Five Questions With… Gary Beals
Some artists find it difficult stepping back into the spotlight after a long hiatus, but not R&B recording artist Gary Beals.
By Jason Schneider
Some artists find it difficult stepping back into the spotlight after a long hiatus, but not R&B recording artist Gary Beals. The former Canadian Idol runner up and Juno nominee is returning Oct. 23 with his third album called Bleed My Truth, which, as the title suggests, documents the changes Beals has gone through since putting his last album in 2009.
It will be preceded on Oct. 9 by a new remix of the single Blood Red Roses, a song inspired by a trip Beals made to South Africa in February 2019 that he says was completely re-invigorating and made him appreciate his cultural heritage in ways he’d never experienced before.
As the last song written for Bleed My Truth, Blood Red Roses became the perfect way to sum up Beals’s journey of self-discovery to this point, dating back to his childhood in the rural, predominantly Black community of Cherry Brook, Nova Scotia, where he found his voice singing in his local church choir.
We spoke with Gary Beals to find out more about that journey, and you get more information about Bleed My Truth at garybeals.com.
Why 11 years between releases?
Good question! A little while after the release of my second album in 2009 I actually began to lose the passion for music. I found that I was losing parts of myself, so it was important for me to take a step back and find me again. I was living life based on the opinions and expectations of others. My connections didn't feel authentic or genuine. I didn't really have a grasp on my life direction. In addition to this, I didn’t feel like I was being authentic in my personal life or my music. Music was no longer fun and purposeful for me and it was then I knew it was time for me to take a break—to really live on my own terms, to travel, and to step out of the spotlight and reflect, learn and grow. I then began to embrace pieces of myself that I had neglected. The desire to create music came back and my love for music returned. It’s been 11 years since my last release but it honestly feels like I never left and I’m excited to share my new album, one that speaks on my journey right up to this point.
What would you say has been the biggest change in your approach to music since 2009?
I think it’s the importance of showing up as my authentic self. That’s where the beauty is. Through that, I can create music that represents who I am. I now walk with different energy and in that, I am able to create more meaning and intention. I'm less in my head and more focused on just being. I’m also less restricted and more open to exploring creatively and seeing what feels authentic and it’s amazing what that type of energy attracts. I’m more open to stretching myself and in that, I'm seeing more growth personally and musically.
Which songs on the record have particularly special meaning for you?
It's such a personal album, so it's really hard to narrow it down to a few but one would be the lead single Me For Me. The song is a form of liberation for me. It represents self-love, self-acceptance and the importance of being vulnerable even if that means risking it all. It’s also about me finally being able to fully embracing my sexuality and not being afraid to expose that part of myself.
The second song I’d choose is Pictures. It's more of a reflection on who I was, talking about moments in my life where I felt lost or in pain but understanding that it did not break me. Those were defining moments that actually shaped and built my character. I wouldn't go back to those days but as the last refrain goes, ‘Everything I ever want, I go it,’ and it feels good to now be in a different headspace. I embrace the full journey.
The third song I’d highlight is my second single from the album, Blood Red Roses. It's fun and celebratory. I wrote it after my trip to South Africa, which was extremely special. It was my first time in the Motherland of Africa and it was very emotional for me at times, but I felt so much joy, so much love, so much happiness. Hence the line in the song ‘Diamond tears roll down my face, I must be happy.’ I felt like I belonged! The song is an ode to Africa, to my Blackness and to everything that I am. We all deserve to celebrate our worth.
How have you been adapting to engaging with your audience during the pandemic?
This actually has been an opportunity for me to be more engaging with my audience and become more comfortable with showcasing more of my personality, along with sharing new music and letting people know what I have been up to. I'm starting to be more active on socials and just sharing different sides of me, which is something I wasn't so active on before. It's actually amazing the connections I've made through socials and the people you get to know. I'm also finding that releasing certain content that supports my album such as videos, behind the scenes footage and sharing certain interviews has been a great way to engage my audience. I'm loving it!
What's your mindset looking ahead to next year and the prospect of hopefully playing live?
Someone recently told me one of my superpowers is my positivity. So, in saying that, I am hopeful that next year will be a great year. 2020 has been a very interesting year but a chance for us to step back and see what's working and what's not working within our individual lives. This has been a chance for us to weed out what's not for us. I believe next year will be full of so much opportunity and a chance to continue building. I'm excited about working on new material and to continue to create. My creative juices are flowing and I love that feeling. I'm feeling inspired despite everything happening around us. I am ecstatic about playing live again. That's where I thrive, where I come most alive. To be backed by a full band or even acoustic instrumentation is what I'm eager to do. There's no better energy than performing live and engaging with an audience that is appreciative of live music. I'm so ready!