An Interview with Hopeful Romantic Matt Zarley
By Dave Griffiths
A star is not always made out in Hollywood… Sometimes they are just born. This is the case with Matt Zarley, who Billboard Magazine stated, “Stunning. A marquee mainstream artist is born.”
His career began at a young age, long before he ever imagined being the first gay man to be chosen by People Magazine to be one of their “Top 50 Bachelors.” Around twelve years old, he began doing national television commercials, which brought him to Broadway by age seventeen. He has sung with such notable singers as Whitney Houston, Vanessa Williams, Usher and Brandy.
In 2002, Zarley released his debut solo album and then his second album “Here I Am” was named one of Billboard Magazine‘s “Critics Top 10″ for 2008. The accolades have just been coming his way ever since.
HIM Magazine was so excited to speak with Matt about his three loves; singing, dancing and acting. He also opens up about his own personal experiences with love.
Let’s begin with your past… I know you were on Broadway in New York City. What years were these?
Matt: I got my first show when I was 17. It was in the national tour of “Cats.” From there, I went onto make my Broadway debut in “A Chorus Line.” It was the late 80′s. Yes, I’m THAT old. [Laughs]
What parts did you have in “Cats”, “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “A Chorus Line” and what else have you done on Broadway?
Matt: In “Cats,” I played 3 different roles: “Pouncival,” “Mungojerrie,” and “Mistoffelees.” In “A Chorus Line,” I played “Mark” on Broadway. I went on to play “Mike” in LA, Amsterdam, and Paris. I also played the title roles in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and The Who’s “Tommy” on Broadway. The last show I did was “Chicago,” where I played “Fred Casely.”
You’re a triple threat; handsome, a talented singer and a dancer too. Did you go to an Arts school and how did you get your start in performing?
Matt: I went to a performing arts high school for only one year then my dad got a job transfer so we moved. But I started dancing around 11 or 12 years old and was dedicated from day one. I was IN LOVE with it. I was also obsessed with music.
Do you prefer performing in front of a live audience?
Matt: I love it. There’s nothing like the energy of an audience’s love to fuel your energy. It’s incredibly inspiring and adrenaline boosting.
Rumor has it that you’re working on your own Broadway show about “couples”, which will be your debut as a composer. Will it be a gay show and when can we expect to see it? What’s it about?
Matt: Well, I’m in the very early stages of a couple of projects. One has a central gay relationship, the other is still in development. I also have another really exciting project that will be announced in the coming months. That particular project is definitely a go… and coming out soon.
In 2011, you did a remake of Pat Benatar’s “We Belong” to support the Trevor Project. Why did you pick that song and were you ‘bullied’ in school growing up or were you one of the popular kids?
Matt: I chose that song ‘cuz it’s one of my all time favorite songs and though the song was intended as a love song of sorts; the lyric can be interpreted as a message of unity. On top of that, it’s a tune that no one covers for some reason.
How much money was raised for the Trevor Project through that project?
Matt: Oh jeez, I’m not certain, but several thousands of dollars.
Since this month’s issue is all about Romance, let’s talk about love and your music. Some of your music has a common theme; love and trust, then cheating and broken hearts. Do you think this is common among the gay community?
Matt: I think it’s common, period. Unfortunately. I think it all starts with communication. I feel that’s the root of why most reasons relationships break-up.
What advice do you have for someone who is desperately trying to find love?
Matt: You’re asking the wrong guy. [Laughs] I haven’t been that successful. Though you can never say I haven’t tried and given it
my all. Communication, communication, communication. I think most people hate confrontation; therefore as a result some tend not to communicate to avoid that situation.
Also in 2011, you were involved with a “well-known” actor in Hollywood. It ended abruptly, but it sparked your muse and you wrote the song “WTF” about love and broken trust. How did that experience make you a better person in the long run?
Matt: I had an interesting romantic encounter that seemed authentic and special at the time… one that I thought might develop. I wasn’t in a relationship with him. “WTF” was inspired by that experience, simply by the hot and cold nature. The video took total creative license. None of those things really happened to me. Well that I know of anyway.
Recently, a political scandal popped up. This time, a Republican was ‘outed’ by a journalist. Do you feel that it’s alright to ‘out’ someone in the public eye?
