Nightlife

Aiden Leslie :: Back in the game

by BeBe Sweetbriar
Monday Feb 14, 2011

Ladies and certainly gentlemen, I am tickled pink to introduce to some and reintroduce to many a bright light in the world of recording artists, Mr. Aiden Leslie. I say bright light because Leslie's soul is so much in his music, you feel like when listening to his songs that you are sitting in the living room chatting with him over a cup of java. The rhythms, the message, the vibe are apart of who Aiden Leslie is.

With a strong instructive and participant background in theater, it is no wonder that the reborn artist has found a way to be true to himself and his art. With the new release of his latest single and video "Worlds Away," Leslie delivers how conquering your struggles and leaving them behind you pave the way for all that is possible to happen. Now is his time, the right time, and I got a chance, over a cup of java, to chat with the openly gay artist about his return to music, the now, and the future.


A rebirth?

BB: I know this will be an introduction of Aiden Leslie to some, but you actually had a hot single out a couple of years ago called "Love To Hate You." So, this is kind of a rebirth for you. Where have you been?

Aiden: I had a single, which you mentioned, with Junior Vasquez "Love To Hate You" and not long after that I did a single called "Please," which was my follow-up. And what really happened for me, looking back on it, is I just became very tired. I became burnt out. I didn’t feel connected musically anymore. I felt I was being pulled in other directions, you know other advisers saying ’you should do this track’ or ’you should do this kind of song’. But I personally was not feeling that direction musically, so I became very frustrated.

BB: I have heard that with artists before.

Aiden: Exactly. And at the time I had a lot going on personally back home in Cincinnati, you know that’s where I’m originally from, my sister was not doing very well health-wise, and I lost her the summer before "Please" was released. So, when that happened, losing my only sibling was obviously a very difficult thing for me. And along with that, my parents are both still alive, but they are not well themselves. And my sister was the primary caregiver for them. You know I live in New York City, and I’d been gone for a very long time, so, I was thrust back into situation of losing my sister and dealing with that, and also taking care of my parents which was difficult to d from such a long distance. So with all of that and the difficulty surrounding the music business, I just felt I was being pulled in so many different directions and needed to take a break.


An Elvis fan

BB: Just to keep your sanity a break would be warranted. So what brought you back?

Aiden: In my mind actually, I didn’t think I was going to come back to be honest with you. I really didn’t. In the moment I was upset that I wasn’t progressing, that I wasn’t going in the direction I wanted to go. What brought me back was a couple of years of a dark road. I was just not happy. I was not connected to what my true calling is. And that is music.

BB: So you missed the music?

Aiden: On a daily basis I would always be asked about my music and what am I doing, what’s coming next? And I was really resistant to it because I didn’t really know how I was going to get back. But I guess you can say I hit a bottom.... spiritually and emotionally. I just was not being fulfilled. It wasn’t until a producer I had worked with previously contacted me kind of out of the blue. But I really think I got that ball rolling by putting that energy out there. Subconsciously, I said I need to find a way back (to music). One thing led to another, and I decided to get back into it to get the juices flowing again. And very quickly things just started to materialize.

BB: That’s great. Not only for you, but for fans -- old and new, to have you back in the game.

Aiden: Thank you.

BB: Now your back with a new release, "Worlds Away," and with it comes a message with the song. What are you hoping your fans are going to get from this track?

Aiden: Very simply "Worlds Away" is about the journey each and every one of us are on. How we deal with the struggle, making those changes we want to make in our lives, and most importantly, that when you make those changes realizing that the struggle is all behind you. That it’s (the struggle) is in the past. Making all those thoughts in your head become real, and then stepping into that limelight.

BB: Now what is this Elvis obsession I’ve read about?

Aiden: (Laughing) It’s not an obsession. Elvis was the first person that I knew to be a singer. When I was 2 years old, I would get up on the fireplace at Christmas time and Thanksgiving. And I would sing "C.C. Rider" for my whole family. All of Elvis’ records were in my house. My parents were huge Elvis fans. So, I don’t know if it is an obsession, but he’s just one of the earliest memories I have. I was very influenced by him, by his showmanship and musicality. They don’t call him the King for nothing. My mother asked me when I was a child, she said to me ’ what do want to do when you grow up?’. And I said, ’I want to be a singer, I want to be Elvis.’ (Laughs)

BB: And look at you, you actually did that.

