Breedlove: “I’m Doing OK By Me”

Photo by Ky Digregorio

Having known Breedlove for six years now, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I asked him to meet me for an interview. Breedlove is an enigma, so much so that he apparently even puzzles himself. We met at the Gershwin Theater, home of Wicked, in a room full of outlandish wigs and rubber noses. One of the first things we talked about was his makeover; about a year ago, he went from his longtime long, wavy locks to a completely shaved head, and from tie-dye caftans and shirts with his face on them to a sleek, on trend new wardrobe by Mishka. His friend Justin Tranter of Semi Precious Weapons told him that it’s his most mainstream look yet, to which he replied, “People think I’m being mainstream but I’m really just dressing like a chav, a really hated subculture in the UK… One of my favorite looks I describe as a northern Florida meth addict dressing up for the white party in Miami.”

Breedlove, originally from Northern California, comes from a family of performers. With a cabaret singer for a mom and singer turned actor for a dad, he was around theater and talent his whole life. He moved to New York City when he was 18 and attended Marymount Manhattan College, where he met Annaleigh Ashford (“She’s been my soul sister now for over ten years”). From here on, he met the people who came to be some of his best friends: Semi Precious Weapons, Lady Starlight, and Lady Gaga. These artists have gone on to create and accomplish extremely impressive things on a huge scale, and despite what you might think, Breedlove’s reaction has been to give nothing but unwavering love and support. He is definitely not sitting on the sidelines waiting for his music to be “discovered”; when I asked him what his goal for his career was, he laughingly replied, “I have so many careers!” And he does; currently, he’s the man who makes Elphaba green in Broadway’s Wicked, he’s designing makeup for Sylvia (starring his best friend, and Tony winner, Annaleigh Ashford), and he’s deep in the rewriting process for his very own musical, Stu for Silverton. And, in all the free time he has left after that, he is writing and recording his next album with producer, DJ, and “refixer”, Chew FU.

Evidently, Breedlove is successful in many ways, with several jobs that many people would kill for. He also recently went on tour with Lady Gaga, opening for her on the European leg of the ArtRave. His involvement with her goes way beyond that though, and he talks about how gratifying it is to have a part in her vision. They often brainstorm together, and while the way in which Gaga benefits from it is pretty clear, Breedlove is getting a lot of fulfillment from it as well. “Having ideas that I throw out there come to life is the best thing that could possibly happen. I don’t have the money to do anything like that; I don’t have the stage, the audience to pull these things off. These would just be ideas in my head, and to see things before me fully realized perfectly is the best thing that could ever happen in my life.”

In the midst of all these job titles and achievements, it’s still very hard to explain Breedlove’s performances and who he is. His album with Chew Fu, Magic Monday, is a culmination of about five years of work, and really displays how perfectly Breedlove’s and Chew Fu’s artistry fits together. At first listen, you might think that it’s clearly pop, but then the more you hear the more you get confused, wondering if the whole presentation is a joke of some kind. Well, that’s not right and it’s not wrong. Being confused but loving it and going along with it anyway is how you know you’re receiving the Breedlove experience to its full potential. His goal is not to make music that everyone will understand and like immediately; he says, “I’m releasing music that makes me laugh and feel good, and lets me express my depression, and lets me express my euphoria. If people like us, that’s awesome, you’re welcome to the party. If you’re not into it, then I love you and put your earplugs in next time when I’m opening for someone you love! Go get a beer, maybe you’ll like me more.” This is the kind of attitude that is rarely seen in performers at any level, but his attitude is just another thing that causes people to love him and be drawn to him.

Unlike the music industry today, Breedlove is all about just that: breeding love. That’s why, when Lady Gaga and her mom, Cynthia Germanotta, were organizing the Born This Way Foundation, they chose Breedlove to be Chief Ambassador for the Born Brave experience. They were brainstorming ideas backstage at the Born This Way Ball, Breedlove was, of course, wearing a caftan, “and [Gaga] said ‘Oh, I want you to be the ambassador and I want you to sit in a van and I want you to meet kids and talk to them about their problems,’ and I said, ‘Okay! I’m ready!’” So, equipped with several caftans made by Jenny Vicious and tie-dyed by the New York tie-dye lady in Union Square, he sat in a van and talked to kids, burning sage and constantly reassuring the local authorities that it wasn’t weed. This may not sound like the most productive use of time and resources to some people, but if you’ve ever been around Breedlove, you’ll know that he has a way of making things better and letting you know everything’s going to be okay, even when he doesn’t know he’s doing it.

Speaking of Breedlove’s many magical powers, there is one he’s aware of. After reminiscing about the wonders of Miley Cyrus in her Hannah Montana days, he says, “…I do think it’s interesting that things that I love consistently cross over into major mainstream popularity, and people that I love that are very close to me end up being very successful.” He talks about how sometimes he feels like he pours psychic or spiritual energy into someone, and then once they get to where they need be he relaxes and lets them do their thing. This might all sound very mystical and ridiculous, or maybe not, but there is definitely something to be said for spreading love and positive, encouraging energy wherever you go and watching the people you care about benefit from it, however that happens. “So I psychically made Miley Cyrus a huge international pop star, basically is what I’m saying,” says Breedlove, definitively proving his theory. (“Kidding, I’m kidding!”)

Breedlove performs upbeat, catchy songs that have a lot of deeper meaning to him, and he performs them with complete sincerity and in complete seriousness. This is one aspect that tends to confuse people, because he’ll be singing his song “Sex O’Clock”, which is everything you’d expect it to be and more, and he’ll perform it like it’s the most serious, moving song you’ve ever heard. The audience will be bouncing around and singing along, while Breedlove is on his knees belting out lyrics that mean something completely different to him than they do to the audience. And that’s okay, he says, “I have to perform it seriously, that’s the only way I know how to do it. I’m not going to make fun of something that’s already funny. Laugh at me while I’m doing it but I’m living the emotion of the song. I have to.” In the five years during which he was perfecting the album Magic Monday, Breedlove was doing a residency at St. Jeromes on the Lower East Side, performing right on top of the bar while his dancer and friend Jocelyn McBride fearlessly committed to dancing beside him and shining one small spotlight on his face. This show every Monday was in itself a perfect example of Breedlove as an artist: he performed once a week for four years, never making any money for himself but always making sure that everyone else involved got paid. He was doing it for the love of the craft, and ultimately it turns out it was serving the purpose of rehearsal, because after all that performing he was absolutely ready for the arena audiences on Gaga’s ArtRave tour.

As for his next album, the emotions will apparently be more extreme than ever before, if that’s even possible. It contains “super super highs” and “super super lows”, with some more obvious humor than he’s done in the past. “There’s a song called Sugar Daddy on the next album where I’m singing about ‘Let me take your ass to Disney World in a limousine that’s lined in pearls,’ and I am going to believe that and I am going to look in your eyes and I’m going to sing that to you.” He, of course, will not be depending on big ratings or a lot of record sales. Breedlove will be doing what he loves, with the people he loves, and “it’s ultimately not my problem if people like it or don’t like it.”

 

 

Check out the podcast of this article complete with music and new quotes from Breedlove! https://soundcloud.com/carriealexandra/breedlove-soho-journals-notable-new-york-1

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