Alex & Jesse: Changing Music for the Queerer
I met Alex and Jesse at the same time during Pride weekend this past June. My friend Jeff had told me Jesse was performing, Alex was Djing for him, and we could hangout at their artist tent because we also had VIP wristbands. We got backstage just in time to see the tail end of Jesse’s performance, and met him right after. While getting to know each other, I felt no judgment from Alex or Jesse, and really enjoyed being in their company. By the end of the night we were fast friends but I was curious to get to know them further. I've since seen Jesse out in LA, but haven't had the chance to sit down with them both and ask some unanswered questions I had…
CR: How did you two meet??
JSJ: We met on Twitter! I think it was just like a general follow, then likes, then replies, then messages
AC: Our sense of humor is very similar so we probably were just laughing at each other’s tweets
CR: Okay so I’m going to ask you both the same questions and I guess for alphabetical purposes we’ll start with Alex. I feel like it’s appropriate to ask anyone how they identify, and not just assume, so… how do you identify?
AC: As a gay cisgender male
JSJ: A gay cis male too…. just two dudes lol...
CR: When did you first realize what gender and sexuality were, and when did you first identify with one?
AC: Well I always identified with being in the male gender but definitely remember flirting with the other gender, exploring it - I was big on dressing as a girl to play pretend; I dressed as princesses, I always had a feminine side, but never felt anything other than being male. Sexuality for me happened... well the full realization wasn’t until my senior year of high school, at 18.
CR: Well when did you first realize what sexuality was in general?
AC: For people around me I realized what it was when I was in middle school going into high school. I noticed guys being into girls; I realized what it was supposed to mean according to that, but I don’t think I really realized what sexuality was going to be for me until I got into high school and kind of started experimenting with guys.
CR: Was that exciting for you?
AC: No I was fucking terrified and every time I did it I broke down in the car after and was convinced that I was straight. I had a hard time realizing what I was because what society had me perceived as, and that made it a complicated transition for me... but once it happened there was no going back hunny.
CR: What about for you Jesse?
JSJ: When I was like three years old I knew what gender was. My sister was born and when I wore her clothes people would say you’re dressing like a girl, and that’s when I found out. With sexuality I don’t know - I had no idea what gay was but I knew what sex was at five. I knew that it was when two people rub their pelvis and thigh areas together and I told my mom that and she told me that [sex] was bad. I was really stunted in the sex department even in my own mind, but I knew I was gay when I saw B2K *they both laugh and reminisce* Omarion was in this boy band B2K and I saw them around age 13 and I was like “woah woah woah!” They would always do shirtless photoshoots and I'd put my hand over their pants and that’s how I knew I liked boys.
CR: How did you know about putting the pelvic/thighs together? Like did you see it in a book or in person?
JSJ: I saw the pelvises unite in an animated collection of short art films on PBS
CR: What are your coming out stories like? Who did you come out to first, why, and what were your emotions like surrounding that time?
AC: Well I was definitely trying to pray it away any way possible. I remember screaming in bed “noooo!” thinking to myself that this was it, there was no way out, this was the truth. I remember I went to a party at a friends house and got super drunk and told my friends and they were all really nice about it. When you come out a lot of the time you are the last person to know - luckily everyone was supportive even friends who didn't understand what that [being gay] meant. In the time since graduating in 2010 to now there’s been extreme visibility for the whole community - because of that there’s more education (and understanding,) especially among people who identify as liberal. At the time in Chicago, it’s a city but it is in the midwest, it was a “live and let live, I don’t want to know your business but you can be what you wanna be,” lifestyle, which didn’t serve me in being comfortable with myself. I came out to my friends and then came out to my mom because I had gotten into NYU so no one could really be that mad at me. My mom cried a lot; she came from a rural town in Illinois and grew up christian. We’re relatively religious and I had other privileges in life so she was scared that it [life] would be hard for me - she was eventually able to see I was fine. I moved to NYC and everyone there was pretty familiar with what being in the community meant - there was much more of an awareness.
CR: Did you feel relieved when you came out?
AC: Oh yea! It was an amazing relief; I’m really myself now - I was really lucky, I was in a place where I felt like it was safe with family, friends, the city I lived in- I didn’t feel like I feel in NYC or LA in present time, but I felt safe enough and it was a huge relief. It wasn’t scary anymore after that happened- it was the scariest moment of my life right up until I said the words- once I said them the fear started to fall away.
*Jesse looks right up at me and says…*
JSJ: Well...the Tea is (short for gossip) I never came out - I never told anybody I was gay, I just became gay… isn’t that freaky? When people are thinking about coming out I always think you don’t have to. I don’t recommend you lie or live in fear but you don’t have to fucking tell anyone. You don’t have to sit your fam down and say, “I’m gay, I’m straight,” you don’t have to say anything, just start living your truth and be whoever you are.
CR: I love that and I couldn’t agree more. I really hope we get to that point in the future but for now I find these stories to be so inspiring. What is your biggest passion in life?
AC: My passion has always been music one way or the other. Right now it’s with songwriting for sure, and producing and creating songs - but I’ve always been into music since I was born. I was classically trained in guitar at a conservatory from ages 12 to like 17, which is how it started, but I grew up loving music in every way. When I’d see street musicians I’d make my parents stop and listen; they’d take me to concerts at a young age... I’ve always loved it.
