Hot guys: Ferras
Duane Wells | July 22, 2008
And everybody here's
From somewhere else
You can make a million dollars, but you might lose yourself And you can take the heat will your heart grow cold
They say actingís just pretending, but even that gets old
And thereís never any rain, when you want it
A hollow little game, and youíve won it
Looking for a thrill but youíve done it all
So long, put your blue jeans back on girl
Remember Hollywoodís not America
So long put your blue jeans back on girl
Remember Hollywoodís not America – Ferras, ďHollywood Is Not AmericaĒ
Ferrasí journey to releasing his debut album could hardly be described as routine. The up-and-coming pop star actually first discovered music when his father kidnapped him from his mother in southern Illinois but bought him a Casio keyboard from Wal-Mart along the way to entertain him on the trip to his homeland in Jordan. At age five, inspired by his longing for his mother, Ferras wrote his first song and played it for her over the phone. She cried, perhaps in her own way foreshadowing her sonís future impact on the world of music.
A return to Illinois, a move to Santa Barbara, a chance meeting with Limp Bizkitís Fred Durst and 20 years later Ferras has released Aliens & Rainbows, an eccentric collection of pop music inspired by names like David Bowie, The Beatles, Queen and Elton John.
At its best, Aliens and Rainbows is an album that builds an exciting new bridge between pop, new wave and soul in a way that has been missing in music for decades. Which probably explains why the discís dramatic lead single ďHollywoodís Not America,Ē a song that would make the piano man himself proud, was tapped for the ĎHollywood Weekí on American Idol back in February.
Now a veteran of all sides of the Hollywood game at the tender young age of 25, Ferras is touring the country supporting his new disc alongside acts like Ryan Cabrera. I caught up Ferras just as he was landing in New York after one of his tour stops. Among other things we chatted about being out in the music industry, the dark side of Hollywood, blazing trails and never forgetting or being afraid of who you really are.
Duane Wells: So Ferras was there ever any question for you that would record as an out artist?
Ferras: You know I think I just kind of play my music. I am an observer and an artist and I just do what I do. I think the question of how one is going to present oneself never really entered into my mind. I do what I do and it resonates with a certain group of people and with others it doesnít.
DW: But you know that in the not so distant past, so many out artists in Hollywood, who are only a few years older than you, faced tremendous pressure from major labels to keep their sexuality under wraps because it was perceived to not be good for business. Did you ever encounter any of that kind of pressure on your way to current record deal?
F: Itís an interesting thing. Iím really fortunate that with my label, I get to really creatively express who I am, which is amazing.
Musically speaking, from day one, Iíve really been able to make the record that I wanted to. I can dress how I want and I can say what I want. Itís a creative freedom a lot of artists donít get and for that Iíve been very fortunate with my record company.
I think that itís the type of thing thatís missing in the process of music and images thatís going on right now. There really has to be a time where America, just like the rest of the world, says ĎHey letís embrace people for their unique qualitiesí as opposed to pitchforking them up somewhere and having a witch hunt. Itís pretty ridiculous.
DW: Did you encounter a lot of rejection early on?
F: UmÖ Iíve experienced years and beyond [of rejection]. [Laughs] Itís a crazy thing. I play piano and Iím a singer. When I first tried to get a record deal back when I was 17, it was at a time when Britney Spears was gallivanting around on stage with a snake and the Backstreet Boys were in their matching white outfits flying in the air. So what I do wasnít really right at the time.
DW: So very few new out artists have found the kind of mainstream acceptance that you have right out of the box? Elton John and George Michael are out, but they came out after the peak of their success? Some might call you a bit of a trailblazerÖ but do you feel like one?
F: You know some days I do and some days I donít. I wouldnít necessarily think that Iím doing anything that hasnít been done or said before. But I think that in my songs ,thereís definitely a uniqueness to them in comparison to whatís happening on the radio right now.
I really just write from my heart and my experiences and the things that I want to talk about and if thatís trailblazing [Laughs]Ö and sets off fire and smoke, thatís amazing and thatís compliment.
DW: Speaking of compliments, how did you feel when American Idol chose to use your single ďHollywood Is Not AmericaĒ last season?
F: Do you want the truth or the sugarcoated answer?
DW: By all means, Iíll take truth over saccharine any day. Do tellÖ
F: [Laughs] OK, Iíll give you a version of both. It was obviously a phenomenal sort of idea and American Idol was extremely supportive of the single and of me and it certainly brought me into lots of households and sold lots of singles. 'So I was kind of like, 'WowÖ luck has been bestowed upon me.' That was great.
