The following interview is compliments of Mike Bahr.
In his new song, Bad Years, Queer artist Kyle Motsinger reflects on the long and difficult road he has traveled in the pursuit of his rock star dreams.
Kyle Motsinger was born and raised in the middle of cornfields in a small, conservative town outside Peoria, Illinois. “I grew up singing Broadway tunes by a tractor,” he remembers.
He moved to NYC after college, where he performed in Off-Broadway productions, and released two albums and several singles including “Dark Shadows”, based on the gothic sixties series and film by Tim Burton. The music video for the song starred Kathryn Leigh Scott from the series and premiered to much fan acclaim at the Dark Shadows convention in Los Angeles.
As Kyle Motsinger approached his mid-thirties, he began to feel that he wasn’t where he wanted to be in life. He channeled that frustration into a batch of new songs that appear on his upcoming album. His latest single is “Bad Years,” and it muses on his life’s struggles and finding joy in conflict.
MB: What was it like growing up gay in Peoria?
KM: I had a good childhood but I was not out and dangerously uncool. I spent most of my time in theatre and pursuing brainy activities.
Things became more complicated as I discovered my sexuality and started forming my own world opinions.
MB: Why did you stay in Illinois for college?
KM: My family couldn’t afford to send me to a private university and a school out of Illinois was not an option. I went to a junior college, five minutes from my house, for my first year of college. I was scouted by Western Illinois University while singing a solo in Handel’s Messiah. I auditioned and got in on a scholarship the next fall, eventually graduating with a BFA in Musical Theatre.
How did you make your way to NYC?
After college, I visited NYC and it just felt like home. I knew I had to move there. Two girls – that I knew from community theatre – and I decided to make a move together.
MB: What was that first week like in NYC?
KM: I remember being so excited! I was living in Astoria, Queens, and feeling like an adult for the first time in my life. I wasn’t scared. I was determined!
MB: How did you establish yourself in the theater scene?
KM: I did several cabarets and showed up at open mics. That’s a whole community in itself. I started auditioning and within that first year, I met a casting director that believed in me and helped me to get my first Off-Broadway show in NYC.
MB: What was that?
KM: Fancy Nancy the Musical. It was based on popular children’s books. We recorded a cast album on Ghostlight Records and I toured with the show.
MB: What did you learn about yourself from performing on stage?
KM: I learned I have a great talent for acting a song. I can interpret a song and tell the story of it. That ability has carried over into my music.
MB: What led to your writing and recording your own songs?
KM: I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first song for a talent show in high school. Through college I wrote, although the songs weren’t very good. After Fancy Nancy closed, I decided to start writing about my own experiences and my own struggles. The floodgates opened and the songs poured out! Music took the focus of my creativity and I decided to record the songs. They became my first album in 2017!
MB: Who would you compare your sound to?
KM: I think my sound is really a combination of the music I love. Listening to the shockingly vulnerable music of Tori Amos for the first time really helped me realize I wanted to write honest music about my experiences. I compare myself to Tori, Kate Bush, Elton John, and Billy Joel. There’s also more than a little bit of musical theatre creeping into my sound. You can take the boy out of the theatre…
MB: Your new song is called “Bad Years.” Have the last couple of years really been so bad?
KM: The world has been a bit of a dumpster fire for everyone these last couple of years! Personally, I’ve struggled financially as an indie artist. It’s been tough trying to get the music out there without a record label.
MB: Did you ever get to the point where you wanted to pack things up and return to Illinois?
KM: No, NYC is home now. I’m here for the long haul. I still have a lot of dreams that involve this city!
MB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
KM: I love that question. Happiness is being able to do what you love while being surrounded by people you love. I love performing on stage and being surrounded by friends and people who enjoy my music. My greatest fear is something happening that would prevent me from performing.
MB: What is your most treasured possession?
KM: Nothing is irreplaceable but I think my keyboard is my most treasured possession.
MB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
KM: I wish I were better at networking!
MB: What is the trait you most deplore in others?
KM: I hate when people try to minimize other people’s joy. I don’t think you should tell other people they are wrong for liking something.
MB: Would you date someone with a ginger fetish?
KM: Of course! It would work out well for me!
MB: Have you ever been with a ginger yourself?
KM: Yes, I have! Gingers do it better!
MB: How do you measure success today?
KM: I had a guy from the UK recognize me at my job here in NYC. He told me he listened to and loved my last album. I’m broke, but that sure felt like success to me!
Kyle Motsinger’s “Bad Years” is available on Apple Music, Spotify, and all digital platforms.
Follow Kyle Motsinger on Instagram @ kylemotsinger