Chris Burke to release new album

Chris Burke is one of the many talented musicians trying to make their way in Nashville’s music scene, but his music and his story are anything but your typical Nashville tales of country music failure or fame. Of course, being an out gay man who described his style in a previous interview as “smooth pop/soul with an edge—eclectic electro-soul,” how could it be typical?

Burke came out when he was quite young. “So, I came out to my friends when I was sixteen and to my family when I was 17,” he said. “It was around 1991–92 when that happened, so it was a totally different time in the world.” It was in fact a hard time to come out, but Burke seems to have had an easier time of it than many. “I had a truly amazing coming out process, and I will always consider myself blessed with the acceptance of all of my family and friends.”

In 2003 Burke garnered national attention from his appearance on The Today Show’s special program, “Today Show Superstars.” Burke told blog Let the Beat Hit You!, “I was surprised by Katie Couric and a news crew in the grocery store cheese department at 8:30 a.m. and was on a plane that night and on the show the next morning. They shipped me back and forth a couple times …  so it was quite a whirlwind… Hearing stewardesses on the airplane whisper about who I was, and then having a woman yell over a very crowded La Guardia airport “You were robbed!!” when I had been cut from the show are probably some of my most fun memories…. And, it certainly lit a fire inside me that has never gone out.”

As a burgeoning musician, challenges would await Burke. “When I was really starting to try to pull it together and figure out who I was as an artist, it wasn't like it is now with regard to gay people and being gay in the public eye. I was warned by an older lesbian friend and manager not to be 'out' as an artist so I wasn't stuck and labeled as a 'gay artist.' So, I never proclaimed to be straight, but I never proclaimed myself a gay artist either.”

This led to some missed opportunities for the young gay musician. “As a result, I turned down many offers to perform at Pride events and other 'gay' shows,” Burke explained. “As the times have changed, however, I see that I could have embraced it more as I began this path to becoming the artist I am now, instead of trying to find ways to make everyone else more comfortable with my gay-ness! I have never fought against it, though, and have always felt a part of a larger gay community.”

Feeling a part of that community has at times been more difficult. Besides the missed opportunities in his career that might have opened up the gay community, “And, honestly, when I moved to Nashville from Atlanta in 2005, the gay community at the time felt a little disjointed and scattered. Gay people had been battered and bruised simply because of who they were, and finding a feeling of community was much more difficult then.”

“As times have changed, however, so has the gay community and of course things are so different now. Pride has finally become the celebration it should be and people are so much more comfortable being exactly who they are and being proud of their differences instead of scared by them. So, yes, I do think I missed out on being a 'role model' in the public eye as a gay artist [in the early 2000s], but again, I was more concerned about making people comfortable and fitting into the larger world as opposed to the gay community.”

Burke does however pride himself on having “never once denied being gay.” And he did, even when he wasn’t proclaiming himself a “gay musician,” engage the community. “I was very much able to offer my services and engage the LGBT community in other ways. There is a group in Atlanta called Chris Kids that houses and takes care of gay kids from around the country that have either been kicked out or driven out because they came out as gay. I was able to offer my voice and face and time to many of their projects while I was there in Atlanta and for many years after.” The moment of fame he enjoyed in 2003, he added, helped him “shed more light on the amazing things that Chris Kids was doing for gay kids.”

Since moving to Nashville, Reid has released a number of albums and singles, including Chris Burke (2007), Everything (2010), “Roller Coaster Ride,” and Soul Music (2014). “I had a song of mine called “Roller Coaster Ride” included in the soundtrack for a very cool LGBT-themed movie called Birthday Cake. The movie made huge waves in the LGBT movie festival circuit.”

Burke is inaugurating 2016 by releasing his new album, I Can’t Make You Love Me – The Mike Reid Songbook, in January. “I began working with my producer, Bobby King, a couple years ago while playing in a wedding band and putting together my last album Soul Music, which he produced,” Burke said. “The first song we recorded, which ultimately got us excited about working together on both of these albums, was a song that Bonnie Raitt recorded on her Nick of Time album called “Too Soon to Tell.” The writer of that song is a Nashville guy named Mike Reid, whose best known and biggest hit was another song sung by Bonnie Raitt, “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

King and his wife, Ellen Britton, happened to be long-time friends with Reid, and they shared Burke’s version of “Too Soon to Tell” with him. “He LOVED it!” Burke said. “I still have an email he sent to Bobby about how much he loved our version!”

“So,” Burke explained, “we decided that his music and style fit well with the mixture of Bobby’s soulful production and my voice. Bobby and I decided to record Mike’s songbook, which included tracks made famous by Wynonna Judd, Ronnie Milsap, and Leroy Parnell, among others. Because we were able to work so closely with Mike, he also gave us a few gems that hadn’t ever been recorded by another artist. We also recorded ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ which is the title track and first single of the album…. It’s soulful and smooth, and it’s a perfect introduction to our twelve-song take on the Mike Reid songbook!”

Burke’s version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is already available on iTunes for download, and the full album will release in January. There will also be a CD release party and show on Wednesday, January 27 at 6 p.m. at Douglas Corner in Nashville.

For more on Burke and his music, visit chrisburkemusic.com and check out his YouTube channel, YouTube.com/ChrisBurkeMusic.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Joe Eats World

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