This week we are shining the Punk Out Spotlight on multi-instrumentalist, Brodie Johnson. Brodie's newest project, a solo endeavor, brings together electronic and classical elements in a fresh twist sure to keep you enthralled. We had the opportunity to talk to Brodie about his copious projects, his coming-out process, and whether or not he'd take on a duck the size of a horse.
Could you introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Brodie Johnson, and I’m a cellist and songwriter.
Do you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender?
How would you describe your coming-out process?
It was pretty smooth. I came out to friends first, just a few. One day my mom flat out asked me while we were talking about something unrelated. I was 16. I decided to take the opportunity and come clean. The news just sort of moved through my family after that. No one was very surprised. The worst thing I can remember being said came from my mom actually. She said she wondered if she’d done something wrong. I think a lot of gay people hear this from parents or family members who don’t realize that it can be a hurtful thing to say. Obviously, I’d rather deal with this statement than one of outright rejection and hate, but it’s painful to understand that someone we love views homosexuality as something to be fixed or avoided. Again, though, not a big deal. It’s a perspective that has been easy to shift in my family. I know my mom doesn’t feel that way anymore, for the record.
What’s something you wish that you had known about coming out at that time?
I wish I had known what an amazing, courageous, and healthy thing it was that I was doing.
How has your experience as an openly queer musician been?
As far as the community is concerned I’ve never had a problem. If any struggle exists it’s within. I think when we present things that we think are beautiful in music or art the fundamental act is sexual. We stroke how we like to be stroked, kiss how we like to be kissed, and sing how we like to be sung to. I’ve experienced insecurity in presenting the beauty that I feel, and the sensation of it is similar to the fear of displaying one’s sexuality to the world. The possibility of rejection is the same. We consider it vital to promote bands and musicians who support LGBT bands and musicians.
Have there been any bands or musicians who have been particularly supportive of your decision to come out or inspired you along the way?
I came out before I started performing, but I can’t say that it doesn’t make an impact to meet or see bands and musicians that are openly gay or openly support gay rights. A few of those that stand out would be SSION, Antony, CocoRosie, Die Antwoord, Jonsi, Björk, and Frank Ocean.
You've been a contributor to multiple musical projects. Can you tell us a little about them?
The first project I was in was called Honest ABE. It was a free improv trio I formed in school with a couple other classical performance majors. We were trying to find out if we could make music without any structure or plan. I wouldn’t listen to 90 percent of the work we made, but it was super foundational. I also sang in a rock band called Gorges, which had great promise until WHY? snagged our drummer. I guess that happens a lot with drummers. There were a few different projects from Albuquerque… Pantaloof and A World Electric. Most recently I was in a duo with my best friend called Carnal Unit. It was the breakup of that project that got me to Philly to record my new solo EP. Looking back, none of these formations were able to push past the first level. We’d make an EP and for some reason things would fizzle. I have ideas about why this has happened, but really I’m just excited to see if I can’t push myself beyond the familiar thresholds.
Is there anything you would change in the music industry in order to improve the queer experience?
I really don’t know. I can’t say that I fully grasp what the “queer experience” at large is in the industry. The music world is already so overwhelming for everyone involved whether they’re gay or straight.
Who are some bands or musicians who have inspired your music?
I’ll just go ahead and list my all-time favs: Björk, Portishead, Cat Power, Beach House, Dolly Parton, Joanna Newsom, Bowie, Rachmaninoff, and Bach.
What is next for your solo project? What do you hope to accomplish going forward? Any new projects on the horizon?
I hope to not take on any new projects, but rather to stand by this one and see it through. I have a release show for the new album booked here in Albuquerque on July 25th at Sister Bar. Beyond that I want to play a ton of shows, get on the road, and keep writing. All that good stuff.
What do you hope fans take away from your music?
My favorite feeling, and what I seek out in music, is when you fall in love with life and your hair stands on end for a few moments. It’s a sensation that everything is as it should be. Supreme understanding. Compassion.
Is there anything you would like to say to any fans you might have who identify as LGBT or who are struggling through the coming-out process?
We have to show the world how to take us and how to understand us. When I talk with my family about my gay love-life, for instance, I encourage them to ask questions and to talk freely about it. They can seem timid and try to avoid the topic, which I used to take negatively. At some point I realized that they’re eager to relate, but they just don’t know how or if it’s ok. We have to be confident, gentle, and instructive in our approach. Obviously there are people who won’t be persuaded, and if you’re dealing with someone who’s downright hateful, I’m sorry. There’s not much you can do but let them fall away. The moment you take a stand for yourself by becoming honest, everything changes. Suddenly people enter your life that thrill and inspire you, and the entire conversation of hide and seek and fear and self-loathing takes a back seat to joy and sharing. Don’t wait.
Most importantly: would you rather battle 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?
Duck-sized horses. Yea there’s strength in numbers, but they can’t fly like a giant duck. Also, birds are kind of fucked up. They’ve always come across super ruthless to me. So. Tiny horses it is.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for giving me this opportunity! It’s all so crazy. Even after coming out we never stop forming a deeper understanding of our sexuality. It’s like an endless, deserted city that we slowly bring back to life. There are hidden streets and passageways leading to awesome places we never knew existed. I hope that I can help others who are struggling with this discovery. xoxo