The singer talks to Lewis Cor­ner about his trau­matic com­ing out ex­pe­ri­ence, how he wants his mu­sic to help the LGBTQ com­mu­nity, and the awk­ward ques­tion he once asked Katy Perry.

Gay Times Magazine - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy Wil­liam Baker Fash­ion Kam­ran Ra­jput Words Lewis Cor­ner

Far from danc­ing on his own, Calum Scott’s de­but al­bum is a queer mas­ter­piece that ex­plores his grap­ples with his sex­u­al­ity in his early teens, all the way up to com­ing out in the pub­lic eye. In his first Gay Times cover shoot, he walks us through the al­bum and what dat­ing apps are like post-fame.

If there were any doubts Calum Scott would be open about his sex­u­al­ity on his de­but al­bum, they are firmly put aside within sec­onds of press­ing play on open­ing track If Our Love Is Wrong. “I don’t know how they might take it,” he sings. “Maybe you could take the pres­sure, and make it dis­ap­pear?” Most LGBTQ peo­ple will in­stantly recog­nise those deep feel­ings of un­cer­tainty – the ones that build in­side, ni€ling at our self es­teem as we pre­pare to come out. Ex­cept in this par­tic­u­lar in­stance for Calum, it wasn’t for the first time.

Af­ter be­ing cat­a­pulted to overnight fame fol­low­ing his au­di­tion on Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent in 2015, the Hull-born singer-song­writer went on to score the bi€est song of the sum­mer in the UK the fol­low­ing year with his stripped-down take on Robyn’s Danc­ing On My Own (500 mil­lion streams and count­ing). It was a sur­prise hit, and he did it with­out be­ing picked up for a record deal by Si­mon Cow­ell af­ter his time on the ITV tal­ent show. A ma­jor deal with Vir­gin EMI fol­lowed in­stead. How­ever, while climb­ing to No.2 on the Of­fi­cial Sin­gles Chart saw Calum achieve some­thing he’d al­ways con­sid­ered a pipe dream, it meant he was con­fronted by a whole dif­fer­ent night­mare in his per­sonal life.

“I had a lot of trou­bles with my sex­u­al­ity grow­ing up, and long story short, when I was in my early teens and I was try­ing to un­der­stand what it was I was go­ing through, I con­fided in a group of my friends. I was aban­doned for it at an early age,” Calum re­calls. “So talk­ing about my sex­u­al­ity has al­ways made me feel like I’m go­ing to lose peo­ple, be­cause of that trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence when I was a young kid.” Now Calum was fast be­com­ing fa­mous, he knew that he’d have to go through the whole process again, but this time in a much more pub­lic fo­rum..

“If Our Love Is Wrong is kind of my way of ex­plain­ing the de­bate in my head about whether I should come out in the press as I was ter­ri­fied of what peo­ple might think of me. How their opin­ion might change of me. So it was that ar­gu­ment I was hav­ing in­ter­nally,” he ex­plains at a bowl­ing al­ley in West Lon­don, which to­day serves as the back­drop for Calum’s first ever Gay Times cover shoot. “Even­tu­ally it came to a point where I was talk­ing about it in a song­writ­ing ses­sion, and it was like coun­selling. As I was talk­ing about it, on re­flec­tion I was start­ing to think, ‘Ac­tu­ally, if me be­ing gay is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.’ So it’s kind of an em­pow­er­ing song.” It was a gay friend who then helped him through this very tur­bu­lent pe­riod in his life. “He helped me come out to my mum and the rest of my fam­ily,” Calum says. “From there in, I was quite happy. That must have been at around 15.”

Once his fam­ily and close friends knew, you’d think a large part of that pres­sure clos­eted LGBTQ peo­ple bat­tle with would have lifted, but Calum was still stru€ling in­side. “At first I was so ashamed of my­self and then the more peo­ple I told, the more com­fort­able I felt,” he ex­plains. “But on a wider scale, I was still not out by this point. So my close fam­ily and friends knew, but I was scared to let

it go any fur­ther than that. For it to be com­mon knowl­edge just wor­ried the hell out of me.”

