Evangeline Gentle on Queer Love and Navigating Anger -Tunes Tuesday Interview Transcript
Maud Mostly: Hi, my name's Maud Mostly my pronouns are they/them and welcome back to Tunes Tuesday, a weekly series where I sit down with Queer/2SLGBTQ+ bands and musicians to talk to them about their music, their experiences, and so much more. This week, joining me is Ontario-based singer-songwriter, Evangeline Gentle. I'm so happy to have you here. Would you like to introduce yourself?
Evangeline Gentle: Sure, thanks for having me. I'm really excited to be chatting with you today. Yeah, my name is Evangeline Gentle. I'm a queer singer-songwriter, currently based in Peterborough, Ontario. My pronouns are they/them or she/her and since other people on your series have told you about their astrology signs, which is just... I feel like astrology is such a part of queer culture now, and I love it, I'm not gonna lie. My signs are a Virgo Sun, Leo Moon and Leo Rising and, yeah, I'm just really happy to be here. Thank you so much for having me.
MM: Amazing. Yeah, I'm so happy to have you here, and I do think the astrology thing is just so fun. I think it's great. But yeah, so I'd love to just dive into your music first, because your debut self-titled album came out in 2019, and it features the song The Strongest People Have Tender Hearts — which takes a look at issues with capitalism, toxic masculinity and more from a tender place. Do you find approaching these sometimes overwhelming issues from this perspective allows for more hope rather than despair?
EG: Well, I think at the time that I was writing that I needed to approach those big issues — I packed a lot into that — so clearly. At that time in my life, I felt like I needed to approach it from a more compassionate perspective. I find that for me personally, anger is a very motivating emotion, it makes me wanna do, you know, make changes in my life or get involved, but it's not necessarily a very healing emotion for me, it's one of the emotions that I need to feel before I can experience some sort of healing. And at that time in my life, I had been feeling so much anger that I was like, “okay, how am I going to process all of this responsibly in a way that feels healing for me and also maybe healing for the listener?” And so I felt like I needed to think about these issues from a compassionate standpoint, and I also feel like as a musician or someone who feels that their vocation in life is to make music and share it, I feel like I have this desire to want that music I create to be healing for my listeners. Whether that's, you know — I have some angry songs too — and whether that's affirming what someone else is feeling by sharing in that sense of injustice, and then also sharing in the healing process of something kinder. Does that make sense?
MM: Yeah, absolutely, and I'm really curious, because you mentioned a lot of these feelings kind of in past tense when it comes to the perspective, you felt like you needed then and the way you needed to express yourself then. Do you feel like things have changed a lot then since then? Do you feel like you would express those feelings differently now?
EG: I think that I'm still very angry about all of the things that I wrote about in that song — capitalism and sexism and sexual violence — that gets me angry on a daily basis, but I think now I'm a bit more able to express anger in a way that I really want to through music. On my next record, I have songs that are about some of the more recent experiences that I've had, particularly in the music industry as someone who is queer and also identifies as a woman. I also do identify with queer expressions of gender and queer gender identities, but I do also identify with like the idea of womanhood. So the newer songs on my record definitely explore some of those experiences and the anger that I have felt over the last year has actually been hugely transformative for me in my life in a really positive way, so I guess my relationship to these different emotions that come up for me in my life, transform and change as time goes on, and that is reflected in my music on the next record, for sure.
MM: Yeah, well, you definitely have me looking forward to the next record now, because it sounds like there's so many things there that I care deeply about, and I know certainly a lot of other people watching this series do too. So that sounds like it's going to be incredible. And I can't wait to see how you tackle those really difficult topics, and kind of coming from that place of being a queer musician in a heteronormative music industry — and I mean a heteronormative world — and still being so vulnerable, something you write so beautifully is wholesome and sincere queer love songs. What kind of feelings have come up in the past or present when it comes to writing from such an honest place?
EG: Well, I think that whatever love songs I write, they're going to be, there's going to be something inherently queer about them because I'm singing about my queer relationships, and it's important for me as a musician to be honest about my life. I want to be believed, if that makes sense? And I feel like it's sometimes easy for people to see when someone isn't singing from an honest place, or isn't writing from an honest place because you do get that energy, you're like, “I'm not actually sure I fully believe you on this” and then it's like a barrier between connecting between listener and musician and in my career, I want to close that divide as much as possible. But one thing that does come up for me with my queer love songs, is I always have this anxiety when I go on stage sometimes, and I'm not really sure what the audience is gonna think about, the fact that I'm queer, even though I think a present very queer, and all of this stuff is really — it's not necessarily a secret in the way that I present myself, if that makes sense. But in certain contexts, when I'm on stage, I'm like, oh my god, are there people in the audience that are gonna completely write me off now because they know that I'm queer? But that's actually hugely healing process for me too, because it's asking me to look at the internalized homophobia that still exists within me, and I think that as much as we can heal and come to accept ourselves as queer people, there is often still those deep seeds of internalized homophobia that live within us.
