Out singer-songwriter Aiden Leslie, 38, already has a lifetime's worth of creative efforts to his name. As a teenager, Leslie attended Cincinnati's famed School for the Creative and Performing Arts, whose alumni include Sarah Jessica Parker, Carmen Electra, and Leslie's childhood friends Nick and Drew Lachey. After graduation in the mid-1990s, he moved to New York to live the life of the stage. There, things changed when Leslie became immersed in the city's underground nightclub culture. Though Leslie now remembers it as a "dark time," it was also the impetus for him to explore writing music. Through his associations on the scene, Leslie was able to collaborate with superstar DJ Junior Vasquez on his first single, a 2005 cover of Erasure's "Love to Hate You"
Of course, it's not enough for Leslie to be multitalented. Like out country singer Steve Grand, Leslie also looks like a movie star, which he very well may have become. I tell him so when he calls from New York to discuss the sexy new video for his single "I Just Go."
The Advocate: We need to come up with a new genre for out musicians who look like you and Mr. Grand. I'm thinking hunk rock. Do you feel objectified by that?
Aiden Leslie: Not at all.
Were you always a hunk? Was there an awkward stage?
First of all, thank you. I don't really think of myself as a hunk. But yeah, of course I had an awkward stage. I was definitely awkward as a teenager. My most awkward moment was in junior high, around 12 or 13, when I hit puberty. My skin broke out. It was tough. It was a horrible time, actually.
Did you know you were gay at that age?
Yes, I did. I knew I was gay at, like, 4 years old. I just remember feeling that attraction to a man. I remember being really attracted to Mr. Jones. He was my best friend Adam's father. I remember him, like, cutting the grass with his shirt off and he looked like Tom Selleck.
"I Just Go" is a great song. I love that sweeping chorus. Is it true it's an older tune?
This was actually one of my very first demos, one of the first songs that I ever wrote. It was a long-form artistic kind of electronica demo. It was much slower, much more ambient. After a while, we thought, let's change it up into a dance mix and it did OK. Then I just put it away for a few years. But I always loved it. About a year and a half ago, I did an acoustic show at the the Cutting Room here in New York City. I just played it on a guitar and it got a really good response, and I thought, Let's rethink this and do it like a full single and video. Just reenvision it.
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The video is beautiful. You show off your acting chops, and you also show off some skin in a shower scene and in a bedroom scene with another man. That's a brave choice.
Yeah? I think it's brave, but then again, in today's world, now you see it all the time.
We're boring now.
We're boring! [Laughs] It's not that risque. We've got our shirts off and we're in bed and it's kind of quick. It doesn't really focus on that. We just wanted to touch on that. We just wanted to give viewers the story.
Tell me the story.
The video, from a literal standpoint, is the story, obviously, of a relationship, but it's more of a metaphor for the song. I wrote the song at really dark time in my life. I was very lost. If you look at the lyrics, they are on the dark side: I could care / should care / but I just go. It's that universal thing of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I was lost. I was doing things that were not good for me, hanging out with the wrong crowd. The relationship part was only one element of it.
Do you still go out to clubs?
I don't go out like I used to. [Laughs]
What's that laugh? Were you absolutely crazy when you first got to New York?
Yes! That's where all this writing comes from. I got really into this jet set, kind of glamorous life. I was partying and going out with lots of people. From the outside it was like, Oh, this is so cool and glamorous! And actually, it was fun, and I did find myself, in a way, from doing what I did. But on the other side of it, it was dark. It was not healthy, and you get your priorities all mixed up and you get lost in it. That's what "I Just Go" is all about.
It sounds like you're living a more wholesome lifestyle now. Is there some magic man that came into your life and helped calm you down?
There's no magic man yet. I think the key to all of it is -- well, for starters, I'm not living that lifestyle anymore. I replaced it with my music. Now, when I am in a club, I'm performing. I'm working. As far as a man is concerned, I'm dating. But I haven't quite found the match yet. But I'm looking!
What do you listen to when you kick back?
Right now, I'm listening to Kelly Clarkson -- of course! I'm listening to Madonna's new album. It's really good. I've been listening to Beyonce's album on repeat since it came out. I love Sam Smith. I've been listening to Taylor Swift. A lot of Top 40. I really want Pink to come out with something new.
If you could duet with any of those people, which one would you choose?
Madonna. I mean, she's the queen, right?
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