditional people to come after me with their pitchforks. It's quite sacrilegious.

JD: Well, if people were scratching their heads during the first song and they said, like, hmm, that sounds familiar but what happened here. Tell us more precisely what you did.

NLJ: Well, essentially I went through all of the lyrics to some of my favorite carols, and from a technical point of view I really just took the lyrics only, ignored any kind of sheet music, printed out the lyrics myself at home, got my pen, rewrote melodies like I was writing a brand new song, really, and changed I guess the way the melody would go and how I would see those lyrics, in a modern-day setting, in my own mind, really just having fun with it and injecting a different kind of energy into some of the songs that we all love.

JD: How long ago did you start on this project?

NLJ: Well, about twelve months ago from now, around when actually when the ludicrous part of me wanted it ready for last Christmas, and the reality of doing an album in three weeks before Christmas isn't really a realistic goal, so it's been good to have a whole year to work through this into a project.

JD: Well, not if you want anybody to listen to it.

NLJ: Exactly, exactly, the whole professional thing gets in the way. But having said that, it was really bizarre doing Christmas music in March and April, and people saying, "what are you working on?" Well, actually, a little song called "Deck the Halls."

JD: Well, I think people know that holiday albums are done many months ahead of time.

NLJ: They are, they are, it's just a bizarre feeling, but the good thing is most of my work as far as recording and getting it together was done in Australia's Winter, which actually made it really great thinking about "Winter Wonderland" and snow, even though we don't have that was raining and it was cold, so it was appropriate in a sense.

JD: Okay, well, let's get to some more music. Next up we're going to dream of a re-imagined "White Christmas."

Nathan Leigh Jones - White Christmas (2013)

JD: Nathan, did you write all the new music and do the arrangements?

NLJ: I do, JD, I put them together...I play piano and sing, so it's quite easy to have a grasp of what's going on in different places, but yeah, I wrote the initial arrangements and had some great musicians fill out the rest of the bits and pieces for me, which was great.

JD: I'm imagining someone doing this and thinking, how on earth do you get the original tunes out of your head while you're doing the writing?

NLJ: Yeah, it's funny, I'm quite sacrilegious when it comes to even my own music sometimes. I've been known to have a song that I've written for maybe five years and went to the studio and in that moment change everything about it, and walk out with a completely different song. So, it's a weird thing I have, I think actually I love change so much that I try to find ways to look at things from different angles, so yeah, that could be the explanation, I'm not quite sure.

JD: Well, in general do you find writing music to words harder than writing words to music?

NLJ: Yeah, that's a good question. I do really love melody-based...I do, obviously words are amazing and very powerful but for me they aid the melody and I'm just such a melody person, and this album was an absolute joy because I could really concentrate on that melody and have just beautiful really timeless words already written for me in that sense.

And here comes a double play, "Let It Snow" and "Silver Bells"

Nathan Leigh Jones - Let It Snow / Silver Bells (2013)

JD: Did you find that for some songs you had a few choices for which way to go?

NPL: Yeah, there were, and sometimes I'd make a choice with something and then it would actually change in the process, "Silver Bells" being one of them. I was singing and I thought, oh, it's still very, it's still very similar to the original in a sense, and then I put it in a minor key, and I...ooh, that's different, and then I was able to, it was at a point, different, something that wasn't the same as people have been hearing every year, year in, year out.

JD: Two or three of the songs on the project are of a more religious nature, like "O Holy Night," do you expect to get any sort of back lash from those who think touching them might be in a way sacrilegious?

NLJ: Yeah, I kind of do, I mean, obviously people of faith come in many, many shapes and sizes, and there will be some people that are quite traditional. Actually, one of my best friends is quite a conservative Christian...I'm actually spending Christmas with him this year, in London...and on Christmas he's taking me to a cathedral and he's very, very traditional in the way he looks at things. So he has struggled with this concept which I've been doing on this album. But, having said that I think there are a lot of people of faith that their life mission is really to bring the gospel into a modern-day setting and have found that some of this re-imagining of the religious songs are quite helpful. They're making some things that can sometimes be seen as quite traditional or conservative, they're bringing them into a more modern space, which a lot of people of faith really hope to do with music and things of their heritage.

JD: Well, you're not changing the message.

NLJ: Well, that's exactly right, and when you do look at it, a lot of the hymns from the day were actually set to some modern pub songs, and many hymns actually do have multiple melodies to them, especially since they were set to a very specific structure, like a 6-8, 6-8 kind of lyrical rhyme that they're actually able to chop and change between melodies themselves. The concept is actually quite religious and quite historic in a sense.

