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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 acting’s just pretending, but even that gets old

And there’s never any rain, when you want it
A hollow little game, and you’ve won it
Looking for a thrill but you’ve done it all

So long, put your blue jeans back on girl
Go home
Remember Hollywood’s not America
So long put your blue jeans back on girl
Go home
Remember Hollywood’s not America
– Ferras, “Hollywood Is Not America”

Ferras’ 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 son’s future impact on the world of music.

A return to Illinois, a move to Santa Barbara, a chance meeting with Limp Bizkit’s 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 disc’s dramatic lead single “Hollywood’s Not America,” a song that would make the piano man himself proud, was tapped for the ‘Hollywood Week’ 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 doesn’t.

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: It’s an interesting thing. I’m really fortunate that with my label, I get to really creatively express who I am, which is amazing.

Musically speaking, from day one, I’ve really been able to make the record that I wanted to. I can dress how I want and I can say what I want. It’s a creative freedom a lot of artists don’t get and for that I’ve been very fortunate with my record company.

I think that it’s the type of thing that’s missing in the process of music and images that’s going on right now. There really has to be a time where America, just like the rest of the world, says ‘Hey let’s embrace people for their unique qualities’ as opposed to pitchforking them up somewhere and having a witch hunt. It’s pretty ridiculous.

DW: Did you encounter a lot of rejection early on?

F: Um… I’ve experienced years and beyond [of rejection]. [Laughs] It’s a crazy thing. I play piano and I’m 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 wasn’t 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 trailblazer… but do you feel like one?

F: You know some days I do and some days I don’t. I wouldn’t necessarily think that I’m doing anything that hasn’t been done or said before. But I think that in my songs ,there’s definitely a uniqueness to them in comparison to what’s 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 that’s trailblazing [Laughs]… and sets off fire and smoke, that’s amazing and that’s compliment.

DW: Speaking of compliments, how did you feel when American Idol chose to use your single “Hollywood Is Not America” last season?

F: Do you want the truth or the sugarcoated answer?

DW: By all means, I’ll take truth over saccharine any day. Do tell…

F: [Laughs] OK, I’ll 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, 'Wow… luck has been bestowed upon me.' That was great.

But at the end of the day, we didn’t 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. We’ll leave it at that and move on to the song itself. What was your inspiration for the lyrics to “Hollywood's Not America”? 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 that’s just waiting to consume you. And I’ll 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 through… the parties and whatnot. Right around the time of Anna Nicole’s passing and Britney being on the cover of In Touch having her breakdown, I just kind of stopped and thought, ‘Is 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 there’s a whole country of people who don’t 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. It’s 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 didn’t have to pretend and you didn’t have to be somebody else.

I always search for something deeper and that’s a blessing and that’s 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 them… that you didn’t feel so deeply.

I’ve been called dark. [Laughs] I don’t 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 people’s experiences. It was all things that I’ve 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 I’m living it. I’m one of the lucky people in the world who are really living their dream. I’ve always lived in my head, thinking about a time when I would be on stage and it’s the truest moment. When I’m on stage it’s 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 don’t know if that will ever happen. [Laughs]

DW: You’re only 25, but by your own admission you’ve seen and done a lot, what has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned from it all along the way?

F: It’s 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 I’m doing, there’s a perception that it’s 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 you’re 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] I’m not trying to dodge the question, but I’m not specifically seeing anybody right now. I don’t have time for a relationship, as I’m sure you’ve heard many artists say.

I’m literally gone for months at a time and long distance relationships just don’t work, especially if you’re a guy. So it’s not something I want to get into right now. I’m 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: There’s a thing going on with my MySpace right now. A lot of people who haven’t 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 wouldn’t say ‘Oh I’m so funny’ or anything like that, but I’m a huge dork. For more on Ferras, visit www.FerrasMusic.com. – Gay Link Content

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