Five Questions with James Bradford

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

PGC: How did you get your start making music?

James Bradford: In my youth teachers made the mistake of consistently casting me as the lead in everything. It was a scary, chubby Rachel Berry moment. From there I couldn’t be stopped! The atypical musical theater journey ensued, but in my early teens I developed a taste for girl pop (Paula Abdul, Martika) and then later for people like Tori Amos and Bjork. When I was 19 I contacted music producer Richard Morel (of DC’s “Blowoff,” co-hosted by Bob Mould) and paid him to record a 4 track demo with me. He signed me to a very small label he was starting and put 10 grand into an album that we never finished. An awesome, awesome album – part of which I ended up selling to the producers of “Dante’s Cove”. So the moral of the story, I think, is: don’t ever give up, because there will always be vampire themed softcore porno that needs background noise!

PGC: What’s your Fringe show all about?

JB: The show is dedicated to the women of comedy who have changed my life and influenced me. Us gay boys love our divas, but it’s the Sandra Bernhards and Jennifer Saunderses of the world that have meant the most to me. So the show, specifically dedicated to Sandra, is stylistically a tribute to her. Three really great comediennes have also contributed to the show. Julie Klausner and Natasha Vargas-Cooper have given me the opportunity to perform some of their genius writing, and Nadya Ginsburg is contributing something very very special.

The show is a combination of stories connected by live music
with my band The Mana-Manas. The stories come from my own life, but I didn’t want it to be… do you remember that episode of Friends where Alex Borstein comes out on stage at the show they’re seeing and screams “WHY DON’T YOU LIKE ME? Chapter One: My First Period!” I wanted my show to be the opposite of that. It’s all lighthearted, raucous and funny stories about some sometimes serious topics. With Madonna songs! Maybe.

PGC: What’s your collaboration process with Toshio like?

JB: Usually I complain about my life for 2 1/2 hours and then we spend ten minutes composing. Toshio and I have been working together for nearly 6 years, ever since we filmed “Can’t Get a Date” together. He is a musical wizard: he can play every instrument ever invented. Seriously, I once saw him pick up a hand carved Ocarina and bust out a jam. I didn’t even know that was a real thing; I thought it was invented for the Zelda games. Toshio calls us a gay Tuck and Patti, and I pretend to know what that means. I can come to him with anything. I can say “I want to cover this Paula Abdul song, but her version sounds like triangles and I want ours to sound like a trapezoid” and he knows exactly what I mean.

PGC: How do you decide which stories to share with people?

JB: The thing about funny stories is that it’s not the same as telling jokes. If you tell a story about something blatantly funny, it gets a laugh, but everybody knows real comedy comes
from pain. If I’m telling a story about someone who broke my heart, or being bullied as a teen in Louisiana, or punching Debbie Gibson in the face (all in the show!) and I can find a way to make it hilarious, I think that’s a much better experience. It’s maybe a little bit smarter, too. And I truly believe every story in life has a song that goes with it. So choosing the right song was an organic process. Which, by the way, is such a great set of words, because isn’t ‘processed’ the opposite of ‘organic’? Hmm. That might be a great segue into hitting on that cashier at Whole Foods…

PGC: Tell us about a memorable experience you’ve had performing for people.

JB: Doing that final live gig at The Duplex, the one they filmed for the reality show, was pretty epic. My episode of CGAD had something like triple the budget of all the other episodes. So there I am with Toshio and two other musicians with whom we’ve spent (it felt like) 48 hours straight rehearsing for this last minute televised concert. Plus The Duplex is just this legendary cabaret space in the middle of homo-central in Greenwich Village. Seriously, there is no amount of sage smudge sticks to scare away the ghosts of the drag queens and lounge singers who haunt that amazing venue. The audience is packed with a TV crew, industry people, friends and fans… and nothing went wrong. Every song was spot on, everyone was hugely receptive. I told an UPROARIOUS Paris Hilton joke *and* convinced the audience that Lisa Loeb was there. It was such an exhilirating high, and then I left with the camera crew (at 1AM) and went straight to an eatery and proceeded to have the worst date of my entire life. Guess which of these two things got the most air time?

“James Bradford is… THICK” will be playing at TABU [200 S. 12th Street] Show Dates: September 13th and 14th. Doors open at 8PM, show starts at 9:00

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