Ray Boltz; New Life, New Career, New Hope
SP: Shane Phoenix
RB: Ray Boltz
FS: Frank Sperduti (Ray’s Partner)
Winner of the Out Music Awards for “Album of the Year”, “Songwriter of the Year” and “Spiritual Song of the Year”
for his brand new album, “True,” International Recording Artist Ray Boltz has sold 4.5 million records worldwide. Once adored by millions of Christian Fans around the world, in 2008 he came out to the world. Now Ray faces a new life, a new career and new hope! His new CD, “True,” tells us his story, a story millions of LGBT people share with him. He took time to sit with Shane Phoenix, a music review writer and reporter for multiple music and entertainment magazines.
SP: After millions loved you, after hundreds of thousands sent you hate mail, where did you find the strength, courage and self-esteem to write new songs? And was this the inspiration for “True”?
RB: When I was married and singing Christian music, I was struggling, it was a tough time. In 2004, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my kids and my wife at the time, Carol. My family has always been keen to my emotional state, we are very close. My son looked at me and asked, “Dad, what going on with you, what’s wrong”? So, I have been struggling with what was in my heart: Knowing I was gay. I tried to not be gay; try to be what I wasn’t; I tried to pray that I wasn’t gay; I confessed in hope that I could not be gay; all these things that they tell you to do, I tried to do for 30 plus years. So when my son asked me that question, I decided to be honest, to be authentic. I could die and my own family wouldn’t even know who I was. I thought to myself, ‘if I cannot be honest and authentic with my own family, the ones who I love the most, then who could I be honest and authentic with?’ So I told them, “I’m Gay”. And that’s where I think “True” was born
SP:What was the feeling like the very moment you uttered those words out loud for the very first time?
RB: It was overwhelming, but surreal; there was no super joy, or excitement or pride in it. It was the truth and sometimes being that honest with those you love and who love you so very much can be hurtful. I am very thankful my family and I are so close.
SP:How did your family react?
RB: We knew things would change, we knew tough times were ahead, not only for my career but for us as a family. We also knew that the one thing that wouldn’t change was our love and commitment to our family. My wife Carol and I would end up separating and obtain a divorce, but now she is part of Soul Force, a nonprofit organization that helps families like ours and others from oppression of anti-homosexual religious peers (read more at www.soulforce.org). My kids and I remain very close, and now my grandchildren, as well.
SP:You were selling millions of albums each year, about 4.5 million copies. How badly was your career hurt by your coming out?
RB: At the time I came out publicly in 2008, I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. I was kind of wrong there. I received a lot of hate mail, lots of youtube videos were put up against me and me coming out. I was told that I was going to burn in hell – all sorts of negative things were said. At the same time, a lot of great things were being said from other people and friends.
SP:Was this when you started writing songs again?
RB: When my wife and I separated and we were all going through this very tough time, I decided to do what I always did. I picked up my pen and paper, tuned the guitar and started to put down how I was feeling. That’s where all my songs come from, deep within me.
SP:We know you have sold millions as a Christian singer, now that “True” is out and nowhere near that number, how do you look at that?
RB: Well I did not do this album for money, it was about being authentic, about being true, not only to myself but to my fans. We have sold a bunch of records for “True,” but for me it’s not about the sales, it’s about the letters I am getting from so many who say, “Yea that’s exactly how I feel right now”, “Thank you Ray for saying what I needed to hear”, “Finally someone who knows how I feel”. That’s what “True” is about; it’s about those who listen to it and understand that living an authentic and “True” life may not always be easy, but is better than living a lie.
SP:Your partner Franco and you have been together almost 5 years, where did you meet and has he been a part of the album?
RB: Franco and I met through a friend at the MCCC Church Softball league. Yes, there is a song on the album called “You Came To Me”. It was written for him, he is like a big teddy bear. He cry’s every time I play it on stage.
SP:Franco, so what is it like being with a celebrity of Ray’s stature?
FS: Well I didn’t even know who Ray Boltz was. I met him as just a regular guy, not until later did I find out about his singing. Ray is just Ray to me. He doesn’t act like a celebrity or anything like that, he is just Ray, so I know him and love him for who he is, just Ray – a very caring and loving nice man. Not for Ray the celebrity.
SP:Franco, what was it like the first time he sang “You Came to Me” on stage in front of you?
FS: I cried. It is such a beautiful song. Ray and I talked about it being on the CD, and it almost didn’t get to be on it, but I know what the song means and know what
it can mean to so many others.
SP:What artist do you like to listen to?
RB: I like Adam Lambert, Lady GAGA, Rufus Wainwright, but I haven’t listened too much lately.
SP:Since you live here in the Ft. Lauderdale, where is your favorite place to hang out at?
RB: (laughing) There are a lot of places, but I find I go to Scandals a lot. I like the Lady Fancy show they have, and the atmosphere there as well.
FS: The softball field (laughing) every Sunday – that’s my church.
SP:Wilton Manors has an influence on the new CD as well, doesn’t it?
RB: Yes there is a song called “American Queen” on the cd. It talks about a guy walking past Five Points and Georgie’s Alibi and talks about all the great things I love about Wilton Manors.
SP:How does it feel to be the most nominated and then win The Out Music Awards?
RB: I was overwhelmed at the response, not only to the Album, but at the outpouring of good wishes and the wonderful responses to it. I have been nominated for awards before, and have won 3 Dove awards, but The Out Music Award wins are like an acceptance into the community. Like they are saying, not only do we love your music, but we appreciate your efforts, as well. I am so very thankful to all my fans and family.
SP:You are going to appear at The Stonewall Street Festival and Parade on June 19th, 2011. Will it be any different now that you are an Award winner?
RB: No it will be an authentic and “True” show just as before.
SP:If equal marriage was allowed, would you and Franco be married?
RB: I think that would be up to us. I think we should have that choice already. Not IF we should have that choice.
FS: I don’t think it’s anyone’s business. If Ray and I want to get married it should already be our choice and not something we should have to ask anyone’s permission to do!
SP:Anything you want to say to our readers here at the Florida Agenda?
RB: I would like to thank each one of them if I could. I love the fact that there is a publication out there that reaches so many and has some really great content.
SP:Thank you, Ray Boltz, for your time, compassion and music.
RB: It’s been a pleasure, Shane. Thanks so much for having me here.
You can reach Ray Boltz for comment or questions, or to listen to his Multi-Award Winning Album online at www.rayboltz.com.
Shane Phoenix is an independent music review writer and international talk show host of “South Off with Shane Phoenix” and contributes regularly to Billboard Magazine and several Music Blogs around the world. He can be reached at Shane@prideshows.com