Fancy Hagood, post-Republic, gets real

“Who is Fancy” is a name that’s long been familiar to Nashville’s LGBTQ millennials. He’s charted two songs on the pop charts, one a trio with Ariana Grande and Meghan Trainor. Signed to Republic Records until very recently, his career has gotten off to a fantastic start, and he’s been writing with all sorts, including the likes of Bob DiPiero. How does that happen?

He’s kind of a local. A small town kid from Arkansas, Jake Hagood started going by the pseudonym Fancy while attending Trevecca Nazarene University in the late 2000’s. He was discovered by Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta, along with the now infamous Dr. Luke. They went to Republic Records with a strange idea: They wanted to produce him, but keep his identity under wraps. This uncommon tactic proved successful in building his brand.

Since then he’s performed at Nashville Pride in 2015 and Kentuckiana Pride this year. He’s performed live on Dancing with The Stars, as well as several national media outlets, including when he finally revealed his identity on Jimmy Fallon. Now 25, he’s still a writer with Big Machine Records but he’s recording his own music, on his own terms.

When we met for cocktails at the beautiful new club, ‘Old Glory,’ in historic Edgefield, we started with the obvious: “Who is Fancy”?

“I’ve been going as Fancy for about six years now, so it’s just what people know me as,” Hagood explained, “especially in Nashville in the music scene. My family still calls me by me ‘real’ name, which is Jake.”

When asked, “So you are Fancy?” he replied, “100% Fancy,” sounding almost like he was coming out of the closet. The “Who Is” part was another matter. “That was something that happened outside of my control. My goal, when I became Fancy, was to be Fancy Hagood the whole time. I never wanted to change my name [from Fancy]. I never wanted to have a pseudonym artist project. But it fell in my lap and I ran with it. It worked out for my first single. It just kind of is what it is. But I don’t want that. The whole name positions itself to say that I don’t know who I am. The whole reason I became Fancy was because I know exactly who I am. I want people to know that it’s not just some sort of adjective I describe myself as; it’s my name. It’s what I go by. From here on out, we’re transitioning out of the ‘Who Is Fancy’ right into Fancy. Fancy Hagood.”

While Hagood appreciates the opportunity his two years signed with Republic gave him, he’s ready to embrace that self-knowledge and move to the next stage in his career. “I know who I am, I know what I have to say, I know what my purpose on this earth is. I want to chase that. I want to pursue that. I want to be myself fully. That’s why I became Fancy. So I’m not willing to give in to ‘what will work for the hetero norm’ or ‘what will work for middle America’ or what will work for anyone else other than me. I do this for me. I do music because it makes me happy and fulfilled.”

Now that he’s moving on after separating from Republic Records, Hagood will speak more uniquely out of his own experience. “Music transcends into people’s lives. I’m a bigger dude, I’m openly gay … there are so many things people see as an obstacle, but for me I find empowering,” he explained. “I love my body, I love who I am, I love what I represent. I love writing about my experiences, and my experiences range far and wide. From being in love, to just have sexual experiences, partying and going out, whatever…”

Being the person he is, Hagood has faith in his audiences. “I think there’s people that will connect and really like the new music because it’s me being authentic to myself,” he said. “’Goodbye’ was a heartbreak song and I loved it. And ‘Boys Like You’ is a fun song, and I wrote both of those. But this album I’m putting together explores my journey of coming into myself; mind, body, soul. That’s a story I wasn’t allowed to tell before.”

Bothered by that, I asked him if he felt like his former record label had suppressed him.

“I think everyone is just doing their best to do what they know how to do. I’m walking in unchartered territory. I’m an openly gay artist, and I am not ambiguous. I will never be ambiguous; my pronouns are very specific. If I’m singing about a boy I slept with, I’m singing about the boy I slept with. There’s no reason for me to say ‘they’ or ‘you’ or ‘blah.’”

This is important to Hagood because he wants ‘boys like him,’ who grew up in Arkansas or Mississippi or other places where being gay still is not being accepted to hear music they can relate to directly. “Trans people have to be worried about where they use the *restroom*?” he asked incredulously. “There are still people out there who are facing discrimination and still facing being different and being punished for it. I know what that’s like, I grew up in that. And the thing is, I want them to look at the music charts and see someone like me and know that there is another side.”

Hagood recognizes that labels have formulas for success that work, but they restrict the kinds of music different kind of artists can perform. “They’ve never done this,” he said. So from the label’s perspective, “It’s not about people trying to make you one way or the other, they were just trying to do what they knew how to do. It’s not a negative situation. If they wanted to hold me up, I would not be out of my contract,” he explained. “They’re allowing me to be the artist I want to be the artist I want to be by letting me go. I’m still in contact with the majority of the people I worked with. It was not a negative split, it wasn’t dirty, there was no foul play, it just was what it was.”

