BWW Interviews: Aiden Leslie Talks Live Out Loud, NYC Pride, and His Music
It's summer, which means its time to turn the radios up, dance in the streets, soak up the sun, and enjoy life's journey. That's exactly what New Yorker by way of Ohio Aiden Leslie is doing. With his music climbing the charts, I recently sat down with the popular pop vocalist to chat about his music and LGBTQ advocacy. Aiden Leslie will have a busy NYC Pride Week, and plans to be spreading his dance inducing beats all summer long.
Tell me a little bit about the organization Live Out Loud and what attracted you to work with them.
Aiden Leslie: I went to their benefit, the Young Trailblazers Gala, in April, and I was vaguely familiar with the organization. I've been involved with other charities in the past, but this organization really stuck a chord with me. What's great about Live Out Loud is that it is this safe haven for these young kids to find a place, a home, and a voice as they're coming out. I can remember when I was their age and not really having an outlet. Live Out Loud is providing a place to these kids where they can have people to look up and help steer them. Their LGBT peers guide them in a way that wasn't previously available, and I think that they're making it available now. In sitting down with this organization, I was really moved in a way that I never have been before. I can't really explain it. It's just... [Pauses] Wow! How great is it to have something like this available to these kids!
[Pauses] I'll be performing at their benefit in the Hamptons [Live Out Loud's 7th Annual Pride in the Hampton Event on June 27, 2015 at 6 PM], and I'm so excited about that. I'm honored to be able to do that, and I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a great partnership to get the word out.
Being vocal about LGBTQ issues is not something that is new to you. You've long used your platform as a musician to push these issues forward. What is the inspiration behind this?
Aiden Leslie: I'm me. I'm just being me. I'm gay. I'm not afraid to say that. I use my music as diaries. I express myself in that way. I mean I express my self in many ways, but the main way is through my music. I write my songs, and I talk about my experiences. Yes, I'm gay, but we're all human. We're all human beings. So, whenever I have a chance to talk about my experiences, I talk about them honestly and truthfully. I say, "I'm a gay man, and these are my experiences." If I can somehow help out in someway by being honest, then that's great. It's really simple.
Right. No matter who you are, everyone wants to experience and everyone does experience love.
Aiden Leslie: Exactly. But, they're not all love songs. There is a thread to things, and love is love. I know that sounds cliché, but it's kind of what makes the world go round, right?
True. In addition to performing in the Hamptons, you're also going to be on one of the floats in New York City's Pride Parade. Tell me about that.
Aiden Leslie: I will be on the float for Global Groove Entertainment, which is Mike Rizzo's music company. He is a Grammy nominated remixer. He's also partnering with Citrusonic Los Angeles, which is the record label I'm partnering with on my latest single, "I Just Go." It'll be me and few other people, and I think it'll just be a party. It'll be a lot of fun. It'll be really cool because they'll be spinning some of my "I Just Go" remixes.
So, what got you interested in music?
Aiden Leslie: I was a kid actor, and I went to a school for creative and performing arts in Cincinnati. I grew up in Cincinnati. Well, I always say I was born in Cincinnati. I was raised in Cincinnati, but I really grew up in New York. I came to New York really young. I started off in theater, so I have my roots in the theater. I did a couple of world tours and some Off and Off-Off-Broadway things. Slowly, I started to go out and to work in the club scene.
I was doing both when I met a drag queen performance artist. He helped me start. He asked me to help him write a song, and that's how it all started. I started writing songs and performing in the clubs. Then I discovered this other type of appeal I had never known. I had only known the scripted appeal of the stage. Broadway. All of that. I did not understand this other life.
I was doing this Off-Broadway show called THE BOY FROM MINNESOTA. It was this two-act original musical, and it was about this boy who came to New York just out of high school, like myself. It was all about his journey, coming to The Village, and performing at the old Trocadero Night Club. We were in-between rehearsals for this musical, we had about three hours, and the sound engineer was like "I'm going to go record shopping." He was also a DJ. I said, "Oh really? That's cool." He asked, "Do you want to come with me?" So, he took me to Eightball Records in the East Village. It's no longer there. It was a vinyl record store, and introduced me to EDM. I was enamored by it, and that was the start of me becoming part of that world.
It was like the world had opened up in a different way, and I thought "Ok. This is a whole different world that I've never experienced. This is a whole different way of feeling." And, I thought, "I can do this. I can do my thing." I always had felt that there was something missing in me when I was performing. Doing it with other peoples words and being part of someone else's vision is great, and I love that. But, I also wanted to express myself in my own way. I wanted to tell my own stories. I felt like I could do that, and that is how it all started.
Awesome. Now, you've got multiple singles, a popular YouTube page, and your latest single "I Just Go" is garnering lots of press. So, how close are we to an Aiden Leslie album?
Aiden Leslie: I'm doing it in bits and pieces. For me, I've really been taking my time, and there are a few reasons why. I want to do something right for me. I want to do something of quality. And, the world we live in today is very different than the world we lived in a few years ago. I could do an album, but I also know the mentality of the consumer these days. You can release a 15-track album, and the consumers will go through it. It'll take them three minutes to decide what they're going to buy, and it's done. It's over. That's a lot of work for someone to put that out, have it fall by the wayside, and have no one hear it. Do you know what I'm saying?
Right. It's a "everything at the speed of social media" world these days. 15-second videos. 140 characters.
Aiden Leslie: Exactly. It's like how do we do that? It's kind of sad. So, in answer to your question, no, I haven't tossed that idea out. I'm also realistic about what I can do with what I want to put out and its quality. It's not cheap to do an album, but it's also not cheap to do a single. People think you just put a video together, put a set of remixes together, and you put a song together. They don't think about how much time goes into that. It's a lot of work, finances, and everything. Then, you put in your promotions, and you put in the people who work hard on it. It's a lot. So, I've just been thinking, "How do I do it all, and how do I do it right?" I'm just trying to figure that out.
Other artists, like Cazwell, have been very successful with the model of releasing singles one at a time and then following them up with an album that is largely the pre-released singles.
Aiden Leslie: Exactly. It's a single nation.
And it works.
Aiden Leslie: And it works.
And a good music video is not easy or cheap either. The film director and crew alone...
Aiden Leslie: Right. The crew. The lights. The light direction. But, there are people who film their music videos rather simply on iPhones. And we can do a lot more with technology today. With my latest video for "I Just Go," we went out on location. Myself and everyone involved wanted to just do something of quality. I think there is something to be said for content and just putting things out. For me, because the music business has changed so much, if I'm going to do something, I want it to be of quality. That's just for me. In the meantime, the remixes are doing very well. They're climbing on Billboard, and we're very excited about it.
So, after New York City Pride, what's next for Aiden Leslie?
Aiden Leslie: We're booked! We'll be announcing some shows in the next couple of weeks We've got a good summer coming up.
I'm excited about Live Out Loud. I'm excited about helping get a message out that I really believe in. I'm excited to share my music. I'm just putting in the work, so it's all good. It's all about putting one foot in front of the other. You know.
It's the journey.
Aiden Leslie: Exactly. It's the journey. It's my journey. That's the core of my thread. I think every artist has different threads to what they do, and my thread is the journey.
To learn more about Aiden Leslie, please visit http://aidenleslie.com. You can also follow him on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SoundCloud. For more information about or to help support Live Out Loud, please visit http://www.liveoutloud.info. For more information about New York City Pride and its Pride Week events, please visit https://www.nycpride.org.