Moving forward is the theme of blue-eyed R&B looker Ari Gold’s third independent release and never was an album so aptly named.

Transport Systems is a pop music masterpiece chock full of grooving rhythms that are equal part modern pop and classic R&B. This is without a doubt Gold’s most ambitious project yet. Like the first single suggests, Gold seems truly dedicate with this album to Go Where the Music Takes You no matter if it’s in a direction that is indefinite or scary.

Gold’s upbeat attitude and powerful presence is at the forefront of every track no matter what the subject matter involved. Standout tracks on the album include the innovative Mr. Mistress and the funky anthem Soul Killer. Ari Gold is at the top of his game with Transport Systems and it will be a great experience seeing what he manages to come up with next.

Recently, Ari spoke with O&AN about Transport Systems.

O&AN: How do you feel Transport Systems stands out most from your previous album Space Under Sun?

AG: Space Under Sun was really about me trying to find my own space and my place in the world as an openly gay pop artist. I felt like it really spoke to where we were in general as gay people. We were starting to see a lot greater visibility as we started to appear in television and movies and so forth, and I really felt like that was a period of trying to find our space in the world and where we fit in as a people.

WithTransport Systems I’m pointing out how it seems like things have really shifted gears into a mindset of how do we move forward from here within this new space that we have carved out for ourselves. We still have such a long way to go and we can’t afford to sit still. We still have to fight for basic human rights. I’m also asking how we can move forward as a community as far as letting go of some of that internalized pain a lot of us still are dealing with. So many of us had childhoods that made us feel like it was not okay to be gay,  how can we learn to more trust and accept ourselves for who we are because the more comfortable we are with ourselves the more open the world is going to be toward us?

O&AN: You are to my knowledge the first ever openly gay R&B artist as well as being at the vanguard of a movement of out performers that are really starting to come into their own in the mainstream world while still maintaining indie cred. How do you manage to balance this sort of “Brave New World” experience with your humble upbringing in the Bronx?

AG: It’s interesting because I am just now starting to get to a point where I’m really starting to own the thought that I am a sort of trailblazer. It really never struck me fully until recently because I was always just doing what came natural. I wasn’t trying to be the first. I was just doing the best I knew how.

It really makes me proud to know that the work that I am doing may be making the way that much easier for the next gay boy who wants to do what I’m doing without compromising who and what he is. I like to think of myself as very down to earth. I started at an early age singing and preparing for a career in music and I really think that the years of experience working as a professional singer gave me the strength to make it to this point. I always knew that I would be a performer. I had already been writing music since I was about fourteen years old, and I always wrote from my personal experience. When I came out, I had to continue to do that so I wrote about being gay. It was very important for me to be outspoken about my sexuality so my music always heavily reflected that part of me.

O&AN: On the same token, you also seem to draw a lot of criticism from some corners for being gay and Jewish as well as being a popular R&B artist. Is that difficult for you?

AG: I realize that sometimes I may make people uncomfortable because they see themselves reflected back in my image and in that sense I tend to become their whipping boy because I make them squirm a little inside.

It’s funny because there are some people who have a much easier time worshiping someone like Madonna than to just be themselves, and I feel like I sometimes make people face that and it can be a hard thing to look at in the eye. There are a few new out Jewish artists popping up who have come up to me and told me that I was an inspiration to them.

Musicians and non musicians alike tell me all the time that I helped them decide to be themselves no matter what and it is so humbling. For someone to come out be they Jewish or not is a greatly affirming thing for anyone. That in and of itself makes any negativity I may draw more than worth the price. 

O&AN: As someone who comes from a heavily spiritual background who is now performing music that was kind of forged in the fires of deep spiritual roots, what influence if any do you feel spirituality has on your music now?

AG: I grew up Orthodox Jew but no longer practice. I still consider myself very spiritual and there is a strong spiritual connection to my music for me. I realize the spiritual roots of R&B and I think that coming from a deeply spiritual background, though different from the gospel roots of the deep south, uniquely informs my music as an R&B artist. I feel like my approach to life and therefore music is very deeply inspired by the reality of my existence and all that entails. I will always have the heritage that I grew up with so it can’t help but make its way into my art.

O&AN: What was it like growing up gay and an Orthodox Jew? It can’t have been an easy thing to endure. How did your family react once you finally came out?

AG: It was very difficult growing up gay and Orthodox because especially during the time I was coming up there was no room at all for being gay in the Orthodoxy. I thought that if anyone knew my secret I would be excommunicated from the community or my family might disown me. I really didn’t know what would happen.

Once I left for college I came out to my family shortly thereafter. They were initially very cool and their response was really great. It was really a process and a journey from there because it took some time for the reality to set in that their child was gay and what that meant and what they would have to deal with within the community.

Despite the difficulty my parents have made leaps and bounds and a tremendous amount of healing has happened over time. In many ways my album comes out of all that healing. My mother is over 70 years old so to see her growing and learning is an incredible thing. 

O&AN: One of the best tracks on the album is your collaboration with Smooth Jazz artist Dave Koz. To many that may seem like an unlikely pairing, but you made it work fabulously. What inspired you to approach Dave and include him in this project?
 
AG: When Dave Koz came out on the cover of the Advocate I read the interview and I knew right then that I wanted to work with him. People want to create these strict categories where everything is either Jazz or Smooth Jazz or R&B and so on, but what they fail to realize a lot of times is that the labels are all unimportant.

The music is all interrelated in lots of ways. Artists like Sade’ or Anita Baker are more than just Smooth Jazz or R&B. They transcend the genres because their music is so incredible. On that same note, Dave is an incredible musician and I love his work. The arena that he operates in as an established and well respected musician of over 20 years is well related to the one I do as an R&B and pop artist, so I felt like it was a natural fit from the start. I hounded him a little bit about it until he finally caved in.

Once it was all done he admitted to me he was glad he did it. He said he was glad I was a pushy Jew about it. He’s Jewish too, so he can say that. *Laughs* In all truth I cried some real man tears when I first heard him play on the record because it was a vision I had nursed for about two years finally coming to fruition, and it was incredible for me as an out indie musician to be so incredibly honored by someone of his stature.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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