Aiden: Well, I am not Elvis, but I am on the road to something similar.

Story continues on following page:

Watch Aiden Leslie’s video of "Worlds Away" featuring Farrah Burns:



Why dance music?

BB: Now you have some off-Broadway and theater experience which would lead many to think your musical interests would be more on the cabaret side. So, why dance music or the type of music that you do?

Aiden: That’s a great question. Let me just tell you, when I was Cincinnati I went to a school called School For Creative and Performing Arts. This was actually the school the show Fame was modeled after. That’s a true story. It looks like the school in Fame on the television show. It was urban, downtown, low-income area called Over The Rhine, a project type area, and it was great! It was a cross section of every type of person, every type of student. All types went to this school. I graduated with Nick Lachey. I went to school with Drew Lachey from 98 Degrees. Carmen Electra went to my school, she was a few years ahead of me. Sarah Jessica Parker went to my school, obviously older. But that gives you an idea of where I went and where I came from.

With that I was of course raised and schooled in a theater atmosphere. That was the groundwork for me. When I came to New York six weeks after high school graduation. I’d just turned 18 years old. That’s what I came to New York to do. I love the theater. I had acted all my life and I worked in that. I toured, I did some off-Broadway, you know, did a lot of theater. But then I sort of had an epiphany. I was in an off-Broadway show, and the sound engineer was also a deejay. And during the breaks of the show, he would take me with him record shopping. Record shopping? What’s record shopping?

BB: You were like can I get some shoes with that? (Laughing)

Aiden: (Laughing) Exactly. You’re funny! He introduced me to this world of like the 12-inch (recording), the remixes, and Oh my God, I completely felt as if I connected to that. Primarily because I was always feeling constrained when I would do a play. I didn’t feel like 100% I was expressing myself the way I wanted to express myself. And dance music introduced me to a whole other type of theater that I had never experienced. You know the performance artists and drag queens. This whole nightlife culture that I never experienced but quickly found. That was the inspiration for me. And I started dancing back-up, singing back-up, I was in a couple bands and started writing with a couple people. And that’s how I got into pop music. Then I thought to myself, why can’t I do this? Can I be a pop singer? Of course I can. I can do this.


Hip-pop?

BB: Now, you describe your music as Hip-Pop. You want to explain that for me?

Aiden: Absolutely. Hip-Pop is hip-hop beats but it’s pop music. It is a real clear definitive thread. Real clear catchy melodies, pop essences, with a hip-hop vibe thrown in with a little bit of dance. That’s how I would describe it.

BB: I know you bring an element of hip-hop to "Worlds Away" when you have a new female rapper that I have never heard of anyway with Farrah Burns. Is that apart of that hip-hop element your talking about?

Aiden: It is. You know when I started writing this song, I didn’t start it with the intentions of a rapper coming into it. But then the bridge came around, and I thought this would be perfect to have someone come in and do 16 bars. And coincidentally a friend of mine told me about this girl who was a great rapper, who is so sick talented, that is really like getting it. We met an totally hit it off. She loved the track and a week later, she was in the studio laying down the rap, and killed it. I am so happy that she is apart of my new single. Because it works. We have a great chemistry together.

BB: And she’s easy to look at as well. She’s a hottie!

Aiden: Yeah, she’s a hottie that reminds me of a young Lauryn Hill.

BB: Is there a full length CD or EP in the works for you?

Aiden: Yes. I’m writing that right now. I’m working on my follow-up single right now. The plan is to do a follow-up single very soon. An then an EP album is an obvious goal for me and an obvious progression of things. You know BeBe, when I decided to get back in the game, I am telling you the truth when I say, I didn’t even see it getting to this. I didn’t see having a video. I didn’t see having five remixers. I didn’t see having publicity and press. I wasn’t thinking like that. I feel like you were saying, this is a rebirth for sure, hands down. And I’m ready to go to the next level.

BB: Bringing up your publicity you’ve been featured in several periodical, and the audience of those periodicals are predominately gay. And you have had appearances in gay nightclubs. But are there hopes you gain a broader audience?

Aiden: Without a doubt! I think anyone would be lying to you if they said they just wanted to stay here (with gay appeal). Truth is.....I’m gay. That is my audience. That always has been my audience. Do I think that the sky’s the limit? Without a doubt. The possibilities are endless. It sounds very cliché it’s the truth. Not only am I open to it, I want that. I want it to be universal.