JD: I've read you grew up in an evangelical Christian family, have they heard those songs yet?

NLJ: Oddly enough...JD, you're asking some great questions, because they're very topical. I've just come back from my hometown of Adelaide just the day before yesterday, and sat down with my family, and played them the album. Well, my dad is actually an avid musician and he absolutely loved it, which is really, really fulfilling for me. Yeah, also I think from that religious point of view they definitely loved that aspect to the album, too, so I'm back in the good books.

JD: Okay, let's get to those religious songs and my listeners can see what they think. Here are "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night."

Nathan Leigh Jones - O Holy Night / Silent Night (2013)

JD: I love the way you slipped in a Ronettes "be my baby" drumbeat to start off "Angels We Have Heard on High."

NLJ: Wonderful, yeah, it's a pretty camp song, that one. You can kind of imagine the angels in heaven with their glittered outfits and having a fabulous time out there.

JD: Yeah, I think out of the three religious songs, that's probably the one where people may...raise their eyebrows on.

NLJ: See, JD, that's why I buried it second to last track, where people can at least feel that they have some participation with the project, then you pop that one out at the end and you go, ooh, excuse me.

JD: Okay, well, I've just got to play for them "Angels We Have Heard on High."

Nathan Leigh Jones - Angels We Have Heard on High (2013)
Nathan Leigh Jones - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (2013

JD: And you also heard a very spirited "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Talk about that track.

NLJ: You know, what, I actually think that this is far as lyrically and writing these new melodies and new arrangements to existing songs...lyrically this is the one for me that really got me a bit misty and a bit teary. Obviously it's such a well-loved song and it was a rift changing the vibe, making such a beautiful tender ballad into an up-tempo, but I just think that the concept of gathering nearer to your loved ones and those faithful friends. For me my friends are everything for me, so to have that gets me really excited and really speaks of what the holiday season it warrants that happy carefree vibe, and even listening to it now, when it's all mixed and all ready to go, it does get me excited about this really special time of year.

JD: I understand you've done a bunch of voiceover work for Australian TV, talk about that side career.

NLJ: Oh, it's funny, I had no idea that, yeah, being a little kid that was so obsessed with TV commercials that it would become my life. Yeah, it's my part-time job here, part-time musician and part time using my voice to sell things. So yeah, in Australia I voice a couple of TV network promos for different stations, yeah, a few different products, bits and pieces, it's kind of getting around at the moment. It's a really fun career and I really get a huge kick out of it.

JD: Well, the reason I asked that question during this interview was that I found a Christmas one that you did for Santity, a big chain of music and entertainment stores.

NLJ: Yes, I have done a share of voice work for a few different places. I think it was quite a while ago, so my voice may not have broken at that stage. I love that you've dug up the archives, perfect.

NLJ Santity & Hungry Jack commercials (2006)

JD: I'd like you to do a couple drops. Please do one for Queer Music Heritage.

NLJ: Hey, this is Nathan Leigh Jones, and you're listening to Queer Music Heritage, with the very handsome JD Doyle.

JD: Did you need to go through any copyright agencies regarding doing the Christmas songs, I mean, do you need approval, or is it just a matter of paying royalties?

NLJ: Yeah, it did get me a little bit nervous at first, even to the point that we were so close to the wire when we were recording instrumentation that I actually put the songs that are now in public domain, which is five of them on the album, I did them first, just in case there was an issue with the copyrighted songs and I needed to buy myself a little bit of time. But I did get advice legally and it was checked out, and I'm treating these as arrangements, cause obviously there are a lot of Christmas songs that have been changed so much that they're barely recognizable as they are, so what I've had to do and be aware of was to keep the lyrics exactly the same. That's the one condition with these songs, and the rest of it is treated as an arrangement. So, yes, those famous carols that people get paid for, they're still getting paid through this, yeah, they're getting the credit in that way. Luckily there's no court case on the horizon, fingers crossed.

JD: Will they get a split royalty cause you would be listed as a writer of the music?

NLJ: Ah, for the five that are under copyright I've forfeited my writing credit so it's more so treated as an arrangement. But luckily for me the other five, since they are in the public domain, they're actually treated as they're my songs, which is quite interesting, so we'll see how it all goes.

JD: Your version of the song "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is still a ballad, and I have a feeling the melody for that one could have gone a lot of directions, did that happen to be the case?

