The gay interview: Brandi Carlile

Here’s what we know about Brandi Carlile: Her lung power is a bigger threat to humanity than any nuclear war; she’s cool enough to sing with Elton John (who recorded a track with the singer for her last studio album, 2009’s (Give Up the Ghost); and she’s a totally girl-crazy out singer-songwriter. Carlile’s fourth LP, Bear Creek — named after the secluded studio outside of Seattle she and her twin collaborators recorded in — takes her further into the Americana genre she’s gradually pursued since dropping her debut seven years ago.

We have a review of Carlile’s new CD coming up in this week’s print edition, but before you read the review, check out this interview with Chris Azzopardi about why she only writes about ex-girlfriends, who (or what) “Josephine” is and the twins she’s seen naked. A lot.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

RuPaul, Girl in a Coma among this year’s queer Independent Music Award nominees

Earlier this month, the nominees were announced for the 11th Annual  Independent Music Awards and a few queer artists were among the 300-plus artists and bands nominated. The awards celebrate self-published musicians and independent labels. The winners will be determined by an esteemed panel of judges that includes Keith Richards, Tom Waits, Suzanne Vega, Tori Amos, Shelby Lynne and Ozzy Osbourne among the mix and will be announced in April.

Singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick made the cut with two nominations. Her Still Right Here release from 2011 was nominated for best folk/singer-songwriter album and best acoustic song for “Singing in the Wind.”

—  Rich Lopez

Shabby Shriek of the Week: Liz Primo

Liz Primo’s debut ‘Exposed.’ Shab or fab?

For this week’s entry of Shabby Shriek, we look to Liz Primo. Last week, I received her debut Exposed, which might have been renamed “derivative.” With her Nicki Minaj look on the cover and Katy Perry whimsical and colorful getups on the inside, I wondered if I had heard this already — you know, without having to open it and listen.

But to be fair, I did open and pop it in on the drive home. With only six songs (and one remix), I figured this would be easy to get through. By track four, I pulled out Primo and put in the infinitely better Femme Fatale by Britney Spears. Now, how often do you hear that?

So here we go:

—  Rich Lopez

Travelin’ man

SIDE PROJECT Even with the hectic schedule of performing musical accompaniment for the circus, Ryan States managed to release a CD and gear up for his own time in the spotlight.

Ryan States did what most people just dream about: He ran off to join the circus. But he stll wants to make music of his own

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

R­yan States has his future set — good (and rare) for a musician. Where others work day jobs and try to book gigs by night, States might have the best gig of all. As the keyboard player in the Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey circus, his day job is as a musician. And when he had time on the side, he used it to record and release an album.

All in a day’s work for States — or in his case, two years.

“Yeah, it took that long to put together,” he says. “It’s hard to say when I really began, and other projects come up.”

Two years for an album isn’t abnormal, but for States, working around his grueling schedule called for creative ways to finish his 2009 CD, Strange Town. (The circus stops in Dallas July 27, performing 21 shows in 11 days.) In doing so, it even has its own unique claim to fame.

“This is the first record ever completely made on a train,” the out singer brags. (Yes, the circus does still travel by train.) “I experimented with remote recordings. Sometimes I’d have musicians in my train room, other times I’d get their tracks via email. I was putting music and musicians together without any kind of network out there.”

The result was an 11-track CD of singer-songwriter rock that recalls the likes of Jackson Browne or Michael W. Smith and sounds beautifully cohesive in its production value. Recording has moved beyond the studio, but States pulled off a polished package considering his unconventional approach to Strange Town.

“I’m really happy with it,” he says. “It turned out to be simpler to collect tracks and work from my computer on the train. I could be there working, tracking and editing music all I want. With our work schedule of shows and rehearsals, time was the biggest challenge for me.”

Although the album is available, if you want to hear States live, the circus is the only place to do it. At 37 — seven of those years with Ringling — States is clearly a seasoned performer, but he’s yet to perform his own music.

