Nothing I write here will change your opinion of Jay Brannan. The 26-year-old who captured our attention in the opening scenes of Shortbus, is indeed sweet, modest, and his cute smile travels down the phone line. Apart from touring, Italian lessons, and railing against the inaccuracies of Wikipedia, Jay’s also looking for love. I assure him Same Same has no shortage of volunteers.
“I feel like if I stay here I’ll probably be alone forever,” says Jay sincerely, expressing a concern that’s popped up in several of his lyrics. “I want to be a housewife. What’s so wrong with that?” sings the young man in one of his many self-promotional YouTube clips. Search Jay Brannan now. He has a habit of recording himself shirtless.
“It just seems like it’s hard to get anyone’s attention and when you do, it’s sort of hard to keep it. You know? People, like you said, come [to New York] to do other things. People don’t come to New York for romance, they come here for, careers, and I don’t know… A lot of people… People are really busy.” Too busy for Jay Brannan? Surely not. “That’s the one thing about New York, I think about leaving every once in a while, but then I realise I have no idea where I would go.”
Jay is escaping the Big Apple for a little while, though. With tour dates in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney what better place than Australia to find a man, no?
“Yeah, I’ve been once before. I’m excited that I get the chance to come back, ‘cause the first time I went, which was last year, I got sick on the way,” says Jay about flying down under. “I totally lost my voice and I croaked my way through the show and I was fighting off an infection the whole time. I’m glad I’m getting another chance, I’ll try not to fuck it up.” I tell him he better not, and to bring some swimmers, because it’s been hot and it will help him pick up. “Alright, I’ll bring shorts,” he promises, laughing.
Despite the pressures of New York, finding a man and maintaining a music career, Jay really does seem rather relaxed. He loves to chat too. Unperturbed by my phone call, 15 minutes later than scheduled, we go well over our allotted time and I can imagine there’s another interviewer calling through to hear an engaged dial tone. I get the impression this is just Jay – not precious about his time, happy to chat, not high on fame just yet. Intrigued, I ask Jay if it’s true that he replies to emails from his admirers.
“Yeah!” Jay says excitedly, possibly picking up on my doubtful tone of voice. “I have thousands of backed up emails, but when I have time I try to go through and say a few words. I mean, I can’t really get into huge personal relationships with every person, but I do try to sort of thank people for the nice things that they say, or for thinking of me.”
Jay explains that even if he wasn’t the nice guy he is, replying to fans, publicity and organising tours is part of his job description at the moment. “All the business stuff I’ve pretty much done on my own. Like, I have a fuck load of responsibility!” says the young man a little wearily. And Jay says the internet is a huge part of running that business.
“I wouldn’t have had a chance at making a living in music without the internet – at all,” says Jay earnestly. “I haven’t had to go through any gate keepers who decide what people want, or what can or can’t get made, but [the internet] definitely makes you extremely vulnerable at the same time.
“I get a lot of nice supportive people and I get a lot of critical mean people, that don’t realise that I’m a human being on the other end and things do affect me. People say, ‘Well, don’t read it’, but who else is going to run my business? I’m the only one here. If I don’t post and read my Facebook, then I don’t have a company anymore.
“I’m exposed to all these people and whatever they want to send my way, or whatever they want to find out, or say or do – I have to read it. And everyone gives such conflicting advice. I get people sending emails and comments saying, ‘You post too much you’re so annoying. I want to delete you from my list. You’re so self-centred, stop talking about yourself’. And then you stop talking about yourself for a day and you get all these emails saying, ‘why don’t you post about yourself, you don’t care about your fans, we want to know what’s really going on in your life, but you don’t tell us about it.’ You can never win!”
With a website, blog, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter account (the list goes on) Jay is definitely adept at online culture, and he says it’s no act – it’s all him. “I don’t have a personal Facebook and a professional Facebook, it’s all sort of mixed together. Sometimes I’m just bored and want to make a video of me dancing to the tootsie rolls, so I just do. And I don’t think that sells any records, but it’s fun.”
Jay admits to being a loner, and not much of a partier, which he says might also contribute to the manless-ness. “I just spend all my time at home in bed, on the computer. I’m just sort of an internet addict… that like doesn’t have any friends,” laughs Jay.
But when he’s in bed with the computer, he’s being productive. “You know Ellen said no to me more than once?” says Jay about recruiting his fans to Twitter the talk-show host about inviting him on the show. I tell Jay that it must have been a mistake, or a regrettable oversight on the part of her team. “Come on, She’s got Taylor Swift and Beyonce, all of her guests are superstars. I actually even had a publicist reached out to her people more than once and they said no both times,” although Jay has said he’s only optimistic one day a year, he does seem content to keep plodding away, “I tried. Maybe some day.”
Jay does have a small gripe with how some others use the internet, though. “They used to say that I did research with Jane Goodall on the sleep habits of chimpanzees,” says Jay of Wikipedia. “Just crazy stuff.” I mention the meeting a man and moving to California Wikipedia ‘fact’. “Well, that’s actually from my bio on my website,” laughs Jay. My bad. “But it also says I was raised by a pack of wolves, so I don’t know how much it can be trusted either.”
Jay explains that he has to be in a certain frame of mind to do what he does. “I need to get really bored and frustrated or angry or depressed, to the point where I have to write,” says Jay. So maybe the being without a man is a good thing, if it means Jay keeps doing what he does. Leave the short shorts at home, mister.
Jay Brannan’s I Suck At Life tour is presented by Same Same. His dates are as follows:
2 Dec 2009, 8pm: The Troubadour, Brisbane
3 Dec 2009, 8pm: The Toff in Town, Melbourne
4 Dec 2009, 8pm: The Supper Club, Sydney
5 Dec 2009, 8pm: The Supper Club, Sydney