But with my next record, it's even gayer than the first one, and I have a song called Bad Girls, and I've started playing it live, and it's a really good test of my ability to withstand that kind of anxiety about what people might think regarding my queerness, because it's just very, very gay. But it's important to me to be vulnerable in that way, it's also — I like the idea of being able to give queer people music that they can really identify with, because it's so explicitly relatable to their own relationships. Does that make sense?
MM: Yeah, absolutely, and I mean, you're also touching on topics, but so many other artists can relate to. You know, you talk about relating to the audience, but also even just other musicians. I know both Mathew V and Naledi Sunstrum on this series, have discussed that finding pockets of internalized homophobia within yourself when you're creating and performing music or feeling like there's certain settings where you're like, Maybe I should change the pronouns in this song when I'm performing in this place, you know, just in case and that can be incredibly anxiety-inducing as a musician, and you know, pushing through that is definitely not easy. But it's amazing to see what you've done with it and how you handle that, and as a young artist especially, have you ever had concerns about how bringing queerness to the forefront of your music will kind of impact your career?
EG: Yeah, I definitely have, especially when I was younger. I always felt like maybe my queerness made me less valuable as an artist or less desirable for festivals to book me or those kinds of things. But now we're just seeing so many more queer people in music. I mean, there's always been queer people in arts and entertainment, there's no doubt about that, obviously, but more of this unapologetic out queerness that we're seeing, that I find really encouraging and energizing. Yeah, I've definitely had, doubt to my career, about the way that my queer identities would impact it, but that kind of anger that I was talking about that I've experienced over the last year has been hugely transformative in a way now where I actually just don't care. Like I'm getting to a point in my life where I just don't care what other people think about my queerness or how I present myself, or who I am. I think I just want to firmly stand in my power and, yeah, I just feel like life is precious and I don't want to spend it thinking about what a lot of misguided or ignorant people think about the way I am.
MM: Yeah, and not caring can be such a powerful tool, honestly, when it comes to certain parts of your identity and letting go that feeling of how others perceive you and the way another judges you, But you also, you did talk about how important that audience musician-connection is to you, and I feel like this really came up recently when you released the acapella of You and I. Speaking afterwards, you shared the connection you saw between the lyrics of the song and the feelings that singing unaccompanied can bring up between musicians and their audience. Can you speak more to that and also, do you think this is a tool you will utilize and future release releases or live performances?
EG: Yeah, so that acapella song, You and I, well, I actually struggle with stage fright, so I used to at least for my whole career as a performer, I struggled with stage fright. I've been doing self-hypnosis for it, which is actually really working, so I don't struggle with it as much anymore, but I wanted to figure out what can I do as soon as I got on stage that's going to freak me out the most so that everything else doesn't feel it scary? And I decided, if I go out on stage and I just sing with no accompaniment, fully acapella, and make some sort of vulnerable introduction to the people I'm performing for, that I won't be as scared to share the other songs with them. And so that was the first reason that I did it, and then when I realized how people were responding to it, I was like, I feel like I'm, in me being so vulnerable with them from the beginning of my show, they're in turn giving me more vulnerability back, like they're connecting with me, more. And I noticed that even just in, after a show, when people come up to you and they want to buy records and chat and stuff, after I started incorporating that acapella intro, more and more people wanted to come and talk to me, and I think it was because I'd almost opened a door to be like “hey, you know, I actually do want to know you”. Does that make sense?
MM: Yeah, and I think that's so powerful and I kind of see how that relates to what you were sharing earlier where when you're performing acapella, it’s almost like there's nothing to hide behind, and I think that kind of relates to those feelings you were sharing earlier where it's because of your queer presentation when you go on stage, even if you weren't singing about queer topics, that kind of gives you this idea that even the way you're showing yourself to the world gives you nothing to hide behind too.
EG: Totally and also, you know I said that I don't really care, but that's more of like a goal of mine to care less because I want when I perform to be performing to the people who are going to accept who I am and then to not care so much about the people who are going to write me off because I'm queer or who aren't going to want to engage in that kind of vulnerability and connection that I'm trying to cultivate as a performer, because it's going to make sense to some people and it just won't make sense to others, and that's totally fine, but, yeah.
MM: Yeah, and I definitely hope you find more of that, especially with the release of your next record, that's something that you can build up more and hopefully foster and maybe if people can see you live multiple times, I feel like there could be this really amazing ongoing connection there.
EG: I'm excited about my next record because I feel that, well, 1 - it's more of a pop record than it is a folk record, whereas the last record was a bit more on the folk side of folk-pop, and this one is more contemporary feeling in its way it sounds in its song content, if that makes sense. It's just more fun in a lot of ways too, and I think that the two balance each other out a little bit. So this record is less worldly observations, a little bit more unapologetic. And the last record is a lot of worldly observations and not apologetic, but maybe a little more reserved. And so I'm excited to be able to combine the new songs and the old songs into a live performance that feels very well-rounded, and that is a good representation of who I am.
MM: Absolutely. Well, it sounds like there is so much to look forward to, so I highly encourage people follow you and your journey towards releasing that, so definitely check out the links below for the songs we've mentioned the videos we've talked about, the music and social media, so head to those links below. Thank you so much for joining me this week. And to see you next week on tunes Tuesday, Evangeline Gentle will be playing us out.
*Sundays by Evangeline Gentle begins playing*