Doug Stevens Interview
|Charm, wit, diplomacy, and a bright optimistic attitude all say Doug Stevens. As does serious, hard working, and determined. Wrap all this together with an "in your face" style, and gender specific material, and you have the dynamic talents of one of todays stars. Backed up by not one but two versions of the "Out Band", (depending on which coast he is playing wow, how cool is that?), Doug Stevens and the Out Band will rock the house. His other passion, LGCMA, (Lesbian & Gay Country Music Association), keep Doug a busy man. But never too busy to take the time to reach his audience. Thanks for your time Doug, and we hope to have a CD review of Doug's music for the next issue. Enjoy!|
SWS: Gee Doug I don't know where to start. You
have performed all over the United States, in Europe and Mexico.
You are also the founding member and current head of Lesbian and
Gay Country Music Association. Guess first question will be where
do you find the time?
Doug Stevens: Well, I guess I just make the time. I am a bit of a work-aholic, and a little obsessed with these projects.
SWS: How does a Tupelo and Saltillo, Ms. country boy get from there to where you are now, and have been in between?
Doug Stevens: I think that the reason I am so different from the rest of my family, and the people that I grew up with, is that I am gay. I just always saw myself as different from everybody else. Also, I got the message from my elementary school teachers and from my parents, that I could do anything that I wanted to do.
SWS: You were trained as a classical singer, what caused the transition to country?
|Doug Stevens: My background is very country. Both sets of grandparents were country musicians. Almost every night after supper, my parents would play the guitar and sing. So, my background is very, very country. But, as I grew up, I saw bad things in the culture that I grew up in. There was wife abuse, alcoholism and poverty. I blamed all these things on country culture. I wanted to get as far away from it as I could. So, I studied classical singing. I was a successful singer. I worked like a slave on my technique while I lived in New York. I toured Europe several times, and even went to Asia once. I also did some regional opera in the U.S. I was beginning to make good money. Then, in 1990, my lover of 5 years got tested for HIV. He was negative, but he wanted me to get tested too. I had no reason to suspect that I would be positive.|
|I had been in monogamous relationships and had not done much dating in between. But, lo and behold, I was positive. I was not prepared in any kind of way for being positive. My lover left me, and I went in to an 8 month depression. I was turning down work. I stopped working on my technique. After 8 months, I decided I had to do something to get over the depression. One afternoon, I was in a laundromat in the East Village in New York City, doing laundry when I remembered seeing an interview with Tammy Wynette on TV when I was a kid. She had said that when she was depressed, she wrote a song about what she was feeling and it made her feel a lot better. So, I decided that I would write a song about a man whose lover left him because he was HIV positive. I thought that it would take a long time to write. I had never tried to write a song before. But, I put pen to paper and within 15 minutes, I had a nice song. It made me feel much better, so I wrote another one, then another one, and another one. The songs that came out of me were country songs. It didn't take me long to start going to gay CW dance bars. I learned how to 2-step dance and made a whole new group of friends. I saw that gay people didn't have country music about our lives, even though we bought a lot of music. So, I decided to form a country band to perform the music that I was writing about my life and experiences as a gay country man, living in the big city.|
SWS: Where, when and how did you get the idea
Doug Stevens: I eventually heard about other gay CW singers and I thought that it would be great if we could coordinate our efforts and help each other out. At first, it was hard getting people to come together. Then I moved to San Francisco in late 1996. By 1998 I knew several gay CW singers in the SF Bay area. I had performed with some of them. Some of us came together in the summer of 1998 to form LGCMA. We all had different ideas about what we wanted to do with LGCMA. So, we all included our different ideas in the mission.
SWS: What has been if any the response from the CMA regarding LGCMA?
Doug Stevens: We have had absolutely no contact with the CMA. I don't know if they know that we exist.
|SWS: What is Doug's favorite passtime?
Doug Stevens: My favorite pastime is walking my dog, Elvis. He is my soul mate!
SWS: What is the most exciting thing to you about being a performer?
Doug Stevens: The most exciting thing is getting people to listen to what I have to say. In a performance, often, I am the center of attention. I try to communicate my ideas about the direction I think our community needs to go in my songs.
SWS: I notice the subject matter for your songs vary, is there an undertone theme, message, emotion which brings them all together?