CIRCUS FREAK-OUT Ryan States is safely sequestered away from dangerous acts like lion taming and trapeze, but keeps up musically. (Feld Entertainment)

“I did make my debut performance on Queer Voices in Houston performing live, but I realized I hadn’t performed my own stuff outside of my living room or a talent competition,” he says. “Plus, I really didn’t think I could do that on the road.”

The logistics behind booking shows while touring is daunting, but expanding to individual venues is on his radar. And while Dallas has plenty of venues where he could perform (he’d like to perform at a place like the Vixin Lounge, he says), States — who used to live here — didn’t book one. He felt he wasn’t prepared.

He first needs some back-up musicians: His album was recorded with an amalgamation of musicians culled from across the country via the Web. But could there be some lingering insecurities about going at it alone — even with a backing band? Hard to say. States wants to perform his own gigs, but his reasons for the delay come off somewhat as a case of the nerves.

“I’ve not yet performed in front of an audience I could see,” he laughs. “I look forward to getting something bigger together. I am preparing for it, though. I think I should be ready with everything by fall.”

In the meantime, he has plenty to keep him busy at the circus.

“We’re not playing a song because there is really no end,” he explains. “It’s rock, it’s circus music and people are surprised it’s live. But we have to keep an eye on the show. If something happens or gets off course, we have to keep up or slow down. I’ve never had a gig like that and because anything could happen, we have to be ready at the drop of a hat.”


States is clearly stimulated by his work with the circus. He has all of life’s necessities: A place to live (albeit on wheels), a good musical gig and time for his own work. He even has his traveling circus family. So to say his future is set is likely an understatement.

“I’ll be here for a while, at least another year. It’s nice to have steady work and just show up,” he says. “I don’t really like a lot of attention, but as for my music, it is a new challenge to be pushed up to the front. I’ve always been a side man, but I know now I can be whatever I want to be.”



Pitching a tent

circus-4Eight years ago, Cristian Zabala received the phone call that would change his life forever. Following a 2002 audition for Cirque du Soleil that seemed to go nowhere, Zabala had assumed he wasn’t what they were looking for. But then came word that the casting director wanted him for the Alegria, performing as an acrobat. He had the athletic prowess for it, but what the Argentine-born performer really wanted to do was sing.

“When I was 17, I was doing musicals and dancing in school,” he says. “For me it was good enough to just be in the show, but they asked me to sing and because I’m a countertenor, I’ve been the only male singer in that show.”

Now Zabala can be seen in Dralion, the production from Cirque that fuses Chinese traditional circuses with more contemporary themes. Zabala’s character, L’Âme Force, threads together the four elements depicted in the show. He’s also living the proverbial dream, but he wouldn’t say that it was all by accident.

“I’ve always had that luck to do what I love to do. I believe in the law of attraction,” he says.

He means that in more ways than one. Zabala’s significant other is also the artistic director for Dralion. They first met while working on Cirque’s Quidam. By the time the stint was over two years later, they were full-fledged boyfriends. When this show opened up, offering them the opportunity to work together, they took it. The decision was not lost on the rest of the cast and crew.

“I get some teasing from everyone for being the first lady, but it’s funny,” laughs Zabala. “I joke about it, too. Since I am from Argentina, I always say they call me Evita Peron.”

When the timing is right — and they are in one place long enough — the couple plans to get married. Hopefully the wedding will take place in Buenos Aires (where same-sex marriage was recently legalized), although he says they are still considering their options.

Although excited to pursue that chapter, Zabala isn’t in a hurry. His gig with Cirque is artistically fulfilling — he even hesitates to call it work, but more a calling.

“This has never had that connotation of work to me,” he says. “I know it’s always my choice. Sometimes I could call in sick but even when I don’t wanna go, the show brings me back to a certain reality. I’m not religious but I am very spiritual. My purpose is to entertain and give it to people. It’s wonderful.”

