Matt Morris must be outed immediately: Yep, he was a Mouseketeer on The All New Mickey Mouse Club for four seasons, from 1991 to 1994. Oh, and he’s gay too. A tattooed singer-songwriter who grew up to cowrite hits for divas like Christina Aguilera (“Can’t Hold Us Down”) and Kelly Clarkson (“Miss Independent”), Morris made another indelible mark on pop culture with his impassioned performance of “Hallelujah” on the Hope For Haiti Now telethon alongside Justin Timberlake and Charlie Sexton. A close friend of Timberlake’s since their Disney days, the 30-year-old Colorado native recently released his soulful power-folk full-length debut, When Everything Breaks Open, on Timberlake’s Tennman Records. A happily married man, Morris breaks down his rules of honest living and humble dressing.
Advocate.com: Out included you on its 2009 Out 100 list. What did that honor mean to you?
Matt Morris: If you had told me even two years ago that would happen, I would not have believed it. Because I didn’t know how I was going to be out in the industry or how that was going to align with the release of my album. When it all happened, I was like, “Oh, man, Out has embraced me, I’m still putting a record out, and people are still responding to the music — these things didn’t cancel each other out!” It was wonderful and very gratifying.
What made you decide to be out professionally?
Because I’m married. I got married in California — pre-Prop. 8 in the little window of time that we could — and then I had a full-fledged wedding in Colorado, so it’s not just about me anymore. Being out has a different weight to it when you’re in a relationship. When you’re young and single, you can give everybody the CliffsNotes version of your life. But when someone else comes into the picture — what, I’m going to cut him out and not talk about somebody who’s really important to me? I have a life that’s made richer by somebody else, so if I start editing away those parts of myself for the sake of perceived career advancement, then doesn’t that sacrifice the integrity of the relationship and of that other person? And if it sacrifices their integrity, doesn’t it sacrifice my own integrity? I don’t need a tell-all feature to share that with people, and I don’t need to make it the primary point of every conversation, but I’m certainly not going to pretend my relationship doesn’t exist. I have more respect for it than that.
Do you think your average fan even knows that you’re gay?
I’ve got some fans who have been with me for 10, 15 years, and for them it’s no surprise at all. But I have a growing group of fans that I’m only now getting to know. They may’ve seen the Out spread or heard me mention my husband in an article, but I don’t think it would bother or faze the fans who probably haven’t read that press. Maybe it’s something about the songs I write or something in my voice, but I feel connected to the people who come to my shows. The more I can be myself onstage, the better time they have.
How is your husband, Sean Michael Morris, handling the growing spotlight?
He’s a very grounding force — which my mother appreciates. [Laughs] We focus on the life that we have, and we have a life that requires both of our focus. The spotlight is an amazing thing to be under. After years of waiting to put this album out, being up onstage and sharing music that’s really close to my heart brings a kind of joy that’s been missing from my life for a while. But happening at the same time is the other, ordinary part of my life that has to be nurtured and maintained in order for me to have the focus and the will to experience the big bright spotlight. I do not have a simple life, so I come with challenges, but we approach everything head-on. I included in my liner notes, “Every day we wake up and we make the decision to love each other, and every day that we do it’s the right decision to make.”