Country music is a genre of music that requires a unique voice; a voice that can shape your emotions. Whether they are singing about a break up, falling in love or just having a honky tonk time with friends it’s the roots of country we all connect with. Whether you listen to country regularly or not, if you’re a lover of music you can instantly recognize an excellent country song and singer. Glenn Stewart is a singer who I believe is on the road to becoming a huge sensation.
His recent video “Around Again” took me by surprise because it featured a few of the stars from RuPaul’s Drag Race. Although, that’s interesting it’s the fact that he can sing that pulled me in. Most interviewers would be more interested in the connection and how two different worlds like country and drag queens can come to together. I can’t deny having a bunch of celebrity drag stars is clever and marketing genius. However, there is so much more to this artist than his recent collaboration with the drag race stars. Glenn Stewart is a talented star with edge. Glenn Stewart is a name I suggest you remember.
Stewart has the whole package (no pun intended). What I like the most about Glenn is the fact that he is not your cookie cutter country singer. He is an artist who thinks outside the box. Country can be predictable but Stewart is changing that and making it interesting and fun.
I had an opportunity to catch up with Glenn during his massive touring schedule to find out more about this country singer.
Who is Glenn Stewart and what are some interesting facts about yourself that you would like our readers to know about you?
Well I was born in Auburn, Massachusetts, I’m 72 years old—I enjoy long walks in the park and sipping cognac by a warm toasty fire and a nice relaxing foot massage . . . just kidding!
Seriously, before stumbling into the world of country rock, my background was heavy metal in the 80’s and 90’s, with regular rotation on Headbangerz Ball on MTV. I did the cover circuit for a lot of years. Then I started writing my own songs and from there it grew into “country that kicks” then “country that kicks, out loud and proud.” Here’s the thing, although it technically fits under the country-rock genre, there really shouldn’t be a label on my music, just like there shouldn’t be a label on us in our community. Music is my passion and I play music.
I have crazy obsession for RuPaul’s Drag Race, so when I met Joslyn Fox when I headlined Worcester Pride in 2013, it was an instant connection of “Country Meets Drag.” I was carrying my guitar to the stage to set up and she was on a float in the parade, giving a tour to the other queens—“on your left is the library, on the right City Hall, and hey, there’s Glenn Stewart.” I hadn’t met her yet so I was like “Um, yes. Yes, I am Glenn Stewart.” When we officially introduced ourselves, I said “Wow you are an awesome, beautiful queen. You’ve got a great look. You should be on RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Little did I know that she had already filmed Season 6 and couldn’t talk about it. A few weeks later when she announced she was on the upcoming season, I was like “wow, I feel like an idiot!’ and she was all “No, don’t feel like that. I want to be your video ‘ho if you do a video!” I said “Have I got a song for you!’ and we planned the video shoot for Little Miss John Wayne in record time and released it in April 2014 while Season 6 of Drag Race was on the air.
The video got noticed by World of Wonder [the production company behind RuPaul’s Drag Race] and we garnered some attention in the community for doing something unique. At the time we weren’t sure, but we thought that “Country Meets Drag” might have been a first and that a drag queen had not starred in a country music video.
Then I released the Breaking Boundaries CD. We called it Breaking Boundaries because we (me and the record label, New Nashville North Entertainment, which I co-founded and created with my business partner) want to break through the stereotypes and prejudices in country music and allow the music to speak for itself. It shouldn’t matter that I’m gay. It DOESN’T matter that I’m gay. I’m proud of who I am and for my fans, it’s a non-issue, like having brown eyes or brown hair. The fact that I don’t hide, that I embrace all facets of my life with my music has allowed me to incorporate my love of Drag Race into what I do as a musician and has led to some interesting things in my music. When I went into the studio in Nashville– with some heavy hitter musicians who’ve played with George Straight, Lady Antebellum, Peter Frampton, Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan —I didn’t tell ANYONE that Around Again was a RuPaul cover song. But it worked. I had the rights to the song and made it my own. And that’s when Joslyn and I said “What if we get queens from across ALL seasons of Drag Race to be in the video for the Ru song?” We got seven queens from seasons 2-6, and two queens from PLAY Louisville, where we filmed the video over three days.
The video got over 20,000 hits is less than two weeks so that’s been really exciting. My passion for music has led me to this awesome collaboration and connection to RuPaul and the RuPaul’s Drag Race fans. “Country Meets Drag” means having these amazing queens like Joslyn and JuJubee in our video. It’s another ground breaking move, to get ALL audiences, not just Drag Race fans, to see the video and appreciate great music.
In your bio, you describe your music as “COUNTRY THAT KICKS.” How does your country music differ from what people might be used to hearing?
Here’s’ the deal: I am so far to the left of cookie cutter country music, the people here is Nashville are afraid of me. When I first came knocking on doors in Nashville in 2006 with my first CD in my hands, I was told by everyone I encountered “You are rock n roll, this really isn’t country. Just because you wear a cowboy hat, that don’t make it country.”
