Jared Milian has taken every standard definition handed to him and redrafted them. From queer identity to fashion to the musical genre his music falls into, this East Coast Broadway baby has wanted to be on stage since he could step into his first pair of pumps. As Milian is set to launch his debut album Only For Tonight, Milian sat down to chat with me about his East Coast roots, the Haus of Milian family that he launched from, and why his East Coast LGBT roots give him such a strong sense of pride.
Michael Cook: How do you describe your musical style and vibe on your debut album?
Jared Milian: Our musical style is definitely queer-focused pop music. When writing this album with my producer and writing partner Doug Gallo, we pulled from a multitude of influences but the goal was always to create queer-focused pop music-I like the sound of that. I want to be the person I needed when I was younger, and I want to amplify queer representation in music.
MC: Tell me about the debut single…
JM: ‘Leaving You Behind’ is about making a conscious decision to move forward from things that are holding you back. Although the song is set in the setting of a relationship, it can be anything. Gender norms even toxic expectations from society; anything bringing you down. I find that when we “sit in sadness” sometimes our mind will always present us with reasons to be sad. I was very inspired by an Alicia Keys lyric “so tonight I’m gonna find a way to make it without you” from her single ‘Sleeping With A Broken Heart.” I felt like ‘Leaving You Behind’ was born of that same thought process. Tonight, I’m telling you goodbye…you (the negativity) will no longer have any space in my head or heart. Doug and I wrote it a few days before Christmas and we both knew it was “the one”
MC: Take me back; when did you know that music was going to be the passion that you would follow?
JM: Singing has always been a spiritual and powerful experience for me. I come from a family of musicians and performers and even at a very young age, I could tell that if people were going to listen to me, singing was the only way it was going to happen. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I was singing before I could talk and I rarely ever stop talking and people don’t always listen; when I sing they do. So to answer your question-forever.
MC: The Milian Mafia is well known on the East Coast, and with the ball scene resurgence on Pose, having a “family” of sorts now is much more understandable and relatable now to people; how did this “family” come to be? Any future collaborations coming up with them?
JM: Everything I do is a constant collaboration with the Milian Mafia. There is no art I put out that they don’t hear or see in it’s infancy stage. We have all been together for almost a decade and the Haus Of Milian itself is double that age. The Milian Mafia became something we started branding and working cohesively on after we all really decided together the impact we wanted to make on the community and how and why we could do that. We have had so many opportunities and our goal is to represent self expression and acceptance, while remaining beautiful and inspiring. They are all featured on the album, but I’m gonna keep the specifics tight lipped on exactly how; you’ll definitely see and hear the Milian Mafia throughout this project. There would be no Jared Milian music without Doug-and there would be no Jared Milian without The Milian Mafia
MC: Speaking of, your form gender expression is inspiring. Fashion and expression are crucial to you as a performer, and you do it unapologetically. Has this always been the way you expressed yourself?
JM: Thank you. It means so much to be validated that way within our own community. You know for a while, I was afraid of gender expression. My parents raised me in such an incredibly accepting environment that I was almost shocked at how close minded the world was, especially in the early nineties. I am fearless when I’m performing; I think that once I was able to translate that fearlessness to my everyday life, the looks just became “what I wanted to wear”
MC: You haven’t announced the title of the album yet; any chance you might want to do so? If so, what does the title mean?
JM: The album is called Only For Tonight and I am honored to share that with you before anyone else. The album was designed by Doug and I to really showcase the emotions I’ve gone through as a queer person over the last year. It’s set almost in the space before you’d go to a party or a bar or club and the emotion that might happen during that period of time, especially after the year we have had. I have songs about love, one-night stands, open relationships, my beautiful boyfriend, my mental health and the LGBTQIA community which I believe a lot of people can relate to
MC: Paradise and the Asbury Park community has been such a strong part of your story. How does that community factor into who you are as a person and performer?
JM: Asbury Park is arguably the gay mecca of New Jersey. So many incredible queer artists have come from such a small beautiful city. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the light at the center of that mecca for me is Paradise. I can’t think of another LGBTQIA space that I feel more “at home” when writing this album, I imagined so many of the incredible nights on the dance floor, or conversations in the hotel rooms and incredible moments at tea dances. Paradise is part of the history of LGBTQ people in NJ, and I want this music to play through the speakers of that incredible space someday. I wouldn’t have been brave enough to make this music if I didn’t experience the magic of the LGBTQ community at Paradise. It is the backdrop for so much of my queer journey. Some of the best Milian Mafia moments have been overlooking tea dance from the balcony to the sounds of the owner Shep Pettibone, Rico Alexis or Hex Hector DJ’ing. It is truly is a space that needs to be protected at all costs.
MC: Musical theatre is a passion of yours, as well as performing live; what are some of the shows that truly unleash that passion? Any dream roles you would like to inhabit?
You know, musical theatre will always be something that helped me realize who I am as a person and it also helped me realize that performing as Jared Milian is truly the greatest dream role. I’ve been lucky enough to play so many of my actual dream roles, but I would love to do a version of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar with other queer artists or something like Rocky Horror. Really anything where we can be unapologetically ourselves is the kind of musical I’m interested in doing now; maybe I’ll write my own Milian Musical with Doug one day!
MC: What is next performance wise? Any live shows coming up?
We have some more singles planned for the rest of this year that we are really excited about. We are definitely doing an acoustic version of ‘Leaving You Behind’; we have so many exciting plans. I’d ultimately love to tour around the state to different LGBTQIA spaces. We have some videos that we are storyboarding with an incredible number of queer visual artists. Performing live is my ultimate goal and I’d love to (once deemed safe) really sing and perform at as many spaces that are willing to have me! Until that happens, as much visual and virtual content that we can get out to represent LGBTQIA people the better!
MC: When do you feel your most authentically yourself?
JM: The most recent discovery is when I’m in the studio with Doug. Doug speaks a language that I thought only I spoke, and he turns the words and melodies we write into actual magic. Singing will always be the most authentic and truthful version of me you will ever get The second answer would clearly be when I’m with The Milian Mafia; They are where I am the most free. Them and my blood family of course. Finally, my incredible supportive boyfriend Charles. There’s a song about him on the album called ‘I Don’t Want You To Go’ and I have never in my life felt more accepted than I do when I’m with him.
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