Doug Stevens: I guess that most of my songs are about romantic love. I think that so many gay men don't really know what to do in a romantic relationship. Most guys think that they want to be in a relationship. But, once they are in a relationship, they begin to want to be single again. I think that is because mainstream culture tells us that we are not wholesome or innocent, that we are somehow bad and that the romantic love that we feel is somehow tainted. I believe that many gay men have taken on this feeling that our love is bad and even wicked. I want to show gay men that the romantic love we feel is innocent, sweet and good, even blessed.
SWS: Would you say being an "Out" performer has hindered your opportunities, if so how?
Doug Stevens: In some ways being out has definitely hindered the opportunities I have been presented with. In 1993, Atlantic Records, was interested in signing us, but only if we would change our lyrics. We refused. I have been told that if we were a mainstream band, and had received as much attention as we have, we would definitely be signed by now. But, being an openly gay band has also brought us a lot more attention than we may otherwise have received.
|SWS: What advice would you give to
young performers just getting started?
Doug Stevens:I would say that you must follow your heart. You must be authentic. The world is changing.
SWS: If you could give just one message to the GLBT community through music, what would that message be?
Doug Stevens: That message would be to love and respect each other. Honor yourselves by loving your authentic self.
SWS: I understand that LGCMA is sponsoring an
upcoming tour. Could you tell us something about it?
Doug Stevens: The tour is the 'Coming Out Country Tour.' The performers will be Sonia of Disappear Fear, Mark Weigle, Jamie Anderson and me. This will be the first ever national tour of openly gay country singers. We hope to begin the tour in late 2000 and run for a year. We are working out the venues right now. We'll keep you posted.
SWS: What is your most memorable moment as a performer?
Doug Stevens: The most remarkable gig was in 1994 in Mobile, Alabama. It was a fund raiser for an AIDS service organization. It was held at a bar called B-Bob's. The bar was packed. It was then that I realized that women are much more demonstrative than men. At one point while Dori Rhodes (our bass player) was singing, I looked up and saw some women standing on their tables. They were screaming!! When the gig was over, we almost never got out of that bar. Fans were holding onto us, they didn't want to let us go. When I finally did get the women members of the band out of the bar, Dori said, "My southern belles are ringin!!"
SWS: Between your career and LGCMA does Doug have time for a personal life?
Doug Stevens: It has been difficult. I have not had very much of a personal life at all. In fact, a relationship that I have been in for 2 years just ended. Part of the reason that it ended could be because I have been so absorbed by this work. I am beginning to date again, so I am trying to make some time for a personal life.
SWS: As several movies, books, and plays have been based on the subject, is
it really more difficult for an entertainer to maintain a relationship?
Doug Stevens: I probably answered this question above. Some people think that I must sleep around a lot, since guys come onto me a lot at performances. But, I never have. I don't really know why. I think I am good at flirting but not good at the follow-through. It is hard to spend much quality time with your special guy, when you are performing a lot and constantly thinking about ways to "make things go!"
SWS: Do you have a favorite place to perform?
Doug Stevens: My favorite place to perform is the Southeastern U.S. The audiences are very demonstrative and appreciative.
|SWS: We "hear" a lot about
country isn't popular or chic in large cities. I know
that you have performed on more than one occasion
<smile> in New York City. Would you like to address
Doug Stevens: There are many, many gays and lesbians who live in large urban areas who are originally from country communities. In fact, most people in the U.S. are from small cities and rural areas. So, just as country music is the most popular music in the U.S. (all you have to do to realize this is to turn your radio on while driving across country) it is also the most popular music among gays and lesbians. We stereotype ourselves too much.
SWS: Now it is your turn to say anything you
want Doug the floor is all yours!
Doug Stevens: Now, I would like to talk a little about my favorite LGCMA project. There are now 4 gay and lesbian, country music related organizations. They are IGRA (the International Gay Rodeo Association), IAGLCWDC (the International Association of Gay and Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs), IAGSDC (the International Association of Gay Square Dancing Clubs) and LGCMA. The members of these clubs number over 10 thousand and are located throughout the world. These organizations have never really worked together. But, now, with the leadership of LGCMA, we are all coming together to think of ways that we can cross promote each others events to increase attendance and membership. I am very happy that these organizations are now eager to come together with us. I think we can accomplish a lot!!
Visit Doug's site at http://www.dougstevens.net
Doug Stevens and the Out Band CD's
Buy Doug's CD's at:
Tower Records - HMV - LadySlipper Music, - A Different Lite, - Border's
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