New 2U Queer MusiQ Revue
In Conversation with Drake Jensen, performing at the INSPIRE Awards on May 14, 2021
With the upcoming 10th Anniversary INSPIRE Awards set for May 14th, we wanted to introduce readers to a few of the incredible artists who will be performing, including Canadian Country music artist Drake Jensen. The INSPIRE Awards is an annual event celebrating the contributions that activists, change makers, groups, organizations, and individuals have made to the LGBTQ community in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.
Drake Jensen is an iconic presence in Canadian music. Since the release of his 2011 debut album On My Way to Finding You, Jensen has continued to be an authentic presence in music and a champion for the LGBTQ community. Now he’s set the bar another notch higher with his latest release, a cover of the 2006 Lennie Gallant hit, Pieces of You. The track is the second single from Jensen’s upcoming 5th studio album, ICONIC, following the release of the highly successful cover of Corey Hart’s mega hit, Never Surrender, in early 2021. In addition to two Lennie Gallant covers, it will include versions of other iconic Canadian songs from Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Cockburn, and Rita MacNeil.
We sat down with Drake to talk about the new music and much, much more!
Hi Drake, thanks for spending some time with us. You’ve got a brand new song out, ‘Pieces of You’ and it’s your first for 2021. Tell us about the song and how it came about.
Pieces of You is actually the second release from my new upcoming all Canadian cover record “Iconic”. The first release was a cover of Corey Harts “Never Surrender” which was actually added to 255 radio stations and a hit in Australia garnering over 100,000 streams on Spotify to date. Pieces of You is another cover from the “Bob Dylan” of the Maritime provinces, Lennie Gallant, and is now garnering the same attention as Never Surrender did!! Pieces Of You was originally released by Lennie over 15 years ago and it is such a great song, we decided to reinvent an AC version of it, incorporating a very electronic and organic instrumental sound. This whole record was conceived after we entertained people on VIA rail from Toronto to Vancouver and back. The songs we played were so popular on the train we decided to record them!
Given the pandemic, how challenging has it been for you to create music
The pandemic was such a double edged sword for every artist I think. Necessity being the mother of innovation, I have learned to take effective photos, video, and do a lot of my own recording and basically continue recording my record. I have learned a lot throughout this process and it will remain to be a pivotal time in my life.
When you are working on a new song, what do you draw on for inspiration?
Inspiration comes from everywhere I am just finishing up my cover record and have started writing an all original record as of the present time. I draw a lot from media and of course my own past experiences.
Should we anticipate any more new Drake Jensen in 2021?
Lots going on!! This record “ICONIC” will feature the most visual aspect of my artistry garnering five music videos in total!! The most we have ever filmed for a record. We have also started as LGBTQ Youth outreach fund in conjunction with the RURAL COMMUNITIES FOUNDATION OF Nova Scotia, named THE SOARING EAGLE FUND, to help address challenges that LGBTQI youth face in small communities in my home province. It’s something very close to my heart as I suffered as a young boy being gay in small-town Glace Bay. I kicked off the foundation fund with a $1400.00 donation and May 5 will see the release of my version of Leon Dubinskys “Rise Again” with all proceeds going to the fund for LGBTQI youth. The song will be available exclusively on my Drake Jensen Bandcamp.We are so very excited to be helping make a difference for young LGBTQI youth through the rural communities of Nova Scotia.
You have had a lengthy career in Canadian music, having released your debut album “On the Way To Finding You” 10 years ago. What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry in that time?
The music industry has basically been flipped onto its backside. Streaming platforms have really become a “thing” and traditional radio no longer the only route to be able to reach vast audiences. My Spotify listeners span literally the entire world. Its all a bit of a double edged sword as artists struggle to adapt to the ever changing landscape of how to make money through it all. One must truly be innovative and hard working more than ever before, I learn more and more every day! There’s a definitive challenge for LGBTQI artists as 99% are not signed to or supported by labels. We have a long way to go in the inclusion department in the music industry. I have recently considered starting a video tutorial to help other LGBTQI artists not to make the mistakes we made. More to come on that one!
Who were the artists that inspired you to get into music and who are the artists out now that you’ve become a fan of?
I have an incredibly vast selection of artists that inspire me!! Everything from ABBA to Dolly, to Duran Duran and Anne Murray!! My music tastes span a vast landscape of artists over the years. And if you listen close you’ll hear a bit of them all in the music I produce, especially as of late.
You have also been a vocal activist, not only for independent country artists but also for LGBTQ artists. We’ve only recently started seeing more out artists, but even more specifically out country artists. As one of the first male country artists to come out, how do you view the current state of country music and its acceptance of queer artists?
