photo credit: August Baxter
Words by Lee Phillips
Like many artists, Boy Radio has been misunderstood.
Coming from a small town in California, Boy Radio didn't really know any other out queer people he could look up to and found himself turning to TV and Film for representation. Cut to ten years later, and he has come into his own all the while advocating for queer visibility by doing him and killing it in his music career, which has just been blessed by his latest album "Pop That".
As I sit with Boy Radio in a restaurant on St. Marks, I don't get the sense that he is holding back for the sake of image. He exudes authenticity and also has a face that looks like Michelangelo could have sculpted it.
"My personality shifted when I started to define my own characters," he says, referring to his relationship to TV as a mentor which began to change for the better when he moved to New York and found his queer family. Unlike other cities, "New York has given me the opportunity to create versions of myself. My community allows this…like drag queens, they become grander versions of themselves. I want to give myself the permission to lift the veil and allow myself to be more than myself."
Photo by Cole Witter
Boy Radio's carefree, limitless attitude shows up in his online presence as well, which is especially radical in an age where we're taught how to be instantly consumable and the pressure to brand ourselves is high. He pushes back against the urge to curate his image carefully. He posts videos of dogs doing backflips because he likes it, not because he thinks it will get likes. In fact, in the past few weeks, Radio has been taking a break from Instagram altogether.
"If branded myself as just a musician," he tells me, "it would be harder for me to reach a lot of people. I'm not signed. I don't have a major label backing me, and I don't have 1000 dollars to put into a major promotion. Yea I'm a musician, and I will talk about it in waves…but I'm more than that. I love fashion, food, travel, so much. My music is on Spotify; it's discoverable, I've played festivals and shows for 1000's of people. Ya know… I'm doing the work. I'm not worried about branding."
Growing up listening to Nina Simone, Fiona Apple, and Janet Jackson, Boy Radio has been inspired by the greats, and it shows, but like everything else he does, he does it a tad differently, which is why his new album "Pop That" is hard to put into words. A tantalizing mix of pop, R&B and "abstract R&B," every song in his newest album reads like a different genre, making the entire experience as nuanced as Boy Radio himself.
For the artist, making music is about creating fantasy, and live performing is the peak of that experience. "Creating fantasy is about lifting the veil of just watching someone perform. With my shows, I want to get into storytelling through lyrics, movement, lighting, and staging. I want to move people." After playing Detroit Pride and LA music festival "EVITA" among others, Radio has had ample time to perfect this fantasy.
Overall, it seems like Boy Radio is not interested in getting his 15 minutes of fame, but rather in making music that holds a lasting impact. He says, "People not knowing exactly who I am is great to me, because it puts me in the category of fantasy… it allows me to make Boy Radio a character where I can do anything I want with." With his effortless ability to defy labels and dedication to pushing the boundaries of fantasy in his performances, it's clear that Boy Radio will be worth paying attention to.