It’s so easy to be vocally seduced when Jay Brannan sings, but if you listen closely to this Texas-born tenor you’ll hear some of the smartest-written indie folk songs coming from any artist (gay or straight). Combine that with his devilishly handsome good looks and you’ll understand why Brannan is playing not just one night in Atlanta this weekend but two.
If you’re not familiar with Brannan’s music, you may be familiar with his steamy turn in 2003’s Shortbus. The film’s sexually-charged scenes may have made Brannan a sex symbol within the gay male community but it’s a title Brannan shrugs off. “I don’t know that anyone views me that way . . . I can’t say I’ve ever gotten that feeling,” Brannan shared. Although if he looks around at this weekend’s shows, I’m sure he’ll catch a few members of the audiences drooling.
Brannan still holds acting ambitions but currently is focusing on his music, touring in support of his latest album Rob Me Blind. In tandem with Blind’s spring release, Brannan also released his first live album recorded at Decatur’s stalwart venue, Eddie’s Attic. So it’s a homecoming of sorts when Brannan returns to Eddie’s with performances scheduled for Saturday and Sunday night.
When it came to recording Blind, Brannan challenged himself with unfamiliar territory. “I don’t want to make the same album over and over, at least right now I don’t, so I wanted to walk into a few fears, like using a bit more rhythm and percussion,” Brannan confessed.
Brannan created an album wish list which included Grammy Award-winning producer David Kahne, whose recent work includes Regina Spektor, Ingrid Michaelson and Lana Del Rey. “[David] is so good at creating memorable moments in music, but keeps it interested and tasteful,” Brannan shared. The result? “This turned out to be exactly the album I wanted to make,” Brannan beamed.
Brannan’s penchant for “taking cliché phrases and spinning them in different ways” reaches new heights with title track (and his favorite song) “Rob Me Blind”. “Usually when someone ‘robs you blind’ they are taking everything you have . . . and in the context of the song, that’s exactly what you want the other person to do,” Brannan explained. Hence Brannan finding his hands and feet bound on the cover.
Another highlight from Blind includes “Myth of Happiness”. Its lyrical 9/11 reference showcases a bigger struggle Brannan has with the state of humanity. “I don’t understand why people are so shitty to each other until some unimaginable tragedy comes along,” Brannan questioned. “But it’s amazing how quickly it fades even then.”
Brannan sings about love songs but very rarely writes one. On another album highlight “La La La” Brannan croons that he’d be happy to write one if only “someone would stick around long enough to compose the first verse.”
After listening to his albums and his cover choices, Brannan’s outlook on happiness should come as no surprise. “I kind of think it’s this state of perfection that people invented but can never really achieve . . . to me a much more realistic goal would be along the lines of ‘acceptance’ or some sort of comfortable state with yourself,” he revealed. “But then again I’m the one diagnosed with a chemical imbalance, so perhaps you should ask someone else,” Brannan followed up quickly.
Chemical imbalance or not, if you’ve never been to a Jay Brannan show they are the perfect balance of conversation, original songs and covers. Brannan, who dabbled with Nick Minaj’s “Super Bass” and Adele’s “Someone Like You” on his live Eddie’s Attic release, counts Ani Difranco, Lisa Loeb and Sinead O’ Connor among his influences. “[Loeb] has this image of a cutesy singer-songwriter, but when you actually listen she’s angry and cynical, but also clever and funny. That’s what I try to be,” Brannan admitted.
Well, Brannan has succeeded. Atlanta looks forward to this weekend’s musical performances and whether he believes he’s a sex symbol or not, we’re looking forward to seeing him as well.