Eric Himan: Indie Idol

As he releases his seventh studio album, Supposed Unknown, grassroots folk-pop rocker Eric Himan looks back at his determined decade as an openly gay artist and lyrical activist.

BY Brandon Voss

April 28 2011 11:25 AM ET

ERIC HIMAN X390 (JEREMY CHARLES) | ADVOCATE.COMYou’ve frankly explored gay themes and issues before in songs like “Love Shouldn’t Have to Hide,” “Little Boy Blue,” and “Protest Song.” Which track on the new album might resonate most with your gay audience?
I have focused on gay themes in the past because those issues were crossing my path, but with this disc it was a bit subtler. “You First” focuses on our leaders and how courageous it is to stand up for what’s right, knowing you’ll also make yourself a target for those who don’t agree with you. The last song on the CD, “Out in the Outer Banks,” has the most direct reference to the LGBT community. I wrote it after a trip to that [North Carolina] area last summer and had a great time performing there for a gay organization. There aren’t any gay bars there, so they organize an LGBT get-together every Sunday on one of the beaches. I’ll be returning this year for their very first Pridefest in June. Although they’re getting a bunch of resistance from non-supporters, they’re moving forward with the festival, and I’m proud to be a part.

More than a decade after your first CD, do you feel a responsibility to your gay audience to continue addressing gay themes and expressing your sexuality in your music, even if it means sacrificing some mainstream acceptance?
Because I have addressed gay themes in my songs throughout my career, I do feel that responsibility, and many have come to expect me to speak about it on each CD. I’m very proud of this fact, and I have never shied away for fear of not getting mainstream attention. My influences are songwriters who chose to address the problems they saw facing their communities, and I’m part of the LGBT community, facing our own issues as we get closer to equality in this country.

As an out artist, how have things changed for you since you released your first album in 2000?
I started playing Pridefests and getting exposure in LGBT-centered press early on in my career, and that definitely helped me gain an audience of listeners. There was more focus on me because I was an out gay male artist in a time when there weren’t many out there in my style of music. I often got compared to Rufus Wainwright, only for the fact that we were both out male artists. Since then, I have noticed and performed with many more independent gay male singer-songwriters touring these days. We’ve had much more support for gay rights, seen more celebrities come out, and had the issues that face our community shift to the forefront in politics, but I’ve also noticed a decrease in gay media outlets and gay bars that have been beneficial to out artists such as myself. I’ve even overheard people in the gay community say that gay media and bars aren’t necessary anymore because of more acceptance and integration, which I disagree with.

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