I really cannot answer that question very well as I am really not part of the country music scene or business. I am a bit of a rebel and have managed to stay away from the mainstream, other than my incredible success in Australia being the first LGBTQI male artist to ever chart a top 40 on terrestrial country radio. I love music. My whole existence is about creating music and then finding innovative ways to market it. I really think as LGBTQI artists we need to work together a lot more. Give up some of the artistic insecurity and rise together. Anyone else out there interested? Email me;) No really, email me I mean it. Drake.firstname.lastname@example.org
Likewise, you’ve also at times been critical of Pride festivals and the lack of home support, with many artist slots being filled by larger non-Canadian artists. What do you think is needed to provide our Canadian artists with a feeling of safety in being out and to raise their profile so they are viewed as a first choice for our own festivals?
I think Canada in general needs to do a lot more to support their local and regional talent! There is so much great talent here and we really need to embrace it. My criticism of Pride festivals came about the week I had my top 40 in Australia and had applied to a pride here in Canada, as per many fans requests to be seen in that area, only to be told my application was sub par and or not to what their vision of pride was to be. It is this kind of behaviour that has totally made me refocus on a demographic of fans that feel excluded from pride, and there are many. They buy my records. They support everything I do! I think we need to rethink pride. Get back to what the roots of pride was and who really fought for us to be able to even have one. I still feel many have lost their way by preaching inclusion while not including a demographic of LGBTQI folks over a given age. I have no issue calling the pride festivals out as ageist. How many performers on stages are over the age of 35. Id like to see the actual numbers.
You’re going to be a performer at the upcoming 10th annual INSPIRE Awards. As someone who has been featured in and worked to advance LGBTQ representation in media and music, how important is it to have queer specific and focused media?
Queer media is so important. I want to do everything I can to help it stay present. Queer media are our voices. I have recently noticed the CBC have a music show for just about every minority demographic EXCEPT LGBTQI musicians and artists. I am going to start to advocate to the CBC for inclusion of all of us LGBTQI artists who are really struggling to get media attention. I think it’s time. Anyone who would like to join me in this advocacy is more than welcome to contact me and join the cause. I feel so strongly about queer media I actually donated my performance honorarium back to the INSPIRE AWARDS to help ensure that they are here for years to come. We have nothing like it in Canada for LGBTQI artists and community activists . IT is vitally important.
There’s a feeling that even many high profile queer media outlets are too selective, concentrating their focus on a few specific LGBTQ artists and largely ignoring the rest. What has been your experience in connecting with and grabbing the attention of mass media?
I have been really lucky over the years, recently being slated the “Daddy of LGBTQI country music” by the ADVOCATE magazine when my dance song “BURN The FLOOR” was released. All of this media comes with a price tag. If you don’t have powerful publicity agencies behind you, you don’t get the attention. These publicity companies charge astronomical amounts of dollars and force you to “pay to play”. Without this, unfortunately so much great talent gets overlooked and exhausted from lack of attention. This has been known to cause a plethora of issues, mostly mental, for so many striving towards so many mountains to climb. It’s not an easy business. Which brings me to funding. A whole other issue where as we, the LGBTQI community, are not listed as a viable minority when applying to any of the government funded granting agencies that I WONT name here. One publicity campaign recently cost us $5000.00. How many new LGBTQI artists have such amounts of money to invest? Not many. I have been very fortunate to have had help to be able to play the game and get the media. My concern is for the ones who don’t and never will. Support starts with our own. We are responsible to bring these inequities to light. Who else will? Again anyone care to join me?
What else do you have planned for 2021? Will you be taking part in any Pride festivals?
2021 will see, as I stated above, the release of 5 brand new videos, the new funding system for LGBTQI youth in Nova Scotia with the SOARING EAGLE FUND, the release of the ICONIC album and a brand new Xmas album. There will also be a feature online concert for the tenth anniversary of my Nashville record “ON MY WAY TO FINDING YOU “. So much to do!! My pride in who I am as a very “out” artist. It lives in me and shows in everything I do. Pride is in every new song I continue to release, and in every email I get from my fans telling me I have made a difference. Pride is in everything I do all year round. It doesn’t live on a stage one day a year for me. I can honestly say I haven’t applied to perform on one pride stage anywhere. I live it all year in everything I do. I feel that is my contribution to the cause.
Finally, if you could duet with anyone who would it be?
Hmmm Dream duet. That’s a tough one. I’m gunna go all Canadian here and say KD LANG.
Pieces of You is available now on all platforms
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