Our Lady J has made headlines by befriending "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe (and causing a scandal while doing it), raising money for her breast surgery by playing "Boob Aid" fundraising concerts and staging her brilliant "Gospel of Dolly" all-Dolly Parton cover shows.
A regular in the downtown NYC music and art scene, she moved to L.A. last year to record her first album and has been playing shows all over the city to test out new material.
Last week she released a live video of one of her new songs, "We Stand." Fans who haven't caught one of her more recent shows and who are only familiar with her piano and gospel choir-based songs may be a bit surprised to hear the new more electronic direction she's headed in, but we can't get enough of it.
We chatted briefly with Our Lady J to find out more about the origins of "We Stand," her upcoming album, writing about being transgender and more.
After you read the interview, have a listen to "We Stand" (above) and if you can stop yourself from hitting "replay," head over to her official website and follow her on Twitter for more info and upcoming show dates.
The Huffington Post: You've been known for your more singer-songwriter/piano-based music. What triggered the move towards electronic music?
Our Lady J: Although my training, my love, and most of my career has been in classical and acoustic music, I've learned to embrace technology. As a transexual and as a person living with HIV, it's the thing that keeps me alive. Every cell in my body has been modified by science and I'm partially made up of plastic. I am quite literally a modern android. And yet I'm a living being with a soul. I wanted to convey that in my music, so I employ a combination of acoustic and electronic instruments. I'm exploring that place where our inherent spiritual nature meets our modern desire for the artificial and supernatural. I call it "SPACEAGE WITCHCRAFT."
Where did "We Stand" come from?
"We Stand" is about the power of two, how 1 + 1 = 3. I wrote it while riding a bus down Hollywood Boulevard! [Laughs] I hadn't gotten my driver's license yet, and it was too late at night to be riding my bike. (I now have my license, like a proper California girl.)
Many gay and/or trans artists say that their sexual or gender identities have little to do with their art, but in your case, trans themes seem to be prevalent. Do you think this is a fair reading, and if so, why do you include these themes?
When artists say that identity politics have "little to do with our art," it's really just a nice way of saying "let's not scare away the mortals" -- a valid point when an artist's survival could be threatened by the majority's limited exposure to the minority. The reality is that our sexual and gender identities do influence what we create, because everything in our lives influences our artistic output (unless we're completely splintered sociopaths). I publicly admit that my experience as a transgender person influences my music, purely for the fact that there are so few trans role models out there for the younger generation. I was starving for these role models when I was a kid, and the lack of positive media exposure for the queer community nearly prevented me from getting to where I am today. But to say that my music is only trans themed isn't accurate. Everyone can relate to the search for our true identities, which is what I'm really singing about.
Your debut album is coming out sometime in the next few months -- what can we expect?
I'm finishing up my album as we speak and hope for an end of year release. There will be this electronic/acoustic fusion on some tracks, and live orchestra and gospel choir on others. Whether orchestral or electronic, they are all piano-based songs about beauty, love and survival. I think it represents the smorgasbord of sounds and stories that you hear at my live shows.