CR: What are your dreams and aspirations?
AC: I mean right now I kind of am getting a chance to live one of my dreams which is to be a published songwriter, which is something happening this year with a major label artist, Maty Noyse (their song, Spiraling Down was one of my favs this summer season) and that’s one of my dreams come to life.
JSJ: My passion was always performing and now it’s just creating, making anything. I like styling and making videos and making music. Creating is my passion and making money while doing it is even better.
AC: I mean yea that’s the ideal goal right? (We laugh)
CR: Dreams and aspirations Jesse?
JSJ: I mean I’m sort of the same, but my dream is to have a label and have artists and writers on it and develop talent… and that’s it.
CR: No I love it, it doesn’t always have to be this huge thing but I think it’s amazing… what do you both want your imprint to be?
AC: Jesse and I both feel that we want to be able to be a voice and a beacon of hope and provide opportunities for LGBTQ people, especially people at disadvantages, if you will, like trans women of color; and really help the community at large in the best way we know how; by recognizing creative and talented people and helping them in different ways. I’ve always wanted to help people or help them with a platform whether I’m casting, putting on a party, or in music. I would like people to remember me as someone who provided a platform and used my resources to raise people who need it.
CR: Jesse wanna add to that?
JSJ: Yea same exact thing, we always talk about that - I would love to leave a mark and be remembered for being helpful to people and amplify voices that are unheard - helping magnetize people, people who don’t have income or opportunity to create opportunities for themselves; because the world sets people at a disadvantage based on who they are and where they come from and how they identify. For me every privilege or opportunity I get I hope I’m able to pay it forward for them [someone in the community].
CR: What do you hope for your future and the future of our world?
AC: For my own future I think it blends with or goes hand in hand with what I said before. To do things that move me in the direction of people to help people. If I win the whole team wins, and to try to leverage our opportunities to help other people. I’d love to have major cuts on the radio, I’d love to tour Djing, I would love to continue to work with new artists and develop new artists and through all that kind of leave that imprint we talked about.
JSJ: I wanna go on tour and I want a boyfriend (we all laugh out loud,) and for our world I want us to take global warming seriously and I hope that everybody at some point will feel a little a safer and more comfortable.
AC: I hope everyone votes, in the current election and every one after that. And I agree with Jesse... we’re meshing as one over here.
CR: What are you both working on right now?
AC: I’m working on a few things that I can’t honestly talk about which is so chic to actually say, but I’m really excited. I can say there will be new music, new casting work, new Djing gigs- I’m elevating everything I’m doing now.
JSJ: I have an EP coming out around December/January. I recently launched its’ single and the next single comes out next month, titled, “Crying Over You.” It’s fun not sad though!
CR: I actually love the music you’ve put out and have written on. If your music could express one thing, what would it be?
AC: My favorite thing, and maybe it’s cliche, but is that music is so unifying. If you’re talking about something and people can really connect with you, it validates your feelings and it lets you know you’re not the only one feeling this way. I love to tap into that and go after situations or types of emotions that haven’t been there and are hitting home. Especially music for queer people that isn’t currently on the pop agenda or that pop artists aren’t singing right now. I want to bring those things to the forefront, to be performed by mainstream artists, so queer people can feel like their voices are being heard out in mainstream culture... and connecting all types of people with those same ideas.
JSJ: What Alex said... and I hope that people hear songs that I write and feel okay with feeling whatever they’re feeling - those emotions are valid and your perspectives are valid.
CR: What’s the favorite thing you’ve written?
AC: It’s not out yet, but it’ll be called “Risk it All,” sung by a girl named Carly Hanson, who’s on tour with Troye Sivan right now.
CR: Omg that’s the dream.
AC: I know she’s like 18, an incredible singer and writer from Wisconsin and just naturally talented. We wrote a song together that’s fun, and I don’t know if it’ll ever come out but hopefully it will. The thing I learned most in this business is that you write a lot of songs you really like that no one will ever hear. *He and Jesse agree*
CR: Jesse, what about you?
JSJ: Britney Spears. (I geek out for a hot sec, I was hoping he’d say her! ) It’s not my actual fav song but like it is my fav because of her... I haven’t met her, unfortunately, and I can’t talk about it, but hopefully I will soon…
CR: Omg I am SO excited!! Is there anything else you guys would like to add?
JSJ: You're fierce.
AC: You’re amazing and def keep doing this and do it on camera, you're a star!
JSJ: You really are! We told you this when we first met you. I love this, it’s like Corey Walters!
CR: Yes that’s exactly what I was going for! Corey Rae’s list of interesting individuals...
You can follow Alex and Jesse on their respective social media accounts and music platforms. They post frequently about their day to day life and fun adventures with rising transgender pop star, Kim Petras; and they plug amazing artists that they love or have written for and with. I think the most important takeaway from these two are their true desires to showcase LGBTQ+ talent, giving the underdogs an opportunity to be their best selves and live their best lives. Leaving competition behind and instead building up fellow community members, working towards making queer voices heard loud and proud, is truly inspiring. Both Alex and Jesse are extremely talented, and I highly recommend listening to their music. Stay tuned for a video with the three of us in the coming months!
Below are just some of their accomplishments posted to Instagram, and our FaceTime photo from this interview!
Be confident, persistent, and thoughtful