Look­ing back, he puts most of that fear down to teenage in­se­cu­ri­ties. “In a cer­tain way I sup­pose I was just ter­ri­fied about what other peo­ple thought of me,” he says. “At that age, ev­ery­thing is about what peo­ple think and how you ap­pear. It’s a stru€le be­cause when you’re young, you are ob­sessed with your ap­pear­ance and your peers and how peo­ple per­ceive you.” But he also su€ests that, at the turn of the mil­len­nium, be­ing a gay man in the pub­lic eye usu­ally meant flam­boy­ant style and ec­cen­tric per­son­al­i­ties. There was very lit­tle rep­re­sen­ta­tion of an ‘ev­ery­day man’ who just so hap­pened to be gay in main­stream cul­ture. “My gay role mod­els were peo­ple like El­ton John, Ge­orge Michael and Boy Ge­orge, which I couldn’t re­late to,” Calum says. “So it made me feel even more alien. Whereas now there are so many peo­ple who are open and proud of who they are, that are more re­lat­able.”

It’s be­ing a re­lat­able role model for the LGBTQ youth of to­day – and the com­mu­nity in gen­eral – that Calum hopes he can be with his de­but al­bum Only Hu­man, which lands on 9 March. All of that fear, pain and re­cov­ery has been chan­neled into his first stu­dio col­lec­tion, fol­low­ing the jour­ney of a gay man who has fi­nally em­braced who he is. “The mes­sage peo­ple are get­ting straight away is ‘I am who I am. I’ve tor­tured my­self enough about it. Now it’s time for me to be con­fi­dent and ac­cept it and be happy.’”

That sen­ti­ment is most poignantly laid out in one of the al­bum’s more rous­ing num­bers. “If I could go back, to when you were lonely, I’d be there to hold your hand,” Calum sings on Good To You over a stomp­ing beat and flour­ishes of elec­tron­ics, com­ing to­gether to form an em­pow­er­ing LGBTQ an­them. “The ques­tion in the song­writ­ing ses­sion was: If you were to go back in time and change any­thing, would you do it?” Calum ex­plains. “I’d said, if I was to go back in time, I wouldn’t want to change any­thing. I would just say to my younger self, ‘I’ll be good to you. As you grow up you’ll go through things, you’ll lose sleep, you’ll cry, you’ll feel like there’s no­body there for you, but I’ll be good to you. When you grow up you’ll never feel more con­fi­dent and happy about where you’re at.’ I’m kind of glad I went through the whole ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing aban­doned and feel­ing very lonely, con­fused and up­set, wish­ing I was straight. I had that whole, ‘If I had a straight pill, would I take it?’ I al­ways said I would. Whereas now I would bat it out of some­body’s hands and be like, ‘Are you mad? It’s great to be gay. It’s per­fect to me.’”

Calum puts his pa­ter­nal na­ture down to hav­ing al­ways been the older brother. At heart he’s pro­tec­tive and sup­port­ive of peo­ple who need it. “I sup­pose this is me putting that through my mu­sic,” he says. “I’m very soppy and sen­si­tive!” So when he got into the stu­dio and, like all artists crav­ing a hit to ap­peal to the widest pos­si­ble au­di­ence, started to write songs about par­ty­ing, it just didn’t feel right. “I knew there was some­thing deeper I had to write about,” he ex­plains. “When I was hon­est about my­self and my feel­ings and es­pe­cially my sex­u­al­ity, it started flow­ing out of me like a river. I was writ­ing about my ex­pe­ri­ences of be­ing gay, of hiding it away, of telling my par­ents, com­ing out to the press, the cir­cum­stance where I was aban­doned – all these dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences in the hope that if I write these things and I’m hon­est, even if one per­son is like, ‘He did it and he was ter­ri­fied of what peo­ple would think but had the strength, maybe I will.’ If it in­spires one per­son, then all of those things I went through was com­pletely worth it.”

This, Calum su€ests, is how he hopes to con­tinue to in­still a change in at­ti­tudes to­wards LGBTQ peo­ple – es­pe­cially if it helps those most vul­ner­a­ble who are com­ing to terms with their own sex­u­al­ity. “I’m not a flag-bearer of the gay com­mu­nity in terms of lead­ing the march, but I’m def­i­nitely ac­tive in try­ing to help peo­ple be them­selves,” he says. He’s adamant that the ed­u­ca­tion of un­der­stand­ing and ac­cept­ing the LGBTQ com­mu­nity needs to start way ear­lier than it cur­rently does.

