The Greatest Queer Showman

Photo by Ramon Christian

John Duff is excited to live in a time when so many queer artists are releasing authentically queer music. As an out artist, he has released multiple singles and music videos that have gone viral on social media including “House on Fire” and “Hokie Pokie.”

For his new work, though, he thought it would be fun to look back on a less-inclusive time and design a legacy artist that never had the opportunity to exist.

In “Be Your Girl,” the first single from John Duff’s upcoming concept album, he imagines a classic-that-never-happened from the point of view of a queer artist-that-never-was.

Written by Duff, Eren Cannata, and Koil PreAmple, the explosive disco number with its 1940’s inspired arrangement and top line is a nod to Tom Jones, Cher, and Frank Sinatra and its video pays homage to classic movie musicals.

“There’s a reason people don’t make songs like this anymore,” John Duff reflects. “It ain’t easy. If I can do this, I can do anything.”

We spoke with him from Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he is preparing for a theatrical residency.

John Duff: I wish I could say that there was a great deal of purpose behind the timing of the release. June is an amazing and important month, but it’s very competitive for LGBTQ+ artists. It’s like the one time we get a shot at mainstream attention.

Ideally this video would’ve come out in April, but the visual effects took a lot longer than expected. That said, it’s an honor to live in a time where I can be a gay artist making gay music and release it during a month celebrating such things! It’s always pride month in my house, though.

JD: I love drag, but I don’t do drag. This is just who I am. I’m always wearing women’s underwear.

Photo By Ramon Christian

JD: I’m a hairy gym rat who enjoys wearing women’s under garments. It’s probably something I’m supposed to be ashamed of, but I’m a performer and I think great artists take their shame and make it their super power.

JD: Expectations are dream killers. I make songs and videos because I love the process of creating. I always try to create things that I see as missing in the world. I’ve learned so much with every song and every release. The biggest lesson is that the outcome is not important. The reward is in the journey, and I love every step. How the audience receives me and my efforts is none of my business.

JD: Bullying was pretty relentless for me in elementary, middle, and early high school. Being faced with so much negative input so young gave me a strong sense of self. You know, people mock what they do not understand, so in retrospect – I consider myself lucky to be such a bewildering being.

Once you learn that what other people think is none of your business, you can be free. People can say what they want about my art, but they can’t say I’m not free.

JD: I was 16 years old, in my bathroom straightening my hair, when my mom yelled from the family computer, “John, you forgot to close your gay porn!” I believe I was watching a vintage video starring Bobby Blake, so yeah. She learned a lot about me that day. Made it pretty easy.

JD: I’m just a guy. I’m not really a fan of boxes or labels, because life can be anything you want it to be. You can change and choose who you are every day.

JD: I’m blessed with a wonderful boyfriend, Rafael De La Fuente. He’s an incredible supporter. I have so many supportive friends, many of whom I collaborate with in varying capacities. Shout out to Cara Cunningham who has always been a #1 rider.

Photo By Ramon Christian

JD: Middle school me would think I’m cool. We’ve accomplished so many things he wanted to do, but was told he couldn’t. To have those things get love from millions of people, it’s incredibly healing. But you know, if he wasn’t me? He probably wouldn’t care too much. He’s classically gay in the sense that he primarily obsesses over female artists.

JD: This pride I am traveling around the country and performing at some amazing pride festivals. I played in Pennsylvania the other week, and NYC Pride last week and I’m opening for Natasha Bedingfield in Chicago later this month. It’s a gift to be a part of so many people’s pride experiences this year. Hoping for even more next year!

Follow John Duff on TikTok @iamjohnduff

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