Out singer-songwriter Eli Lieb is having a pretty great year.
The LGBT-positive Allstate commercial featuring his original song "Safe in My Hands" just won two 2015 AMP Awards for Music and Sound, which honor the best of music composed and licensed for commercials. Lieb's tune won top honors in the Best Original Song category, and the commercial itself tied for the Best In Show category.
The 90-second animated spot, created by the Leo Burnett agency, tells the allegorical story of a young man ostracized for his unusually large hand. It's not until he meets his counterpart, another young man with a large hand, that he feels love and acceptance. It's part of Allstate's ongoing "Out Holding Hands" campaign.
"It's amazing," a thrilled Lieb tells The Advocate. "It's my first real major award." It means even more, he says, because the campaign is so close to his heart.
The musician, who was born in Iowa and now lives in Los Angeles, got involved with "Out Holding Hands" because he believes that despite the gains the LGBT community has made in recent years, "visibility still matters."
Now in its third year, the campaign goes interactive by inviting folks to go to Allstate's website and upload photos of themselves extending a hand. The photo can then be shared on social media where others, through their own photos, can join hands. The goal is to create a link, Lieb says, a chain of people around the world, showing support for one another by holding hands. Lieb's hand was the first in the chain.
"Basically, the seed of the whole campaign is that the act of holding hands with someone you love out in public should not be a scary thing. And some people don't have that privilege," Lieb says.
"When you think about it, everybody marches for marriage equality, which is awesome, but people don't really think about the little, tiny things that some people can do in their everyday lives, that for others are so difficult," says the singer.
It's personal for Lieb, who says he and a former boyfriend were once accosted for holding hands in New York City. It was a wake-up call.
"My sexuality is so not the main part of who I am. I am so comfortable with it and all the people in my life are, and I don't even think about it," says Lieb. "But then you sort of get reminded sometimes, 'Oh, yeah, I am a minority.' In moments like that when you want to hold somebody's hand but you have to take a look around. Even if you're in a safe place, sometimes you just don't want to be looked at. Even if people are looking at you in support, it's still looking at you in a different way. Whereas nobody eyes the straight couple walking down the street holding hands."
This past year, Lieb enjoyed another major milestone when "Safe in My Hands" was featured on an episode of ABC Family's The Fosters. As fun as that was for him, the singer is hardly a stranger to having millions of viewers enjoy his work. Fans flock in droves to his personal YouTube channel to see videos for songs such as the anthemic "Young Love." All told, his channel has over 22 million views.
Lieb's not just a fan favorite. His fresh pop sound with the big hooks and smart lyrics also gets raves from critics, with one insightful writer saying Lieb's music is like a cross between Katy Perry and Bruce Springsteen.
"That's my favorite comparison ever!" he confesses.
How does an independent recording artist get so many fans and critics -- not to mention major corporations -- excited about his music?
"I really think the biggest thing is that I truly am authentically myself," Lieb says, "I can't do anything that I think people will want to see or want to hear if it doesn't feel truthful to me."
"Even if people don't know it, people are starved for authenticity because everything is so packaged and manufactured and created by huge teams of people," he says. "The second people come out and truly represent how they really are, and what they really feel without holding back, that's when you tap into something great. People recognize that, 100 percent."
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