So you could’ve been the first openly gay Disney star?
[Laughs] Oh, I don’t know if that would’ve worked out. By the time that whole thing was wrapping up, I was ready to be done working with Disney and go back home to figure out what everything meant.
Your father, Gary Morris, is an old-school country music star. How did your coming-out go over with him and your family?
My family and the country world are two different things. Being out would be a lot harder for me if I were a country singer because that good ol’ boy approach to the industry and what they’re willing to accept from men hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years. But overall my family has been really accepting. I’m 30 now, but it’s been a journey over the past 15 years or so, and it hasn’t always been peachy keen. There have been moments that were hard for everybody — figuring out what words to use, what has to change — a lot of normal things LGBT kids have to deal with. But I’ve come out of it feeling like my family loves me, supports me, and acknowledges my own family, which I’m grateful for.
You use a lot of gender-neutral pronouns in your lyrics. Is that a conscious decision so as not to confuse or offend gay and straight listeners?
It’s a conscious decision I made a long time ago, but it had less to do with me being gay and more to do with writing universal songs and exploring experiences that people on all sides of the identity lines could get with. I didn’t want to reinforce any stereotypes about how a man should sing to a woman or how men should express their emotions, because most of that gender-placing is just drag. But I have a song called “Bloodline” where I take a clear departure from that and write about a woman who’s raising her kids alone because this man isn’t in her life anymore. In the last verse I say, “I know I should’ve never left her.” In that moment I become that man, but that doesn’t betray who I am as a person because it’s just a song that’s intended to inspire your imagination. I’d like to think that I can experience emotions that are bigger than my gender or sexual orientation.
As universally appealing as you might strive to be, you must’ve known that you were pretty much writing for other gay men on Christina Aguilera’s Stripped.
[Laughs] Well, I was writing for myself and about things that resonated with me. A couple of those songs were girl-power songs, which gay men love, but I’ve got a 15-year-old stepdaughter and I want her to sing girl-power songs too. Girl-power songs are important.
I imagine it must be liberating to write for big divas. I mean, don’t you ever wish you could belt out songs like “Miss Independent” in your concerts?
Hey, I’ve actually been thinking about that. I got a request to perform at a roller derby in Denver, and I thought “Miss Independent” would be the perfect song to sing at a roller derby concert. There’s something unique that a woman can do with powerful music that I’m not sure I can do. Do you ever watch RuPaul’s Drag Race?
Are you loving it?
It’s genius! Because that’s an amazing way for these men to sort of blur everything and blend feminine beauty with this aggressive male competitive behavior and rough attitude — all while wearing couture. I’m not a huge reality-show watcher, but that’s a brilliant one.
Speaking of the ladies, you’ve toured with and opened for Indigo Girls and Joan Osborne — lesbian icons with large lesbian audiences. What did you take away from that experience?
They have amazing fans. The Indigo Girls audience was really receptive to me — warm, embracing, and totally willing to listen to songs with just me and an acoustic guitar. When I sang “Love” and mentioned my husband, the crowd would go crazy. I was like, “This is so cool!” It was a different kind of support than I was used to. It was really special.