His time at his label ended amicably, and gave him a lot of experience and exposure, Hagood recognized. “I’m grateful for those experiences, for launching my platform in ways I never thought possible. I’m just excited to keep growing that and working from that. My foundation is set. I know who I am, I know the music, I have learned a lot from being signed and unsigned. The game is a lot different now for me. And that’s something I’m grateful for.”

Circling back around to that first single, which so successfully capitalized on the anonymous artist mystery… If you’ve never seen the videos, there are three different versions, with different actors portraying Fancy—including an African American woman who transforms into something like to Effie in Dreamgirls, a transwoman who transforms into a Hispanic version of Brad Paisley, and a Justin Beiber lookalike who gets put in a suit to cover his tattoos. All three videos are exactly the same, except for the leading lip-synchers. A fourth video that was shot of Fancy himself performing the song was never released.

“They decided after the videos came out that they wanted to continue that mystery a little longer, which honestly worked in my favor. My song continued to go up the chart with people wondering who I was,” he said. “Like it became a buzzworthy thing amongst pop fans and radio listeners. I had a Top 40 hit with my first single right out of the gate.”

Artistically, each of the stand-ins represent a part of Hagood as well. “I’m kind of like a street kid in Nashville,” he said. “I like to party, I like to hang out, and I feel with a name like Fancy, people expect you to be straight laced and buttoned up and perfect. That’s never been me and it never will be me, so each character in these videos were just a representation of how I felt about myself. It gave people the opportunity to see pieces of who I am without actually laying eyes on me.”

“I wear makeup, full face makeup most of the time. I like wearing kimonos, I like sequins, I like my nails being done,” he added. “And you know, where I come from in Arkansas, that is considered abnormal. So I wanted someone like that flirted with that masculine/feminine line. And then, one of the actresses, her name was Octavia, she’s a bigger girl. That’s always something I’ve struggled with—weight and body image—so she was one of the characters. And the skinny kid, he came in with his tattoos.”

Shifting to his new music, I was very curious as to what he had up his sequined sleeves.

“I’ve come up with a concept for my record and what I want it to be. It’s a lot of things I was told I’m not supposed to be or they can’t sell or won’t work. So I’m not afraid. I’m being true to myself. I mean we’re both gay boys, we know the life of Grindr, Scruff, and Tinder… Like all these different things are experiences that I have gone through. For better or worse, I’ve learned from them, I’ve grown from them,” he explained. “I’ve had this whole sexual awakening since I’ve come out of the closet. I grew up in a very religious, Christian home where sex was always something to be ashamed of, therefore sexuality was always something to be ashamed of, therefore my identity in my sexuality was shameful.”

Coming out has allowed Hagood to free himself, and that drives the music. “The whole sexual aspect is something I want to come across in my album. Just like I said earlier, these kids growing up in bum-f—king-Egypt, like so many of the rest of us… I just want those kids to know that there are no limits. You are not who they say you are. You are what you decide you are.” Then he added, “And for so long, I listened to so many people about my identity and who I am and what my worth was. And like I said earlier, I love who I am. I love my body, I love my friends, I love the things I do, I love my music. I want this album to embody all of those things. Confidence, sexuality.”

Hagood then reflected on the double standard about sexuality in music for people like him. “Artists like Beyoncé and Rhianna, even the Pussycat Dolls, who are one of my favorite bands of all time, are all encouraged to be sexual and to flaunt it and to put it out there. But then I’m told, ‘That’s not going to work,’ or ‘You’re the boy next door, let’s not go that route.’ I am NOT the boy next door. Like if I’m the boy next door, I’m the boy next door who slept with your husband, boo. It’s just a fact.”

“This album is very raw and unedited. It’s very sexual,” he said. “Carnal is the word I’ve been using to describe it. It’s going there. It’s almost like my little black book. There’s one song on the album, the most controversial song on the record, it’s probably my favorite. It’s dirty, it’s crazy, and people are not going to believe it’s me saying it, but it’s straight up taken from a page out of my diary.”

I can attest that the song will seriously turn heads and get some folks talking. If the little preview he gave me is any indication of the rest of the album, it’ll make Adam Lambert’s For Your Entertainment look like a church skit. I know I’ll be a very happy customer when I get the chance to buy this album. So watch this space, because Fancy Hagood is going to make a huge splash with this new project.





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