NLJ: Yeah, it easily, as you say, could have gone a few ways, but I think "I'll Be Home for Christmas" is such a well-loved song, and I guess with all of these songs I didn't want to pick an avenue to go musically that wasn't really in line with the heart of the song. And I don't know whether this song could have been an up-tempo punk rock death metal song, I think it really has that warm heartfelt beauty about a Christmas kind of holds. So yeah I think just having a stripped back piano with a string section was really the best thing for this one.

JD: Could you talk in particular about your version of the song?

NLJ: Well, I essentially made this the stripped back song of the album, and got on the grand piano...actually the only song on the whole album that uses a real grand piano...a bit of insight there, I actually recorded that in one of the studios here in Sydney, 301, and got some real string players on that too. But the song, I think for me it really holds that heart and that beauty that I think most Christmas songs kind of have. For me the whole concept of being home for Christmas is pretty poignant, because I'm usually not home. I'm usually either off to another country, visiting friends, trying to find a place to fit, because my actual family's Christmas is usually about a week before the actual Christmas date, just because all the other spouses like to have the Jones contingent on their special day. So, I'm usually travelling, I'm usually elsewhere, so the song does hold that kind of...yeah, that special place for me that I...if only in my dreams I will be home with my parents and my family and the people I love.

Nathan Leigh Jones - I'll Be Home for Christmas (2013)

JD: Who do you think the audience is for this CD?

NLJ: Ah, I think I'm going to find that out for myself in this process. I think that the demographic as far as age or gender is quite diverse. I think it's more so a type of person, and that type of person is first of all someone that doesn't mind change and that can be open-minded, which is a 50-50 in a lot of instances, and probably someone that has seen a lot of Christmases come and go and they've heard the tunes and they love them, but maybe might, just for one year like something a little bit different. So I think that kind of person will perhaps take a liking to a lot of these songs.

JD: Well, I check off every one on that list.

NLJ: Ah, yay, JD, you are the demographic, the model demographic.

JD: Were there any Christmas songs you tried to re-write and it just didn't work?

NLJ: Yeah, there were a few actually. I think I probably did...I think I tried twenty and ran with ten, so I had a fifty percent success, right? And I did start the album, I tried to write with songs that people didn't know, which was an interesting aspect to go with, carols that were not really known. And then I started one for a song people did know and I thought that connected a lot more.

JD: Do you have plans to do any videos of songs from the album?

NLJ: Yeah, I do actually, JD, I'm heading to New York very soon, to have a music video done, one of the tracks on the album is a song I sang with a really good friend of mine, David Raleigh. He's a super, super talented New York City singer, songwriter and piano player and he was kind enough to feature on one of my tracks, and we're recording that pretty soon and hopefully we'll be ready in time for the holiday season, and fingers-crossed, I'm hoping for a little bit of snow as well. You can't have a video about "Winter Wonderland" and no snow. We're shooting over three days, and hopefully on one of those days Mother Nature will come to the party, and give us a good little backdrop.

JD: It sounds like it was fun working on that song with David.

NLJ: Yeah, absolutely, we had a blast, and every bit of laughter in that song is absolutely legit, we're just having an absolute blast with it.

JD: That happens to be the song I chose to close the segment, so, it's "Winter Wonderland" and would you introduce it for my listeners.

NLJ: Would love to, well, this is Nathan Leigh Jones and my very good friend, David Raleigh singing the Christmas classic, "Winter Wonderland."

Nathan Leigh Jones & David Raleigh - Winter Wonderland (2013)

Matt Fishel - Oh, Santa! (2013)

This is JD Doyle and welcome to Part 2 of my Queer Xmas Music Special, and I thought a great song to start off this segment was one by one of my favorite artists, Matt Fishel. He redid, in a gay way, the Mariah Carey song "Oh, Santa." Now, this hour will cover lots of genres, and I'm going to continue things with two Canadian acts, starting with a new track by Jeffery Straker, called "Comin' Home Christmas."

Jeffery Straker - Comin' Home Christmas (2013)
Matthew Presidente & Tara C Taylor - Homo for the Holidays (2012)

And that was Matthew Presidente and Tara C Taylor and "Homo for the Holidays." I've got another Canadian act...well, not exactly an act, more of a one time thing. A group of singers got together to do a charity single, and the three songwriters and ten of the twelve singers identify as LGBT. Going by the group name the Spectra Singers, their single is already doing very well on the Canadian charts, and I love it. It's called "If You're Not Here at Christmas."

Spectra Singers - If You're Not Here at Christmas (2013)
Jen Foster - Christmas Time Is Here (2012)
Catie Curtis - Song for a Winter's Night (2012)
O'Hooley & Tidow - One More Xmas (2010)

Very nice, that was the UK duo O'Hooley & Tidow, with "One More Christmas," from their 2010 CD "Silent June." But let's back up a bit, after the Spectra Singers was Jen Foster and "Christmas Time Is Here" and Catie Curtis and "Song for a Winter's Night."