Al­though rates of anti-gay bul­ly­ing in schools in the UK have fallen in the past decade, in 2017 Stonewall re­ported that 45% of LGBTQ pupils said they had ex­pe­ri­enced abuse be­cause of who they are. “If kids are taught that – y’know, when you look in a text­book it’s al­ways mummy and daddy and their chil­dren – if that was daddy and daddy or mummy and mummy, at a young age it would al­low the child to have an un­der­stand­ing that there are same-sex cou­ples who love each other just as much as a man and woman can,” Calum says. “I think if it starts early at school it would have a knock-on ef­fect and kids would be more aware, so that mis­con­cep­tion and mis­un­der­stand­ing of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity would hope­fully be erad­i­cated. If it can start at that young age, it’s just bet­ter for ev­ery­body.”

That un­der­stand­ing needs to in­fil­trate older gen­er­a­tions too, though. We don’t have to re­mind you that com­ing out for an LGBTQ per­son isn’t a one-time ex­pe­ri­ence. We’re hav­ing to nav­i­gate other peo­ple’s per­cep­tions on a daily ba­sis. Even when you’ve had a huge hit and spo­ken openly about your sex­u­al­ity in the press, you can’t es­cape that. “There have been times where I’ve had to come out again,” Calum re­veals. “I wouldn’t say it’s frus­trat­ing, but it does make me wish there was a time where peo­ple don’t have to come out. I did a ra­dio in­ter­view the other day and he said, ‘Oh you just touched upon your sex­u­al­ity there – are you gay?’ It was like hav­ing to go through all those feel­ings again and I started feel­ing ner­vous. It brings back all those things I thought I was lib­er­ated from. But I feel more and more em­pow­ered the more I do it. At first, com­ing out more than once would have ter­ri­fied the life out of me. When he said, ‘So are you gay?’ I was like, ‘Yes! I’m very gay and I’m very proud.’ It just makes me feel so con­fi­dent that I’m now tak­ing some­thing that I was ter­ri­fied of and us­ing it as a drive.”

On the way, Calum has slowly adapted to life­style in the pub­lic do­main. His cover of Danc­ing On My Own se­cured him recog­ni­tion from global stars like Ed Sheeran and Chic’s Nile Rodgers, who he still can’t be­lieve knows who he is. He also – fi­nally! – got the thumbs up from Robyn for cov­er­ing her song. “I met with a guy called Patrick Berger who is the other song­writer on that record, and I said, ‘I’m glad that you love this new life that’s been breathed into it, but does Robyn like it?’ I had reached out, but never man­aged to get hold of her. She did say to Patrick that she’s given the thumbs up to my ver­sion, so I was like, ‘Thank god! I can sleep easy.’ It was fi­nally a sigh of re­lief af­ter a year and a half.”

But not all of Calum’s su­per­star en­coun­ters have been smooth. “When I was in­tro­duced to Katy Perry, I was like, ‘Oh my god – this is in­sane.’ I had a selfie with her and was fan­girling like mad,” he laughs. “I ac­tu­ally stopped her from go­ing to the toi­let and I was like, ‘What do you need – a wee or a poo?’ And she was like, ‘Oh, wouldn’t you like to know’ and then laughed. There was a lit­tle bit of a mo­ment there where I was like, ‘Oh my god, she doesn’t get my sense of hu­mour. I shouldn’t be too York­shire!’”

An­other ad­just­ment area in Calum’s life has been the world of dat­ing. When he first came to rise on Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent, he stru€led when the Bri­tish press as­sumed he was straight. It meant that, al­though he was on dat­ing apps like Tin­der, if he matched with a guy and they recog­nised who he was, he just went quiet for fear of be­ing pub­licly outed be­fore he was ready. “The dat­ing game for me was com­pletely shut off un­til I could come to terms with it,” he re­calls. But when the time came and dat­ing men was back on the cards, it still didn’t quite go to plan, as his new song Ho­tel Room in­forms us. “It’s about me fall­ing in love with this straight guy who, af­ter see­ing all the signs and think­ing this is re­ally go­ing to work, he goes ‘Oh, I’m not gay’ af­ter I made a pass at him,” he says. “It’s heart­break­ing!”

Our Gay Times cover star didn’t sit around cry­ing over it for too long though, and de­spite a packed year ahead with his new al­bum re­lease and a head­line Euro­pean tour, a fully con­fi­dent and up­beat Calum Scott is still very much on the search for Mr. Right. “I’m still look­ing. I’m still on Tin­der, I’m still on Chappy, I’m still sin­gle,” he smiles, adding that he’s proud to be an “as­pir­ing ot­ter”. C’mon boys, don’t leave him danc­ing on his own for too long.

I ac­tu­ally stopped Katy Perry from go­ing to the toi­let and I was like, ‘What do you need – a wee or a poo?’

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