But at the end of the day, we didnít sell two million records because of it. And that is in no way meant to diminish the fact that they were so supportive and really awesome. Any time a singer/songwriter or just a songwriter can get one of their songs into a major television show or a movie or commercial or anything, it blows your mind.
DW: A most politically correct answer sir. Weíll leave it at that and move on to the song itself. What was your inspiration for the lyrics to ďHollywood's Not AmericaĒ? I have to say it plays a bit like a personal testimony.
F: Well I moved to Hollywood when I was 17 and I really got lost largely due to the endless amounts of partying and clubs and people. You know you go from being a boy from the mid-west to this land of debauchery thatís just waiting to consume you. And Iíll say completely and unabashedly that I really, really experienced a lot of the dark side of Hollywood and for many years struggled between keeping up my partying schedule and also putting food on the table.
At the same time, I became friends with many celebrities and had dear friends who were involved in either music or movies and I kind of experienced them vicariously and saw what they were going throughÖ the parties and whatnot. Right around the time of Anna Nicoleís passing and Britney being on the cover of In Touch having her breakdown, I just kind of stopped and thought, ĎIs this really at the heart of everything. Is this what we celebrate as Americans? As a world?'
At the end of the day, I guess it kind of is. But between New York and Los Angeles thereís a whole country of people who donít really have an idea of what that lifestyle really is and the pain and loss of identity and the sort of crises that go on specifically in these girls lives. That was the sentiment.
DW: Are there any other songs on Aliens and Rainbows that are particularly autobiographical?
F: Yeah. "Aliens and Rainbows" definitely. Itís about being an outsider and observing the world and wishing you were somewhere else, where people understood you and really got you and where you didnít have to pretend and you didnít have to be somebody else.
I always search for something deeper and thatís a blessing and thatís a curse because sometimes you see people just walking down the street and they seem so oblivious to all of the kind of deeper things that are going on and you wish for moment you could be themÖ that you didnít feel so deeply.
Iíve been called dark. [Laughs] I donít think I am that but I just feel things really deeply and they have a profound effect on me and my psyche and therefore I am inspired to write about them.
So all of the songs [on the album] are autobiographical. None of them were written based on other peopleís experiences. It was all things that Iíve felt or would like to feel.
DW: Are you living the life you dreamed about when you began playing that first song on your Casio back in Jordan as a little boy?
F: Yeah Iím living it. Iím one of the lucky people in the world who are really living their dream. Iíve always lived in my head, thinking about a time when I would be on stage and itís the truest moment. When Iím on stage itís the best expression of who I am as a person, devoid of all egoistic qualities and superficial things.
The next thing is world domination, but I donít know if that will ever happen. [Laughs]
DW: Youíre only 25, but by your own admission youíve seen and done a lot, what has been the most surprising thing youíve learned from it all along the way?
F: Itís so trite. I wish I had a really profound catchphrase to say that would enlighten the masses, but I think it would have to be [the lesson] that all that glitters is not gold.
Just doing what Iím doing, thereís a perception that itís all about glamour, but the only glamorous part is talking to people like you and having fans scream your name and grab at you like youíre the last piece of bread at a war camp. But the rest of it is a job, like everything else. Things are not always as they appear, generally speaking.
DW: For all the single fellas out there, I have to ask if there is someone special in your life?
F: I have a lot of special people. [Laughs] Iím not trying to dodge the question, but Iím not specifically seeing anybody right now. I donít have time for a relationship, as Iím sure youíve heard many artists say.
Iím literally gone for months at a time and long distance relationships just donít work, especially if youíre a guy. So itís not something I want to get into right now. Iím just focusing on myself and my music and putting on the best show I can every single night without having to think about what so and so is doing in some other part of the country.
DW: So then we can announce here with this interview that People Magazine may have overlooked one of the most eligible bachelors in America this year then?
F: [Laughs] I love you! Thank you so much. Yeah eligible and bachelor are two words that could describe this young soul from Hollywood.
DW: Final question. What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
F: Thereís a thing going on with my MySpace right now. A lot of people who havenít seen my shows or met me in person think that I am this completely in-my-head, introspective dude, which I am in a lot of ways. But I think I can throw down the funny with the best of them. I wouldnít say ĎOh Iím so funnyí or anything like that, but Iím a huge dork. For more on Ferras, visit www.FerrasMusic.com. – Gay Link Content
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