Fast forward to 2015 and you have acts like Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert who are more of a heavy metal or rock act than country, except for their thick twang. So it seems I was ahead of the curve, but also a day late and a dollar short. But the real underlying issue is the fact that I “didn’t bat for the country music industry team.” I’ve always been true to myself and I wasn’t going to lie to anyone about who I am, like several have recently done, for the sake of a record deal and playing their meaningless games and being part of the prejudice against our community. We did a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and made a conscious decision to call it “Country That Kicks, Out Loud and Proud.” And this was before I met Joslyn Fox and before our “Country Meets Drag” concept was born. My thought was “I AM part of this community and I get a lot of support from straight fans and gay fans, so let’s just go for it and see what happens.” I knew it could be thought of as risky, but it was important to me to be supporting my community in a big fashion. And the feedback is overwhelmingly positive. With things happening like gay marriage in more than half the states, and stars like Kacey Musgraves playing at GLAAD and the country songwriter Shane McAnally having hit after hit by mainstream artists, I knew it was time to make some bold statements about gay artists in a traditionally conservative market. If the music is good enough, it won’t matter, and maybe it WILL help overcome that prejudice and intolerance.
It has been described that you “deliver 210% raw energy, every show.” From where do you get all your energy when you perform? And how do you replenish it?
Geritol shots before I hit the stage! Haha! I just feed off of the raw energy of the crowd. When I hit the stage it’s on—full on, 210%! I love big crowds –the more people in the crowd the merrier! My shows are fun and toe-tapping and everyone gets up and dances. I talk to the crowd and interact and engage with them. When I’m off stage and get to meet the fans one on one—that is so much fun for me and helps me maintain AND replenish my energy. I also have a partner who is 1000% supportive of my music career, so when I’m home and working on bookings and social media and so forth, he is always right there cheering me on and helping with new creative ideas. That is how I replenish for sure.
Considering how competitive the music industry is, especially country and rock, what does it take to excel in the business?
Being so far to the left and being so out of the box, you can fail. Well, you can fail, but you can also turn it around– be so far out the box that you do something no one else is doing. I mean, come on, a dozen RuPaul girls in a country music video? That’s something no one else is doing! And I am so proud of that!
Country music is often associated with failed love or falling in love. Do any of the songs you perform describe a current or past relationship and if so, how?
Absolutely! There are at least five songs on each CD that are about relationships and love. My first record documents my first relationship, the adoption of my kids, my schlepping to my full time job—very autobiographical. There’s a song about losing my mom called “Hey Sadie” and the song about adopting my kids is called “Forever Home”. The second CD, Breaking Boundaries, talks about my divorce and finding the love of my life, Brad Taylor. Breaking Boundaries captures the overall feeling of being back on track and happy for the first time in a bazaillion years.
There’s a song on the CD called “Baby, You’re My Only” that I wrote for Brad. Everyone hears it and says “wedding song” and it’s definitely a love song. It’s about powerful feelings of love and how they make you happy, but not once in the song do I use the word “love”. “Hey Sadie” is another kind of love song to my mom, and the fans and live audiences always request “Hey Sadie” because it moves you if you’ve ever experienced loss. And “Forever Home” –well I have 3 kids that mean everything to me and I love them with everything I’ve got. Those may not be traditional love songs, but they speak to what we all experience with our kids and parents. So my songs are very personal to me, and they also resonate with the fans because everyone has loved and lost at some point. It’s not cookie cutter or expected, and not all those songs are about romantic relationships, but that’s what makes my music unique and relatable. And I know it works because I get such great positive feedback. So yeah, I sing about love. A lot.
What advice would you give to other indie artists who are looking to make it in country music?
Get a Ph.D and become a doctor! Or don’t and become a sanitation worker! Seriously—unless you have the ability to be so far out of the box and the desire to work your full time job and then work your music more than full time, with bookings and social media and to get your story out there . . . it’s hard to do that in country music unless you are part of the inner circle in Nashville, so your commitment to your music is the most important thing. Be true to who you are; don’t hide yourself or mold yourself into what somebody says you should be. It takes a lot of sweat equity to be this persistent but for me it’s worth it, because whenever I get to perform, I’m my best me.
What are some of your future aspirations?
I would love to take my music global and get more exposure and do different types of shows. The Pride Festivals and Country music festivals and summer fairs are wonderful and I love playing to those crowds. But I’d love to do more drag shows in clubs—a live performance with these gorgeous queens performing with me. I’d love to do more venues to take it further. I want to reach all different audiences! I’m proud of who I am, but again there shouldn’t be labels on my music or one as a certain type of artist. Does our community only listen to electronic dance music? Of course not. Are all country music fans straight and conservative? No. My music is universal, so I want the exposure to get to everyone who likes great music. Let’s toss those stereotypes aside and let performers embrace all genres and all audiences.