Jason and deMarco
‘Celebrating Diversity Tour’
Metropolitan Community Church of Washington
474 Ridge Street, N.W.
Oct. 4, 7 p.m.
$20 donation suggested; portion of the proceeds go to S.A.F.E.
(LGBT foster children charity)
A lot has happened for Jason and deMarco since we last heard from them. Now based just outside of Nashville in Franklin, Tenn., the singing duo — partners on stage and off — have gotten married, moved, started a family and are figuring out how to have a good work-life balance while maintaining a music career.
The fall leg of their “Celebrating Diversity Tour” kicks off in their new hometown on Sept. 27. They’ll be in Washington on Oct. 4 for a show at Metropolitan Community Church and also have stops planned for Hagerstown, Md. (Oct. 5) and Frederick and Bethesda, Md. (Oct. 6). We caught up with them last week by phone. Their comments have been slightly edited for length.
WASHINGTON BLADE: Why the Nashville area after five years living in Houston? Were you hoping to get closer to the music biz?
JASON WARNER: Ironically it wasn’t so much the city although obviously that’s a great thing but it’s just a sense that everything we were involved in there had some closure to it. We had the babies, we’d been working on staff at a church there and there was just a sense that we’d done everything we’d been able to do there. We’d actually been looking at Austin … but we’d always loved Tennessee in general and just decided on here even though we hadn’t really thought of it initially.
BLADE: So many singers live in Franklin. Do you see them around?
JASON: Yeah, we’ve run into a few … but there’s so many here, I think for most people there’s kind of a respect and a sense of keeping your distance when you see them out, you don’t really make a big deal of it. We were in L.A. for eight years so we were used to it there, but then being in Houston for the last five years, we’d been away from it.
BLADE: So much of the contemporary Christian music business is based out of Nashville. You guys have spiritual overtones to your work but aren’t really gospel singers. I know you’ve worked with some producers who’ve worked with some of those artists but is there any sense now that maybe that world is ready for some openly gay artists, especially since so many of those religious labels are now owned by secular parent companies?
JASON: There are a lot of angles to that question but the short answer is that we were pretty much made aware that there was no room for any openly gay artists in the CCM world. People just didn’t really know what to do with us. … I think that industry is changing though. You hear supposedly Christian songs now and you can hardly tell they’re Christian. It kind of used to always be about 10 years behind whatever was going on in mainstream pop but it’s changing and it’s not so much now like “Jesus”-in-your-face kind-of thing, which is kind of what we’ve been doing. Our stuff has always been more open to interpretation. We had some people who told us if they worked with us, they’d lose everything and I know there are people in the CCM world that are gay and just can’t be open about it. For us, we just didn’t have a choice, there was no hiding who we were. If we’d been solo artists maybe we wouldn’t have been so out, but there was such a story around us being a pop duo and a couple that we just said early on, “Look, we are who we are.”
BLADE: Why do you think so much of what we think of as the CCM industry comes out of evangelical circles? I’m sure there are mainline Protestant and Catholic musicians writing contemporary music, but there’s never been any real cottage industry around it like there is with the Michael W. Smith- and Steven Curtis Chapman-type artists. Why is that?
DeMARCO DeCICCIO: It’s an interesting question. I’ve never really thought about it. Being raised Catholic, music wasn’t really such a big part of the culture of that faith. In Jason’s (Pentecostal) background, there was more joy in the music whereas in my church growing up, if you sang too loud, people would shhh you. With some, it’s like there’s something wrong if you’re not dancing in the aisles. I think it’s a cultural thing. We were always very private and everyone is secretive. You never heard the fire-and-brimstone-type preaching. … Also I think it’s just always been a more plain-and-simple and traditional type of music in some churches.
BLADE: Tell us about your tour. Why are you touring now without a new album out?
JASON: We’d been off the road for a while after having traveled pretty much constantly for about eight years. We were trying to create the space for us to start a family and not be touring full time. Once the boys were born, we’d go out for a weekend here or there. People would ask us to come do this or that and when they were infants it wasn’t a big deal because they were pretty oblivious, but now that they’re a little older, we didn’t want to be gone for long periods so we figured out a way to take them with us. My parents go with us and help out and it’s just one big family adventure. So we might keep doing this — four or five weeks a couple times a year, we’ll see. The West Coast with all the back-to-back shows kind of kicked our butts, but it was still a really great experience.
BLADE: What was the reaction like to the West Coast shows?
DeMARCO: People were excited to see how our life was growing and to see us create that family that a lot of gay couples dream about having. Jason’s mom also sings with us on “The Prayer.” We bring the kids out and it’s a very powerful part of the concert. We also do a few new songs. It’s been fun to get back out there.
BLADE: It sounds like you’ve scaled back to a point. Being away from L.A. for several years, not doing as much touring and recording. You had some decent chart action and got a lot of buzz in the gay music world. Are you content with what you were able to accomplish or would you have liked to have done it on a super-big Lady Gaga-type scale?
JASON: We always want to be upping our music. Every CD you release, you want it to be better than the last and you are always in a state of evolution. And I always do feel that if you’re putting great stuff out there, somebody will find you. … But L.A. really is a rat race and you’re just always focusing on what’s next so much so that you don’t get to really stop and enjoy what’s happening at the moment. … You can get caught up in what really is success and what is big. We had a documentary about us that was on Showtime. That’s pretty freakin’ huge. … You can fall into the trap of whatever happens, it never being enough. You could be on the stage with Justin Timberlake thinking, “OK, but where’s Barbra Streisand?”
DeMARCO: We had been to all these fundraisers and non-profit events for so many years in L.A. where all the relationships are built on “OK, who’s going to help me get ahead.” We just got to a point where our values changed. …. I think the biggest frustration for me — and we were successful working-class artists — was that we realized to really get to the next level, we needed either some label backing or some talk show host or really big producer like David Foster or somebody, to get on board. Our ability to take it up to the proverbial next level was all in someone else’s hands for me that really was like playing the lottery with our future. We built a certain level of momentum really working at it with lots of indie momentum, but now we’re ready to use this time to raise our boys with love because before you know it, they’ll be 16.
BLADE: How long are the shows?
JASON: About an hour and a half.
BLADE: Band? Tracks?
JASON: Mostly tracks. We’ve done a few shows with a band and we try to have a live guitar player with us whenever we can.
BLADE: You sort of presented yourselves early on as this kind of Abercrombie-esque vision, sort of a gay pretty boy ideal. You might never have used those words, but it was obvious in the album covers and the photo shoots. Are people going to accept you now as a sort of gay version of the older married couple raising kids?
JASON: I think we’ve kept some of our youthfulness. People are always shocked when they hear our ages (both mid-30s). But that’s part of why we are calling this tour “Celebrating Diversity.” There’s so much diversity in the gay world, we want our tours to be a place where that is celebrated.
DeMARCO: I think our audience is growing up with us. Of course we love attracting new people to our music, but … we’re just being ourselves where we are now in our lives. Yeah, there may not be as many new songs out as there were five years ago, but for the people who really care about us, it doesn’t really matter. They’re happy we’ve made it 10 years and counting after following a dream.
BLADE: Do you still do other things on the side?
JASON: Yeah, we’ve always got a lot going on.
DeMARCO: I’m still a lifestyle trainer and Jason is always dabbling in something.
JASON: I’ve done some work with real estate but am also working with S.A.F.E., a non-profit drop-in center and foster care for LGBT kids. That’s a passion and I want to do more with that. We did some of that in Houston and we’d like to launch something here too.