Last month on OutRadio I featured a couple tracks by a UK band, and they go by the name Vinyl Closet, as their purpose is to tell our gay music history by performing mostly classic blues songs. Well, when they heard about this show I guess they were inspired to come up with a Christmas song of their own, and they even sent me their own intro for it. Here are the members of Vinyl Closet.

Vinyl Closet - When Santa Went to Soho (2013)

And, now coming up is a song from 1973, a 45 rpm record, that I've had in my collection for almost 30 years, and as I've been doing this show for fourteen years, that's how long I have wished I could include it on my xmas shows, because I love the song and its homage to the sound of Phil Spector. I couldn't include it because I only play songs by LGBT artists. But now I can play it. What changed? Well, the gender identification of one member of the duo. On the record the duo is known as Kimi & Ritz. Ritz was really Richard O'Brien, you know, the creator of "Rocky Horror Picture Show," and he played Riff Raff in the film. And Kimi was Kimi Wong O'Brien, his then wife. Last Spring in an interview he revealed he's been taking the hormone estrogen for about ten years. He said he doesn't plan on any surgery, and is happy with where he now falls on the gender spectrum, which he says is about 70% male and 30% female. Okay, that was a bit of explanation, but that tells how a song he did back in 1973 now qualifies for my show. Here's Kimi & Ritz and "Merry Christmas Baby."

Kimi & Ritz - Merry Christmas Baby (1973)
Sponge Finger - It's Gonna Be a Gay Old Christmas (2013)
Keo Nozari - Christmas Came Early (2012)

Following Kimi & Ritz were the UK act Sponge Finger, with "It's Gonna Be a Gay Old Christmas," and Keo Nazari telling us that "Christmas Came Early." I'm going to slow things down now for a set starting with UK singer Romani Beau and "Lonely This Year."

Romani Beau - Lonely This Year (2012)
Denise Marsa - The Pendulum (2011)
Aiden James - Winter in Los Angeles (2012)
Steven Gellman - Snow Day (2010)

That set included Denise Marsa and "The Pendulum," Aiden James and "Winter in Los Angeles" and Steven Gellman, doing "Snow Day."

And this is JD Doyle finishing up Part 2 of my Queer Xmas Music Specitl, and what better way than with my favorite British singing drag queen act, the Supreme Fabulettes, telling us that "You Ruined My Christmas."

Supreme Fabulettes - You Ruined My Christmas (2012)

Supreme Fabulettes - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (2012)

Oh, that was much too short. I'm JD Doyle and I'm starting off Part 3 of the show with the same act that ended Part 2, the Supreme Fabulettes, of course singing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." And, I often play Swedish singer Magnus Carlsson, and he's got a couple of new holiday songs. Here's a cover of the ABBA song "Arrival," followed by "Christmas With You."

Magnus Carlsson - Arrival / Christmas With You (2010)
Marc Almond - Christmas in Vegas (1992)

below, two views of a rare flexi-disc of Marc Almond's xmas single:
I don't own it, or it would be a Much better scan

And that was a very hard to find track by Marc Almond, from 1992, called "Christmas in Vegas." Coming up is a fun set, starting with Amy Bishop, and "Holy Moly Christmas."

Amy Bishop - Holy Moly Christmas (2012)
Tym Moss - Happy Happy Holiday (2012)
Stephan Nance - Song for Santa (2012)
Tom Goss - Santa Imma Make You Dance (2012)

Tym Moss gave us that second song, called "Happy Happy Holiday," and then Stephan Nance told us about his "Song for Santa," followed by Tom Goss. His message was "Santa, Imma Make You Dance."

These next two songs kind of remind me of each other. I think you'll see why; they want something quite specific for the holidays. First is Wade Murphy and then Garry Novikoff.

Wade Murphy - All I Want Is a DILF for Christmas (2012)
Grary Novikoff - Friend for Christmas (2012)

Okay, Wade Murphy told us "All I Want Is a DILF for Christmas," and "DILF" is spelled d-i-l-f. I had to look up online what a DILF is. It stands for "dad I'd like to fuck." Then Garry Novikoff's song was called "Friend for Christmas," and went from tender to explicit.

I think we need a breather after that set, so I hope Mark Barnes doesn't mind that I'm doing that with one of his lovely instrumentals. From his new CD "Chill Out Christmas" is "Coming Home."

