Chicago-based gay singer/songwriter Scott Free has a lot to celebrate. He continues to rack up awards and honors, most recently as 2009 Outmusician of the Year at the Outmusic Awards. His “Happy Again” video hit the Top 10 Videos of 2009 on Logo’s The Click List.
Not resting on his laurels, Free is busy preparing for the 10th anniversary performance of his ALT Q festival in Chicago. Since its inception 10 years ago, Free has presented a diverse array of performers, including Jill Sobule, Grant Hart (ex-Husker Du), Tyson Meade (ex-Chainsaw Kittens), Cris Williamson, Dudley Saunders, Ferron, Dylan Rice with Styx’s Chuck Panozzo, and even yours truly. Free also is gearing up for his appearance at Milwaukee PrideFest in June.
Gregg Shapiro: How has the ALT Q festival managed to last so long?
Scott Free: The show has gained a reputation for high quality performances, and that’s probably what brings in the crowds every year. That’s the fun part of the ALT Q festival – the joy of new musical discoveries (laughs)!
GS: What is your process for selecting performers?
SF: Many of the performers have played my Homolatte series – a place where I get to have my own musical discoveries. I also try to have a few music “coups,” like bringing in Phranc, who had not played a Chicago gig in probably 15 years. Also, unique performers like Blackberri or Bitch and Animal have always made it a very interesting evening (laughs).
GS: What are a couple of your fondest ALT Q memories?
SF: Certainly bringing ... together Ferron and Bitch was a beautiful moment. I also loved Chris Garneau’s performance, with his duo of cellos – he pulled out the stops for that show!
GS: This year’s ALT Q show has a trans heavy line-up, featuring Actor Slash Model, Namoli Brennet and Coyote Grace.
SF: You know, I didn’t plan that at all. ... I’m just tapping into the energy of the live, acoustic music scene in the community right now. I have had more trans or genderqueer performers at Homolatte in the past year than I have in the last 10 years. But of course, in the end, it’s the talent of the performers that counts.
GS: 2009 proved to be quite a year for you professionally. The video for your song “Happy Again” was in heavy rotation on Logo’s The Click List and even made it into its Top 10 Videos of 2009. What did that mean to you?
SF: That was incredible! I charted (there) for about three months, which meant that lots of folks saw the video. I got responses from people all over the country about how much they either liked the song, or were moved by ... the video. Of course, making the Top 10 Videos of 2009 was beyond belief (laughs).
GS: You also received the 2009 Outmusician of the Year Award from Outmusic for your song “Free.”
SF: That award is especially gratifying for me. … It is so satisfying to know that both what you do as an artist and what you do for the community is truly appreciated. …For us to be successful as artists in the GLBTQI community, we have to be in this together. We have to support each other. I see it so strikingly here in Chicago with Cake Chicago, the Flesh Hungry Dog Show, Sappho’s Salon, T-OUT Mic – all of the wonderful live music events that help to maintain a vibrant queer music community.
GS: You will be playing on June 13 as part of the Milwaukee PrideFest line-up, an event at which you are a regular performer.
SF: Milwaukee PrideFest always has an amazing line-up of queer musicians and bands. It is, without a doubt, one of the premier queer live music events in the country. For this performance, I have revived my Scott Free Trio, which ... is actually a punk band (laughs). Jenny Urban is on drums and Marvin Astorga is on bass. I’m thrilled to be performing again in that setting.
GS: Have you begun working on your next album?
SF: I’m only in the beginning stages of writing, but I will say I’m writing two completely separate albums that I may be releasing simultaneously – but that’s still a ways off. The next thing that you’ll hear from me is a single (and hopefully video) ... with a gay rapper out of New York named Lester Greene. My last CD “The Pink Album (A Pop Opera)” was a very serious project, so it’s time to have a little fun (laughs).