07/17/2013 03:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Age Is a Trophy, So Why Do We Lie?


I'm 29. No, seriously. And in September I'll be 30. This is supposed to be a "double death" for me as both a musician and a gay man, but unlike so many who turn 29 over and over again (or worse, 18), I plan to lean into this.

Search engines suggest popular phrases as you type in your request. When entering my name, the fourth suggestion is "Brett Gleason age," not one of my songs, videos or articles. Similarly, the first paragraph of an artist bio or press release is rarely about the music and almost always about the person. Art and entertainment have become a cult of personality, and before anyone takes an interest in my work, they need to know me personally and, as humans are wont to do, compare, contrast and contextualize.

It's no secret that youth and beauty are highly valued in our culture, but with youthful beauty often come immaturity, inexperience and even ineptitude. Still, a press release will list being 17 as a selling point in itself, driving a seasoned artist to hide the persistence, drive and strength that earned them a fully developed viewpoint with a chance to make nuanced art that resonates.

When I first "came out" as an aspiring rocker, I justified this ambition by saying that if I didn't have success by 25, I'd go back to grad school and get a "real job." Of course, life gets in the way, and I didn't release a single song until I was 26. I now realize that if I'd truly believed the maxim that musicians succeed in their youth or not at all, I'd have been too intimidated to even try.

Looking back, I'm fortunate not to have had success as such a young man. My early 20s were a series of experiments, personally and artistically; were I to succeed, it would've been a hollow victory, more an imitation than a reflection of who I really am. Of course, I'd have loved success, notoriety and a large audience, but instead I remained in obscurity to figure out who I am, a luxury the young and successful don't have.

Now as I complete the latter half of this formative decade, I realize what an important time it's been as an artist and a human. Beyond allowing me to come to an understanding and acceptance of who I am, it's allowed me to build my confidence so that I can assert this changing self in the moment and respond naturally without regard to the comments and criticisms I may inspire. Rejection hardly touches me now, as I know that tomorrow will bury that review but not this self.

With 30 less than two months away, I'm only now preparing to release my first full-length record, and I'm grateful to have the chance to do so. I may not have reached the levels of success, respect and notoriety of Jim Morisson, Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix, but I've already outlived them, and that's an accomplishment in its own right, one that will give me the opportunity for many others.

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