September 2, 2015

Australia’s “Got Talent” Greg Gould Comes Out of the Closet in a ‘Leap’



                                         
 
Coming out rarely takes place with one bold leap out the closet. For 2013 Australia’s Got Talent runner-up Greg Gould, it has been more like tiny footsteps – first considering himself bisexual, then coming out to his family.

With the imminent release of his debut single, Run to You, the 27-year-old is taking one of his last and final steps, by coming out to his fans.

Clean-cut and dressed in a midnight-blue dinner jacket (“blue is my colour,” he says), the singer, from the NSW central coast, comes off as boyish and animated but relaxed. “In other interviews I’ve been more nervous because I’m trying to pander to what I’m not,” he says.

When Gould was just 17 he found himself subjected to the scrutiny of Australian Idol producers, who bluntly asked if he was gay.

In other interviews I’ve been more nervous because I’m trying to pander to what I’m not
When Gould replied, “When I know, I’ll let you know” and that for now he was “label-free”, Mark Holden, the judge, told him: “To be honest, mate, let’s cut to the chase here when you say ‘I’m label-free’, that means ‘I’m gay’. It does, mate.”

Another producer advised the aspiring pop star: “Don’t be too gay.”

Gould never made it past the show’s top 40 round and left the competition feeling deeply disillusioned. “Nope, I can’t do it,” he thought. “I’m not ready to be me, let alone be in this industry.” His father encouraged him to pick up a trade and he reluctantly became a hairdresser.

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“My dad was the first person I came out to,” he says, describing his father as an aggressive problem solver. Recognising that his son was troubled, they sat down one day and ran through the list of possibilities: was it school, was he doing drugs?

“And that’s when I said I thought I might be bisexual,” he says.

“His reaction was, ‘Bisexual? So you have a choice! I’m not going to make the decision for you, but if I had to make this decision between a sweaty, meaty man or a gorgeous, voluptuous woman, I know what I’d choose.’”

The singer smiles, then says: “I don’t think I made the same choice.”

It took Gould some time to realise he wasn’t bisexual, he was gay. And even more time to realise he would never be happy as a hairdresser – he was a musician.

When auditions came around for Australia’s Got Talent, it represented a second chance for Gould. He was now 25, more confident and determined not to let his sexuality eclipse his talent. Appearing alongside a six-piece band as Greg Gould and the Chase, his brassy, stage-shaking takes on Prince, Nina Simone and Arthur Hamilton’s Cry Me a River took them all the way to the 2013 finals – nabbing the band the runners-up spot.

Throughout Gould’s run on the show no reference was made to his sexuality. But in the post-reality show scramble for managers and label deals, no one in the industry seemed to know what to do with him. He was consistently told to either hide his sexuality or go the opposite way – become the movement’s poster boy, be “really fabulous”.

“I’m not – ” Gould breaks into a hyper-camp impression, “Hello! I’m going to be the poster boy for gay people! … I’m not that person,” he says emphatically.

And yet, with his ambitious campaign to support marriage equality called #keeprunning (“Now is not the time to slow down, we need to keep running towards marriage equality,” he says) he is becoming a poster boy of sorts. Just without bearing the badge of a “gay musician”, merely a musician who happens to be gay.

When I hear someone say you can’t marry another man, it’s dehumanising
Greg Gould
“I’m a serious artist with real music,” he says. “I’ve got stuff I want to say, I want to sing about.” He is hoping to set an example. “You don’t have to be a certain way to be gay. And you don’t have to be a certain person to be successful.”

Among his musical influences (Tina Arena, Guy Sebastian), he greatly admires the British singer-songwriter Sam Smith, who has been frank about his sexuality and made music that has touched a wider audience. “Sam Smith is huge in Australia, so why don’t we have our own?

“Why can’t I be the next Sam Smith?” he asks. It is more than a rhetorical question. It is a challenge.

He remains frustrated by Australia’s inability to make marriage equality a legal reality. “I’m just sick of these excuses. You can put eggs in any basket but at the end of the day there are people in this country that are adding plenty of value to the community, that have so much love to give, but they’re being denied the right to marry who they love.”

And he views former prime minister Julia Gillard’s change of heart with some scepticism. “When she was in a position of power she could have done something then. I feel like it’s a little bit too late,” he says, although he acknowledges it is a positive step.


 Greg Gould and the Chase on Australia’s Got Talent
“When I hear someone say you can’t marry another man, it’s dehumanising. It’s saying, ‘We can’t give you the same certificate. We can’t credit your love the same as somebody else’s.’”

Would he like to get married one day? “Absolutely. But only if we’re all allowed to do the same thing, we all have the same rights in this country. And hey, I’m not going to be allowed to marry unless they change the law. So hurry up!”
And he adds with a wink. “So if Mr Right is out there … ”

In the meantime, Gould is busy keeping up with the seismic shifts in his career. The power romance ballad Run to You was written by American songwriters Chris Mann and Jared Lee, but Gould says was partly inspired by “the only time I’ve ever been in love” and recorded in Erina on the NSW central coast with Adam Lambert’s band. “I wanted it to be an anthem for love because at the moment we can’t have an anthem for marriage equality – we haven’t got it in this country,” he says.

Just last week Gould moved from the central coast to Sydney and, in making the decision to reveal his sexuality, feels he has broken new ground.

“My whole body had changed, my whole world felt different,” he says. “It felt like I was moving towards something really perfect.”

Monica Tan
The Guardian

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