Sexy out rocker Josh Zuckerman juggles indie music stardom with his day job: Teaching kindergarten

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

AN AXE TO GRIND | Zuckerman wants to get intimate while rocking Saturday night at Alexandre’s.

Alexandre’s, 4026 Cedar Springs Road. July 24 at 10:30 p.m. Free.

As a kid, you never imagine your teachers to have a life outside of the classroom — there was always something kind of odd seeing Mr. or Miss So-and-so at the grocery store or the bank.

If Josh Zuckerman’s kindergarten-age students only knew what his life is like away from the alphabet, construction paper and recess.

“Fans don’t realize, but I’d like them to know I’m human,” the Jersey-based musician says. “A lot of times there is that stereotype of living the life of a rock star. I think people need to realize that I’m a schoolteacher by day.”

For eight years, Zuckerman has been shaping the minds of the future — or at least gearing them up for adulthood. Because he’s keeping his day job (for now anyway), he schedules his music career around the school year. Now that it’s summertime, he’s on the road or busy promoting his latest album, Got Love? Still, he finds a correlation between his two vastly different careers.

“I like to try to make a difference with my music,” he says. “It’s the same with teaching. I like the idea that I can make a difference in my kids’ lives. I love it.”

Right now, he’s in music mode, and bringing his flavor of pop-rock to Alexandre’s Saturday.

This is Zuckerman’s third time performing at the Dallas club, but like any indie artist, presence is an uphill battle, though he seems to have found the key to getting attention.

While he’s touring to support Got Love?, his music and videos have received attention on both Logo and its parent network, MTV. A recent gig opening for R&B divas En Vogue helped expand his exposure to a broader audience.

“I’m always trying to reach out to more people,” he says. “When you don’t have a record label, you have to rely on word of mouth. Facebook and Twitter really help a lot.”

At the same time, he’s battling a sort of self-imposed stigma. As an out artist, Zuckerman fights against the notion that “gay music” is typically dance oriented. He’s smart enough to know he can’t box himself into the gay artist label, but neither does he have a hang-up about it. He embraces it, rejecting the suggestion it is a burden or limitation.

“I’ll play anywhere but I really enjoy playing for the LGBT community,” he says. “It’s my community, my people. But it makes it more challenging to fight that stereotypical image. I wanna be able to strap a guitar about me and be masculine  and be gay. It seems like people don’t want to think a lot and instead just wanna go out and party. That’s not a bad thing, but my music is a deeper type of lyric.”

Zuckerman feels Dallas gets what he’s about — his previous shows here have been well-received with enthusiastic audiences and good turnout.

Plus, he digs the intimacy of the club atmosphere. He doesn’t dismay over not getting the thrill of performing for large crowds, but establishing a connection with his audience is a vital learning experience for the musician.

“Musically, I’ve grown as an artist and person,” he says. “In the sense of my songwriting, people see how vulnerable I really am. So I get to see their facial expression and connect with them. I take that in and I learn about the audience.”

Which might also be surprising to his class. Most kindergarteners figure their teachers already know everything.


‘Zen:’ At one with Gary Floyd

In his new CD The Gospel of Zen, Dallas musician Gary Floyd’s friendly adult contemporary sound  recalls Kenny Loggins. The six-track EP of easy listening mixes smooth jazz with the light sound of ’80s pop — and it works well enough.

Opening with “Behold,” Floyd establishes a spiritual Christian flavor. “Behold the kingdom of God,” he sings on a song as light as champagne bubbles. What he really does is establish a tone of the album consistent and true to its title.

With his second track, “Oxygen,” Floyd continues a flutter that coaxes the listener into following along. Meanwhile, he’s giving you lyrics such as The only voice I hear is you / Your love keeps me alive /  The reason I survive / The air I breathe in /  you are my oxygen. He delivers a song that could be construed as either a sweet love ballad or a song of praise. When the lyrics hit, the song is over and you ponder over what you’ve just heard. Floyd has a way that doesn’t make you feel guilty (or sappy) for personalizing the song about the love of your life.

Halfway through, “Unbound” begins to make you wonder. His mellow tone is relaxing, even hypnotic, but it begins to feel too light. The album doesn’t drive as much as it coasts, but a speed bump might have been an option. “Be a Boy Again” is a charmer about taking another look back on life to Be the man I might have been, but also relies on the same smooth progression.

This might be an intentional move. Initially, noting five songs in a row lulled me into a quiet zone might sound like a criticism — but really, it lives up to the title. In a short time, Floyd transports the listener to a state of Zen — whatever that may mean to you.

The album has lots of evenflow without any dramatic crescendos. But his bonus track of “Look No Further (It Is I)” saves the day. The EP doesn’t need rescuing, but it does feel nice to hear Floyd let go. Here, he mixes inspiration with a nice gospel-tinted chorus. His voice is a comfort throughout all the songs but here, he croons and belts in one serving and we see him at his best.

— Rich Lopez

Three stars

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.