J.R. Price’s brand new single (and EP of the same name) Daydream is a message of full equality, with Price saying “it’s perfect for clubbing, kissing, touching & rubbing”-things we have been sorely without for the past year. As Price drops his new music, he is also bringing forth a great deal of honesty; from his issues with his family to his reflections on body positivity in the music industry. I sat down for an extensive chat with this innovative and rising performer and we talked about his road from a small town to the music industry, how he stands firm in his own truth, and why hiding anymore is completely off the table.
Michael Cook: Your new single ‘Dance With Me’ off with Tom Goss (off of your EP Daydream) crafts the perfect balance between your voices and gives fans a male on male duet, which are always so hard to come by.
J.R. Price: That was kind of my goal with the song, there aren’t many duets between men that are love songs. I wanted to create that vintage romantic sound. Tom was also someone that not only appreciated my sound, but my body. Tom’s entire brand is loving people that are bigger and of all sizes. Luckily, my producer knew him and everything just worked out. It is one of my favorite songs on the album because it does sound so classic. Someone described it recently as “one of the best gay wedding songs that they’ve ever heard”.
MC: What was the road like for you to get into the music scene?
JP: I actually always wanted to be in the music business. I was writing songs at six years old and I was singing before that and creating my own music. My family was not very supportive of that, so I was forced into sports teams and playing things that I didn’t really want to do. I secretly joined dance team and show choir and when I went to college they thought I would study education, and I ended up studying theater, since it was the closest that I could get to music. I ended up with a double major in theater and vocal performance with a certificate in musical theater and a minor in dance at the University of Kentucky, against my families wishes. When I graduated I moved to New York City to pursue Broadway, because that was more attainable. It was more logical and practical to go the musical theater route.
MC: Did Broadway serve as the vessel to your recording artist dreams?
J.R. Price: I had some great auditions, but nothing really “clicked” in theater. I was in a production and the music director asked if I had ever thought about recording my own music. I had been making my own albums at home for years, so it was like he was reading my mind. He had a queer independent record company and wanted me to record some music, which I did for a year and it was amazing. The problem was that I wanted my own individuall sound and it was more about being part of the label there. Freddy Freeman was another producer I had who is a former “bear-lebrity” himself and has a new album coming out. Freddy wanted me to be a pop star, which is always the dream. I had another producer named Feathers who also wanted me to have this pop star life; everything just clicked. My album fell into place once I found the right producers. I was always doing music and looking to find that way in; theater was going to be my way in, but music happened first.
MC: Is Broadway truly something that is in your heart?
JP: Yes! I was the coat check guy at Hamilton during it’s initial run. I got to meet Lin Manuel Miranda and celebrities like Angelina Jolie!
MC: You are definitely the kind of artist that is not traditional or “cookie cutter”. You also discuss personal issues in your music, like intimate family issues. Has there ever been anything that you considered “off limits” to discuss?
JP: I live by the motto “truth always speaks louder than a lie.” I think whenever you write a song that doesn’t come from a place of honesty, its not good. No one wants to listen to something that is just fake. We are living in such a genuine society and people can really feel when you are speaking from the heart now, people’s ears are really attuned to the truth now. I don’t feel like I should hold any truth or honesty back. While my family is upset my things that are being said in the “public eye”, I am just telling the truth. If you can’t live with the truth of how you treated me, or with past relationships, that’s on you. I am just telling my story, I can’t help how you look at it.
I don’t make up the rules. I am not narrating a fiction. I think pop music is just fluff unless it comes from the heart. I don’t think I will ever hold back anything. I want to be one hundred percent honest with people. I dont want to be a fake person who is living a lie and then I have to do interviews holding hands with my family. I want to be honest and I want people to like me for me. I am not going to hide anymore; I did enough of that when I was in the closet.
MC: Do you think that there is a time that you would be able to reconcile who you have become with your family?
