Photos by DuHon Photography unless otherwise noted. Selected portions of this interview appeared in an earlier profile on Brightest Young Things.
Electronic musician Adam Kyle is perhaps the most well-known unknown musician in D.C. After coming out as gay in 2010, Kyle quickly made friends in Washington after deciding to be open about his personal life. Yet, the artist still chose to keep one aspect of his life largely hidden from many of those closest to him – his musical abilities. So much so, that when he threw an impromptu concert in late 2013 to mark his first album, many of his friends were surprised.
It’s been a little over a year since that quietly-announced pop up concert. With the release of his new EPWalk On By, Kyle took a further step into public view with a headline concert at the DC9 in April. He plays the BYT/Capital Pride FLASHBACK Opening Party this Friday, June 12 at Arena Stage.
Brightest Young Things: Until a little over a year ago, I don’t think many of your personal friends in D.C. even realized that you produced and wrote music. You kept it all rather quiet until you produced your first album (The Laws of Love and Desire). I think many people who know you in Washington still may not know your musical side. Can you tell us a little bit about your personal music history?
Adam Kyle: I had a sort of musical awakening in middle school when I started playing trumpet in the school band. It was the first time I began to understand the songs I heard on the radio as the sum of a bunch of smaller layers and instruments, and as the work of a group of people.
I played trumpet through high school, and picked up guitar along the way. My music, like the rest of my life, was wrapped up in the church for about 10 years, and while that period is most certainly behind me now, it was there that I started writing my own music and performing. Over the past five years I’ve been exploring what music means to me now that I’ve left the church behind. My 2013 album “The Laws of Love and Desire” and my new EP “Walk On By” are drawn from my experience of coming out, getting divorced, leaving the church, and learning what life and love, and music, look like for me now that I’m living honestly and openly.
BYT: You came out relatively recently. Many of the people at our party experienced their first Pride when they were very young. You first experienced it as an adult. What was that like for you?
Adam Kyle: Interestingly enough, the first ever official Pride event I attended was the BYT/Capital Pride Opening Party at Howard Theater a few years ago, which was such a good time. More striking though was the parade the next day. It was the first time I had really seen so many different people from the LGBT community in one place. It really expanded my sense of the community I’m part of, both as a queer person and as a D.C. resident.
People sometimes say Pride has become too commercialized and sanitized, and that may be true in some ways. But the revolutionary side of Pride isn’t lost on me, because it wasn’t long ago that I could never imagine myself at an event like that, much less performing at one! The person I was five-or-six years ago would never have thought this was possible. I now see that it’s only possible because a lot of amazing people spent years-and-years fighting so that people like me could overcome the layers of fear and self-hate that society puts on us, and eventually join the parade – literally, and figuratively, of course.
BYT: You seem to have found a new support structure in DC. You’ve got an adoring boyfriend and a pretty strong group of friends. What type of inspiration and support do they give you?
Kyle: I take a lot of inspiration from the people around me. One of my dearest friends from my time in the church came out as a trans woman last Fall, and my song “Walk On By” was written for her. She’s such a strong and loving person, and she’s shown me so much about love and friendship and family, both before and since we each came out.
BYT: Will your friend you wrote “Walk on By” be there for the party?
Adam Kyle: She will!
BYT: Are there any particular songs that you personally think of as pride anthems?
Adam Kyle: There are songs that have been undeniably iconic in the gay community over the years, like “Vogue” by Madonna, or “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, or “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga or “Same Love” by Macklemore. And those are great songs. But, I guess part of me wants to see songs and artists come up from within the LGBT community, rather than being written for us or about us by straight allies.
When Macklemore says that love between gay people is the same as love between straight people, he’s right in a certain respect. But, he’s missing a huge part of our experience. He’s never had to worry about showing affection in public with someone he loves; every LGBT person does. So, there’s one way that our love is not the same, and there are lots more. I agree with the main point of his song, that we should have the same legal rights. But pride to me is about way more than wanting equal treatment under the law. Yes, we need to keep fighting for equality, but that should be the baseline – and it should never come at the expense of our diversity. Pride is about loving the fact that we’re not the same, and celebrating the unique beauty we each have because we’re different. And to write a song that captures the spirit of that, you really have to live that experience, not just observe it from the outside.
BYT: You had a strong turnout for your first Washington show at the DC9 – and you actually headlined that show yourself. Not many artists get such a debut. Has that encouraged you to perform more live? Where do you see your music taking you in the next year?
Adam Kyle: Definitely. That was such a magical night, because so many people I love dearly were there to support me, including my mom. I was really fortunate to get to play at a venue that has hosted some amazing acts in the early stages of their careers, not to mention some of my best nights out dancing. It’s always humbling when people say they like my music or my performance, and yeah, that definitely motivates me to get out and play more. I want to share my music with as many people as I can. I’m working on booking some shows outside of DC later this summer and into the Fall – we’ll see where that road takes me!
Adam Kyle performs this Friday, June 12 at the BYT/Capital Pride FLASHBACK Opening Party at Arena Stage. His set is in our performance cabaret in the Fichandler Theatre adjacent to the main dance floor. Other performers in the cabaret include Adore Delano, Frenchie Davis, and MUNDY.
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