[PREMIERE]: Jared Gelman’s New Video For a Fallen Trans Friend
If you’ve been keeping up with Jared Gelman, you know he’s never one to shy away from stirring the pot. His previous videos involve eccentric costumes, killer dance moves, and in-your-face graphics.
But for his latest video for his song “What Do You Do,” Jared chose to shy away from the camera compared to his usual production. Why? Because “What Do You Do” was written as a tribute to his close friend Jordan Howe, a trans woman who committed suicide weeks before he wrote the song.
While the song is an emotional one, Jared hopes that the music video will raise awareness of the high suicide rates that plague the trans and LGBT community. His choice to release the song today, on National Coming Out day, further perpetuates his message.
Check out the video below, and read further to see Gelman’s explanation of the video, his thoughts on admirable leaders in the trans community, and what’s next for him as an artist.
Tell us about this video for your song “What Do You Do.”
This is my third official music video, and I created it as a tribute video to members of the LGBTQ community who have committed suicide. The song itself is inspired by the death of my best friend and former collaborator, Jordan Howe; the song was actually written the week of her death. I was sitting on this idea for a pretty long time, and around the time of the PULSE nightclub attack, I met with the incredible director Rob Proto to kick things into high gear. PULSE was a palpable example of hatred from the outside world against queer people, but mental health issues also burden members of my community in an alarming way.
How were you able to push that message in this video?
In my past music videos, I was very much at the front and center, pushing a social message through my form of identity expression. The old videos were almost intentional sensory overload. The director and I really wanted to pull that back this time. I wanted to push something in a more direct away, where I can quite literally be a vehicle for these ideas.
The video starts off specifically highlighting the artwork of my friend, painted in her darkest hours. Her paintings showcase how she felt living as a trans female. After that, themes like religion – and its sometimes complicated relationship with the LGBT community – are touched upon. I’m wearing a black veil at the end of the video, which obviously represents mourning. It’s also a “META” fashion moment for me, as I wore veils quite regularly around the time I conceived the song. At the end of the video, a rolling credit list of LGBT suicide victims flashes on screen, while I’m crying over the track. It’s so overwhelming seeing all the names at once; it’s even harder for me to digest the fact that there’s plenty of more names not in the video.
That’s so sad. Would you say you’re in a darker place?
Actually, I would say quite the opposite. If anything, I’m more inspired than ever. I feel such a sense of purpose. That’s why I think it was such a good time to release this music video. I think it brings an end to the “era” of my Broken Wings EP in a full circle way. The message of the video will always be something that’s with me, however this is a goodbye to my old sound. I’m all about exploring the light now.
Is there anything you can share about the newer music you are working on?
I have so many ideas and concepts, but the way I was executing them in the past, made what I was doing feel quite niche-based to some people. I was essentially only preaching my thoughts to people who already agree with me, who are from queer spaces or from my general world of people. Now, I’m essentially aiming to remain subversive while being able to reach other audiences. I think a little discourse is good. While I love playing with different genres, I’m taking my sound in a direction that’s much more digestible.
I’m working with the incredible producer Ray Reich (who produced Bad W0lfy’s “Used 2 This”) who I am already a huge fan of. I’m being even more melodic in my writing, and honing in on my singing. There are harmonies, and an essence of musicality.
Can we expect to hear the new songs soon?
I’m slowly refining everything and getting my ideas together. The sooner the better, but I won’t rush anything. I want to have songs that I feel passionate about that are true to me, and sometimes that takes time. I’ll release songs as they’re ready.
You recorded the song the week after your friends passing, do you find that music helps you cope?
Yeah. I personally am a very self destructive person and it definitely took years of me learning how to deal with things, but it was definitely through writing and music that I had a healthy outlet that not only helped me get through things but also, at least my goal, is for other people to sort of feel like they’ve been helped too.
Do you feel that when you were younger you suffered with destructive thoughts that are characteristic of the LGBT community?
I think that as a person, regardless of me being LGBT, I just think that the chemistry in my brain wires me in a way that sometimes I don’t deal with problems in the right way. And I definitely have always been self-destructive and it’s definitely been a healing process. I was, you know, obsessing over other people’s music as my escape and I really love when music can be a form of escapism.
Who are some artists you look to as a form of escape?
As a songwriter, you know, I am very visually oriented so whether it be the oldies, people like Prince, or people like David Bowie, to the new artists who are really incorporating avante-garde visuals. When I was in high school, Lady Gaga like, saved my life. Now that I’m old enough to go out, the more I surround myself in night clubs with people who dress up and live their authentic versions of themselves. Now I don’t really need to look to celebrities, now I can look around me because I put myself in spaces where everyone is free.
If Howe was here today how do you think she would react to the song and the video?
You know it’s funny, when her and I worked together, I was really coming into who I was as a creator and even before I learned how to sing she was always the one encouraging me. She was always the one who was crying because she was so proud, even when what I was doing wasn’t even that amazing. So, I know that she’s watching from up above, but I can only imagine that she would be crying and I hope is proud of me. I’m still in regular communication with her family members and I know that they’re definitely very touched by it. The lyrics speak for themselves but I really want to allow her to make her mark.
Do you think Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox has been a huge help for the trans community? Who are some of the trans voices you think people should listen to?
I think visibility is always really important, and I think Caitlyn really helped bring the trans community to the forefront of public discussion. That being said, sometimes Caitlyn’s politics come from a privileged lens, that isn’t necessarily representative of most people. I’ve learned a lot from others like Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, Hari Nef, Carmen Carrera, etc. I think shows like Transparent really help too. At the end of the day, I’m just an ally, so I can’t speak in depth for the community. All I can really do is listen and share.
What else would you like to see in the future to move society to a place where there is no hate?
Yeah, you know. I don’t want to come off like I’m preaching an unattainable goal where everyone can be accepted because I know how human nature is. The rate of suicide attempts is like, four times greater for LGBT youth, and I think things like that are just despicable. I don’t think realistically we’re ever going to get to a place where everyone is all lovey-dovey, peace, and smiles, but I do think that we’re definitely closer than we were back in the day and it’s just about teaching people how to love and accept.
Cover photo by Nate Cluss