Brian Justin Crum: Somebody to love

Singer/songwriter Brian Justin Crum
Singer/songwriter Brian Justin Crum

Brian Justin Crum’s cover of “Somebody to Love” was engaging

About two years ago, singer/songwriter Brian Justin Crum walked onto the stage of America’s Got Talent and melted the hearts of thousands with his cover of “Somebody to Love.” With an adorable demeanor, engaging spirit, and outstandingly beautiful voice, this singer gripped audiences over and over again with his extraordinary gifts. Then, this year during America’s Got Talent: The Champions, Brian returned again and delivered just as his listeners anticipated, crushing popular covers, reinventing songs we’ve been listening to for ages.

Singer/songwriter Brian Justin Crum
Singer/songwriter Brian Justin Crum

We’ve all seen it. And we have all been blown away countless times by the Carrie Underwoods and Susan Boyles of our world, people that make even a guarded Simon Cowell rise to his feet in awestruck admiration of a contestant’s talent. Actually, we see them so often that I’ve almost nearly stopped bursting into tears, mascara running down my beard. I’ve been desensitized, I’ve been dried up. I’ve been rubbed raw. Well. Until Brian Justin Crum.

Tell us about your style. Your PR photos are awesome, what inspired them?

Brian Justin Crum: This past year has really been an exploration of me. I grew up in musical theater, and I always had a very different idea about what I needed to look like. What my hair needed to look like, what my voice needed to sound like, how butch I needed to be. You know, I’m in my thirties now and fuck it! I want to have fun, and I want my outsides to look the way my insides feel. You know, I love fashion, and I love that I am in a position where I can tell a story through a garment that I’m wearing. I can make a political statement with a garment that I’m wearing. Fashion to me is just about being playful, and not taking yourself too seriously.

Listening to your auditions on AGT is an experience that floods listeners with emotion. Your ability to bring listeners on a journey is pretty awe inspiring. Where would you say your ability to connect to your audience comes from?

BJC: I’m going to have to take it back to that musical theater training again. From the time I was probably six years old, I was told that having a good voice was not enough. You needed to be able to convey a story. From a very young age, I started reading songs as if they were poems and talking them aloud before I ever tried to sing them. This way, I could really understand where I’m at, where that song and where that moment sits into my experience as a gay man, as a White man. You know what I mean? My vision could be very skewed towards the privilege that I have. So I like to speak and read things, then I’ll just pour my heart out. That’s my life. That’s my form of therapy. Just to be able to like get lost in its arms.

“Simons Eyes” during your “Never Enough” audition in particular was chilling, what went through your heart and mind after that experience?

Singer/songwriter Brian Justin Crum
Singer/songwriter Brian Justin Crum

BJC: From what you saw on television and what actually happened, there were significant amounts of the song cut from the beginning, from when I actually performed live. It was the first time I took one of my ear pieces out right before I started to hear the audience’s reaction. It was probably the most connected I’ve ever felt to an audience before. The song is epic. That moment of the song [where Simon reacted] was really that moment for me. It was an inspired moment, and I just completely got lost in it, I’ll never forget it. I felt so much love coming at me. It was really amazing.

Bullying is a common narrative in your journey. What messages can you bring to our community, who, especially in today’s world, are being discriminated against?

BJC: It’s poison that we have in our culture, and in our human race. It’s so sad, and I can’t even fathom what it must be like in school nowadays, thousands of people can come at you online and send you hateful messages. I did this interview the other day and I got asked a question that was kind of similar. What I said was, “wow, there is all of those negative sides to social media.” There is the positive, but you can find your tribe in a much more extended way. I think there’s so many LGBT kids out there who are finding these communities online supporting them through Facebook and Instagram. Groups of people are finding each other, and I think that it’s so awesome having a community. I didn’t have that growing up near or far. I think that it is something special, really dig into it, and find your people out there. There is so much support for you.

Self image can be a haunting part of the LGBTQ community, I’d dare say with men especially. You are absolutely stunning, but you mentioned your struggle with your image at a young age. Tell us more about that growth.

BJC: I was overweight growing up. I was very effeminate. So, I was definitely an easy target for kids around me, especially where I live. In Los Angeles, it’s like a currency, looking a certain way, and within the gay community it’s an absolutely unexcused currency. But that goes back to making sure that you’re surrounding yourself with the right tribe, with the people who want the best for you. It’s sad that it’s such a huge part of our community. But it is there, and there are so many wonderful, wonderful people out there who need family. Find your people!

Your relationship with your mother is wonderful. She mentioned in a previous interview that you always just “wanted to be loved.” We can all echo that need for love. How would you encourage others who are seeking fullness and love in their lives?

Singer/songwriter Brian Justin Crum
Singer/songwriter Brian Justin Crum

BJC: I’m lucky that I had such a supportive family growing up. My being gay was never an issue. It’s so heartbreaking that that happens in families, it can be so hard. It’s like RuPaul tells us! Being queer, we get to choose our family. That is something that’s so beautiful about it.

What about our younger generation? How do you feel about your younger following?

BJC: Performing at Philly Pride, there were so many young kids in the audience. I call them my little queer babies, 12 and 13 year olds. I had a moment, I stopped and realized that this is the reason that I do what I do, for these people standing in front of me right now in this moment. It was really special

What other artists inspire your work as a singer?

BJC: My favorites currently are Lady Gaga, Sia, and Demi Lovato. I love a singer. A singer. But my inspiration growing up was Barbra Streisand, George Michael, Freddie Mercury, and Whitney Houston.

Tell us about your new single “I&U.” It’s beautiful! What should we know about this song?

BJC: It’s such a fun song. But I can’t just be fun. I have to tell a story always. This song is something that I’ve struggled with in the past about being in toxic relationships that I’ve held on too long for, because I just wanted to make it work. And then it doesn’t work. You finally let it go, and then all you do is want it back. The song is about that inner turmoil that we go through in relationships where we almost become addicted to each other. The song is fun and light hearted, but it also has a deep, meaningful message. I’m so excited about the video. It’s really the first time in a video I have felt strong enough to let my freak flag fly. It’s a nod to George Michael’s, “I Want Your Sex” and “Freedom.” I think people are really going to love it.

What’s next for you and how do we keep in touch?

BJC: I’m going to be traveling a ton, some more Pride gigs to do. Then I’m going on tour in the fall doing a really fun job with Princess Cruise lines. There are a lot of fun things coming up, and you can follow me on all platforms @BrianJustinCrum to kind of see where I’ll be.

Johnny Walsh is Out In Jersey’s special features editor. He is a pianist, writer, and entrepreneur who has performed in over 20 states and two countries. Johnny is passionate about human rights, creativity, and the arts, and longs for the sentiment of social justice to flow through his writing.