Gay-identified?

BB: You know there are many entertainers who have taken a different approach than you in gaining a broad audience. Let’s say Ricky Martin or Ellen Degeneres who built their careers gaining a broader audience before coming out as gay. I mean some people will identify you first with your sexuality before your art. Do you think your road will be more difficult?

Aiden: Yes, (but) I think that music is changing. I think attitude is changing. I think people like Adam Lambert is a prime example. I think that (he) has broken down a lot of doors. I think we are moving toward a better direction of putting gay artists out there without fear that it won’t work. If you would have asked me this question four years ago, I would have given you a different answer for sure. I’m not too concerned about that anymore. What I’m more concerned about is staying authentic in what I need to do, in what I need to say as an artist. And hopefully audiences will respond favorably to that.

BB: To add to that, the cross-section of our gay nightclubs have changed dramatically where more and more straight people are patrons and getting exposed to gay artists that they may not normally be exposed to.

Aiden: Yeah, the game has changed over the past few years. With the record industry struggling with the introduction of the digital age, it would behoove you to be authentic and do what you want to do. Even major artists are struggling right now. I mean artists are saying fuck it, we are going to do whatever the hell we want. Because it really doesn’t matter. With record companies not doing so well, I have the creative control. On one hand the money is not what it used to be, but on the other hand, wow, people are being more creative. Artists are not conforming to what they think will sell or what they think a record company will let them do.

BB: I also think that the digital age has pushed artists. I mean before we were inundated with fabricated singers who when it came to live performance couldn’t deliver. With the money not being in the selling of records so much, artists have to make their money by performances, concerts and the such. People such as yourself with such a strong performance background, it makes going to a concert like going to the theater. It has forced companies to look at true performers and not just some pretty young thing that they can put a vocoder on and they will sound just fine.

Aiden: You are absolutely right. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way before, but I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s an exciting time to express your creativity.


@ Splash

BB: Now you are going to be performing soon at the Splash nightclub in New York. One of my favorite clubs in New York.

Aiden: Yes. At the F-Word at Splash on February 18th.

BB: This isn’t your first time performing there. Is there a certain appeal you have for Splash?

Aiden: It’s not just Splash. That’s the club. It’s the night. The F-Word is the number one club night in New York City in 2010. It’s edgy. It’s sexy. It’s a night of cool New Yorkers which makes it exciting for me. Amanda LePore is one of the hosts, and presented by Mark Nelson and Michael Formika Jones. I’m thrilled that Splash came to me and said they’d love to do my video release and my single release, and do you want to perform and make it a night? I’m so excited. I think we’re gonna have a lot of fun.

BB: I wish I were there! I guess I’ll just have to get in touch with the right people to bring you out to San Francisco.

Aiden: Listen, I am so down with that!

I guess I have been put to task. But from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen, a sell to bring Aiden Leslie to any city should be a soft sale in my book. This is an entertainer, reminiscent of Lady GaGa, you want to follow from the beginning to what is destined to be long and prosperous career.

Aiden Leslie will be appearing at F-Word at Splash Bar, New York City (Guest hosted by EDGE’s JC Alvarez) on Friday, February 18, 2011. For more info www.splashbar.com or www.aidenleslie.com


Based out of San Francisco, BEBE SWEETBRIAR is the Omni Present Drag Chanteuse. As an entertainer and hostess, BeBe can be scene every week hosting and performing at countless events and parties in the San Francisco. One of the few drag personalities to sing live while performing, BeBe has literally graced every notable stage in San Francisco, bridging many gay sub-community gaps. She has also been the opening act for Destiny’s Child Kelly Rowland, "Ugly Betty’s" Alec Mapa and Dance Diva Kristine W. Adding recording artist to her list of performance accomplishments in 2008 with the release of her first single "Save Me", Ms. Sweetbriar will soon release her fifth dance single in 2012 called "Show It Off"..
As an actress, BeBe was introduced to film with a lead role in the independent film "Under One Sun" with her character dealing with religious, racial and gender issues. Additionally, she appeared in the campy musical "Devious, Inc" (Australian Film Festival, San Francisco Short Film Fest) also adding additional vocals to the musical soundtrack. Both of these performances led to her selection for a lead role in Aisha Media’s next short film series, "Con-tin.u.um" to be released in 2012.


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