Mark Barnes - Coming Home (2013)
Bad Boys of Opera - A Christmas Toast (2011)
Dan Paul - O Holy Night (2013)

In the middle of that set was a duo going by the Bad Boys of Opera, which is really Chris Cain, the gay one, and Adelmo Guidarelli, the straight one. Peter Saxe wrote their song "A Christmas Toast," and Peter is known for his fine work with John Whitley. Ending the set was an intriguing version of "O Holy Night," as done by Dan Paul Roberts. And here's Reigen, a houston artist who has now transplanted himself in New York City. He just sent me a couple of songs you can hear on my OutRadio show for December, and also one for this show, his take on "Hard Candy Christmas."

Reigen - Hard Candy Christmas (2013)

This is JD Doyle, and yes, you are still listening to my Queer Xmas Music Special. And I'm going to San Antonio artist Mallorie to close out Part 3. She'll do that with the songs "Winter Love" and "Perfect Christmas."

Mallorie - Winter Love (2011) / Perfect Gift (2012)

Anthony Callea - Christmas Baby Please Come Home (2013)

And how could I do a xmas special without someone doing "Christmas Baby Please Come Home," and that spirited version was by Aussie artist Anthony Callea. This is JD Doyle with the fourth and last part of my queer xmas music special. And I've got to share two more by Anthony, from his new CD "This Is Christmas." I picked first one called "Don't Save It All for Christmas," and then could not resist the other, as it's a duet by Anthony and his partner, Tim Campbell, on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Anthony Callea - Don't Save It All For Christmas (2013)
Anthony Callea & Tim Campbell - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (2013)

So, that was a triple play by Anthony Callea, and I'm doing another triple play, this one a bit jazzy, by an artist I much like named Spencer Day. I'm starting with the songs "My Kind of Christmas" and "Christmas With You."

Spencer Day - My Kind of Christmas / Christmas With You (2013)
Spencer Day - If Christmas Doesn't Kill Me (2013)

What a wonderful voice. I think Spencer Day will be around for a long time. That third song was the name of his holiday EP. It's called "If Christmas Doesn't Kill Me." Christopher Dallman is starting off this next set, a more mellow one, with a song from last year called "Christmas on My Own."

Christopher Dallman - Christmas on My Own (2012)
Gregory Douglass - Imagination (2012)
Jonathan Reid Gealt - Christmas Time Again (2007)
DC Anderson - Soon After Christmas (2001)
A.D. DeLory - Silent Night (2012)

I hope you enjoyed that set. After Christopher Dallman Gregory Douglass sand "Imagination," Jonathan Reid Gealt gave us "Christmas Time Again," and I went back to 2001 to play DC Anderson doing his song "Soon After Christmas." Bringing it home was A.D. DeLory with an interesting arrangement of "Silent Night."

It seems I've got a lot of UK artists on the show this year, and here's another, Stew Simpson, with an amusing song called "The Ballad of the Grumpy Old Men."

Stew Simpson - The Ballad of the Grumpy Old Men (2009)

And next we go to Broadway, and a track from the annual benefit CDs "Carols for a Cure." This time it's the cast of "Kinky Boots," including the prominent voice of Billy Porter, changing "Carol of the Bells" to one for boots.

Cast of "Kinky Boots" - Carol of the Boots (2013)
Kinsey Sicks - Satan Baby (2012)
Chris Dilley - Rudolph (2012)
Bareback Boys feat. Daveo Falaveo - Fuck the Toys, Bring the Boys (2013)

And wasn't that an unusual set? After the one by the cast of "Kinky Boots," was the Kinsey Sicks and "Satan Baby." Then, one of the long-time members of Kinsey Sicks, Chris Dilley is now out on his own, and he did himself proud with the song "Rudolph." Then, a not safe for work song from a German music producer. He releases a variety of songs under the name Bareback Boys, and invites indy artists to contribute songs and vocals. The guest on this one was Daveo Falaveo who wanted to "Fuck the Toys, Bring the Boys," all I'm sure in the spirit of good will toward men.

This is JD Doyle thanking you for having the patience to wade through four hours of what I term "Chrismas Music You Won't Be Sick of By Now." I'm going out with a song I played on my holiday shows for nine years in a row, but I didn't play it the last two years, so it's time to bring it back, as it's definitely a listener favorite. It's by one of our culture's most talented female impersonators, Jimmy James. From the album "Have Yourself a Jimmy James Merry Christmas," form 2002, you won't forget her version of "Feliz Navidad."

Jimmy James - Feliz Navidad (2002)