And when all is said and done, Zabala isn’t too worried about the future. He has another year with the show.

“This one thing I know. I will always work. It’s a weird feeling but because I want to be singing, somebody will give me the chance.”
— R.L.

Cirque du Soleil: Dralion at Dr. Pepper Arena, 2601 Avenue of the Stars, Frisco.
July 27–31. $40–$95.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Cosmo Jarvis and ‘Gay Pirates’

Apparently I missed this “Internet sensation” when it came out last month. Perhaps it was replaced by another one the day after. While shuffling through e-mails, I received one two days ago and discovered that Brit-based singer-songwriter-filmmaker Cosmo Jarvis had released his song and video for “Gay Pirates.” The press release makes it sound a little more important than it is:

More than a moving song and video, “Gay Pirates” is an honest look at two lovers and the discrimination that they faced at a time in history that seems to have passed…or has it? Hundreds of years after the glimpse of society Cosmo Jarvis exposes in the track, “Gay Pirates” is focused on breaking down the homophobia that still remains today. Cosmo Jarvis has created a timeless pop song, not only from a historical/socio-political perspective, but also from a melodic and lyrical one.

I don’t know about timeless, but it’s a cute dittie with a cute DIY kind of video. And it’s all here for your Internet sensation viewing pleasure after the jump. The not-gay singer will include the song on his sophomore album, Is the World Strange or am I Strange?, slated for an early 2011 release.

—  Rich Lopez

Starvoice • 12.03.10

By Jack Fertig


Kara DioGuardi turns 40 on Thursday. Although primarily a singer, songwriter and producer, we got to know DioGuardi as the new fourth judge on American Idol in season 8. Then she called it quits before season 10. Now she’s working on a memoir about her experiences with the show. Of course, we’re hoping for some juicy details about Simon and Paula.



Mercury turning retrograde in Capricorn reveals systemic errors great and small. Look for flaws in hierarchies and collect info to solve problems next month. Mercury’s conjunct Pluto and sextile Venus so challenges in relationships seem to be everywhere. Sexual tension is often, but not always the issue. Be careful.


SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
If you must argue over money, keep it in your head. Problems with other people is a reflection of your own internal conflicts over values. Some introspection will save you embarrassment.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Daring outspokenness could be polarizing, but it will win friends. Sitting quietly on problems will only be worse, promoting resentments and continued tension. Have it out in the open at least.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Finding out what people are saying behind your back can help strengthen your reputation. Fighting some lies might make them seem truer. Be careful what rumors you fight – and how.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Explore dark or erotic art to challenge your imagination. Be willing to be shocked or scared. New images open new ideas. It’s time to break from unconsciously held dogmas and prejudices.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Assertions of authority go overboard easily. No matter who’s at fault, back off. Think ahead very carefully. Giving up a battle may be necessary to win your long-range struggle.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Once you accept that your partner is always right, life will be much easier. Reasonably nobody is always right, but being open to ideas and rethinking old ones help you in the long run.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
New sexual directions motivate you to exercise more or attend to health matters. Problems with colleagues  explode. Focus on listening and laying the groundwork for future solutions.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
The bedroom is as good a place as any to resolve partnership trouble. Talk about what’s frustrating you, starting with sex. Getting out and having fun together will get you back in sync.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Awareness of your physical limitations is important for knowing how best to shape up and stay healthy. Dig into the family history to see what strengths and problems you may have inherited.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Welcome criticism to help solve creative blocks. A good argument can open terrific new ideas. You’re coming off a bit sexier and more challenging than usual. Be careful where you aim that.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Challenges will bring out inherited strengths that you have yet to acknowledge. It may be painful, but admitting your parents were right about something could save your ass.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Challenge your brain. It may take something as complex as archaeology or surgery to keep you out of trouble. If you can’t get out of your obsessions, at least take a good hard look at them.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens