With the upcoming release of his first studio album, Nashville's Gordon Roque is a busy guy. But the out-and-proud singer/songwriter/musician still finds time to perform shows and get in some philanthropy on the side.

He is hosting a release party for his record, "Seahorses," at 3rd and Lindsley on Nov. 24th, and plans to donate a large portion of the proceeds to One-in-Teen Youth Services (OIT), a Nashville group which provides a safe space for GLBT and questioning youth. 

Roque said he wants to honor to the work that they do, and to come full-circle with his youth.  Without programs like One-in-Teen, some young people may not have anyone to turn to, Roque said.

During his coming out process in Charlotte, N.C., Roque found solace in Time Out Youth, a group similar to OIT. After a few nervous phone calls to the group's leaders, he made it to a meeting and continued to attend meetings until he surpassed the age limit. Then, group leaders asked him to stay on as an advisor. Roque was honored.

He said Time Out Youth enabled Roque to blossom into his true self.

“I went from a shy little wallflower to somebody who is outspoken and less afraid of himself," Roque said.

The group also helped him realize the importance of community among GLBT people.

Art imitates life

“Seahorses” is a record full of melodic stories about love, friendship and dreams and is full of songs that will tell you the life story of a young man coming to be, coming to love and coming out.

It is remniscent of artists such as Tori Amos, Sara McLaughlin, and Rachael Sage.  The difference here is that Roque is a gay man singing songs and writing stories that other gay men can relate to without switching pronouns.  

Inspired by his tumultuous coming out process, many of Roque's songs will resonate with other GLBT people.  Hardship and loss are recurring themes in many of the songs on “Seahorses” because they are often emotions that we face in our lives. 

“Pale Sunshine” is a cello and piano ballad about a boy that changed Roque. 

“He was luminous,” Roque said. Meeting the pale sunshine boy taught him that he was able to love someone deeply.

Behind the music

Roque was born in the Philippines, then moved to Samoa where he frolicked on the palm covered beaches of a child’s paradise. When he moved to the U.S. as a teenager, he experienced great culture shock.  During his teen years he found his talent for writing poetry and then began learning how to put his words to music. 

After moving to Charlotte, Gordon started playing coffee houses and became part of the local music scene.  You could never tell by listening to “Seahorses”, but he has only had two years of formal lessons on the piano.  His playing has the depth of a young master pianist. 

There was a time that he thought that he could just live a life that would be considered normal, meaning a job and home, but he wanted to do something that he really loved. 
With some members of his family living in Hermitage, Gordon decided to take his new found talents to Music City. 

“This place is saturated with musicians," Roque said. "Your bartender, your bathroom attendant - it’s insane.” 

While in Nashville he has been able to play with other musicians and share ideas.  

“Making the music as original as it can be is extremely important,” Gordon said. “If it sounds good to me that’s all that matters.”

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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