JP: I’m always holding out hope, you never let go of that little voice in your head that says “one day everyone is going to love each other and it is going to work out”. I am also a realist though, and at the end of the day, that is not something that is up to me, because I am not the person that did something wrong. It took me a long time to realize that all I am doing is being me. Anybody that is trying to suppress you from being yourself isn’t good for you. I don’t think its good to paint some idealistic fantasy of what a family is. Just because these people are related to me doesn’t mean I have to keep them in my life if they are toxic. there is emopowerment in knowing what you’re worth is. You deserve to be treated like you are loved by your family members. I don’t think I need to hold out hope that one day we’ll all sing by a fire and love each other because that I not something that you should strive to do. A family should love you unconditionally regardless and mine didn’t unfortunately.
It is really hard for them to look at what they have done to me now. Since these articles have come out, they have even furthered themselves from me. I don’t see any point in which we will be able to reconcile because I don’t think they are ever going to be able to face the truth in what happened. I know I messed up and I’ll admit my mistakes until the cows come home. I am very open about everything that I do wrong, I am crazy sometimes. At the end of the day, if they are not admitting what they did wrong too, we are just talking in circles. I am not taking the blame for a relationship that is supposed to be 50/50 and unconditional.
MC: So truth and honesty is important to you as both a person and an artist.
JP: It’s like I was saying before, it’s always about truth and honesty. I am not going to live in this delusional fantasy where everything was perfect my whole life, and that is what some of my family members are trying to do. I don’t live in a lie. I think that every gay man once they come out, they are done with the lying. As an artist, it is not just about being gay in my family, I am an artist. They don’t even understand what being a musician is, they are very practical people and everything is about money. It’s not about money to me, it’s about heart and I don’t think any of them think with their heart first. A part of me is always going to love them, but the actions are sometimes too much.
MC: You are known as an extremely body positive performer. Where does you positivity and ease with what you look like come from?
JP: I am a Gemini, first and foremost, so I go back and forth all of the time. There is that societal stigma against people of a certain size, especially in the gay community. I am constantly dealing with rejection and it’s hard. I never thought that I was ugly though; I have had eating disorders, body dysmorphia, I have been suicidal because of what I looked like and how I didn’t measure up to what people wanted, but I never thought I was ugly. It’s hard, I just saw what everyone else saw; I thought I was beautiful and nobody else did, that is why I was sad. I was “wrong” I thought something was beautiful that was not.
I was having a conversation with my producer and I told him that I thought that I was beautiful and no one else saw it. He told me “then tell them-there is no sense in letting them be right, fight for it. If you believe you’re beautiful, tell the world you are beautiful”. I needed to tell the world that I was beautiful and help them see what I see. I think that everyone needs to do that; I don’t think anyone believes that they are ugly, I just don’t think anyone gives themselves permission to do that. It’s hard not to look like the celebrities of today; it is hard when you look different. At the end of the day, I want everyone to learn that different isn’t bad. your skin color, your body type, your sexuality being different is not a bad thing. I don’t understand where the idea of “normal” comes from. If we reflected more like myself or Lizzo for example, and we showed them more, people would not be counting calories and driven to extremes. We need to show more of what people look like
MC: What is next for you?
JP: I want to perform so badly. I had some concerts lined up before the pandemic hit and they all ended up cancelled. Unfortunately, the virtual-style shows dont work for pop sounds like mine; I need a sound system, dancers, the virtual thing just doesn’t work for me. I need to be able to start performing soon I am like Tinkerbell; I need applause to live (laughs)!
MC: How have you stayed inspired and creatively infused during this time?
JP: I think the only thing that has gotten me through this far is working on the album. I have been working on Daydream for two years, but when COVID hit that is when I had to lock down and that is where some of the most beautiful music came from. There is literally half of an album that I did not even record because the songs that I wrote in quarantine were so much better. I have found more creative ways and other things to focus on because you can’t perform anymore; all you are left with as a musician is the recording process. I am lucky that this is my art form. You can perform from home, FaceTime with your producer, etc. Tom and I did not even meet, we were on opposite sides of the country. I stayed creative the whole time and worked on this album, putting my heart and soul into it. That is the only thing that has kept me going is the album!
J.R. Price’s “Daydream” is being distributed independently and is available on Apple Music, Spotify and all digital platforms. Physical copies and cute JRP merch are also available at jrprice.org.