Matt: I don’t. Everyone has their own life journey that they’ve been on. No one should presume that everyone sees that experience the same way they do. I can’t wait for the day when “outing” seems as archaic as slavery does today.
What is your coming out story and does your family support you?
Matt: My coming out story is a beautiful one. Perfect actually. I posted my story this past year’s Coming Out Day:
Do you think it’s more difficult to have a “real” relationship when you’re in the public eye?
Matt: I haven’t really run into any issues honestly. I think it’s hard sometimes to really connect with someone cuz there are so many constant distractions. It’s exhausting. I miss the days before cell phones and emails. I know I sound old. But there’s a lot to be said for really connecting with someone…to be able to look in someone else’s eyes and have some quality one on one. That’s really so rare
Are you seeing anyone special now or are you focusing on yourself currently?
Matt: I recently went thru a tough break-up so I’m still sort of on the mend honestly. Though I really want that in my life.
What is your “type”?
Matt: My type is all over the place. Physically, I’m usually drawn to rugged boyish types. More importantly, I’m drawn to creative, sensitive, funny, talented, romantic types. Oh and unbelievably sexy works too. [wink]
Do you really believe there is “Somebody 4 Everybody”?
Matt: I like to think so. Though my feeling on that has waived a little over the past several months. But that opinion was fleeting cuz it was coming from a place of pain. I still like to believe that that is the case. I truly hope so.
How ‘romantic’ do you think guys in the gay community are today?
Matt: I know a lot of guys that love and crave romance. As a whole, I think it sorta lacks. We live in world where you can now meet someone on your phone. There’s no need to leave home. I think that disconnect has really hurt us as a community. There’s nothing better than those butterflies in your stomach right before seeing that person that you’re crazy about. I miss that… a lot.
How did it feel to be the first openly gay man to be chosen as one of People Magazine’s Top 50 Bachelors?
Matt: An unbelievable honor. It was a very cool moment for me. That was a special time.
You recently released the song “Trust Me” and it’s a bit different than your usual love ballads. How did that song come about?
Matt: I actually had the idea for “Trust Me’ many years ago. I think I first performed that tune, in its first incarnation, about 15 years ago.
How did it feel to reach your Kickstarter Campaign goal of $20,000?
Matt: SO PROUD!! It was a lot of work!! You have NO idea. [Laughs} It was so worth it. I think I spent an average of 12 hours a day in front of my computer during that campaign. I suggest to anyone who’s thinking about doing it to do it with someone. It’s a lot more time consuming than I imagined it would be. But like I said, it was well worth it!
When is your new album due out?
Matt: Summer… probably May.
Do you consider yourself to be a “Hopeful Romantic”?
Matt: 100% yes. When I love, I love big. When I get my heart broken, it cuts deep. I’ve had my heart broken many times; yet I still have a sense of hope that “the one” is still out there for me.
You were honored by your fans who voted and you won two awards in the 2012 OUT Music Awards. “Change Begins with Me” won the Album of the Year as well as Single of the Year. You also won the RightOUT TV Music & Video Awards for Best Video (Pro) for “Trust Me” and also Best Video ‘So Far’ for “Change Begins with Me;” Another great honor. Do you feel like you’ve ‘made it’?
Matt: Umm, no. LOL I have so much that I wanna do. I’m working on a big project at the moment that could be a possible game changer for me (fingers crossed). I wanna keep evolving creatively. This next project is very different for me… yet I feel like everything that I’ve done up till now has prepared me for it.
“Change Begins with Me” is a heartfelt anthem about self acceptance, responsibility and forgiveness. Do you think it’s important to forgive those who have hurt you?
Matt: I do. If you don’t, I think you’re still hurting yourself. When you forgive, it releases a heaviness off of you and frees up the space for something or someone wonderful to come into your life.
What is your personal connection to “Change Begins with Me”?
Matt: After a break-up I experienced several years ago, I found myself really taking a look at myself. In that moment, I realized how common it would be to play the blame game or point the finger at someone else. I recognized my contributions to the situation and said to myself: “I don’t like that about me…so change it.” Thus the song was born.
Do you believe we’ll see global gay rights in our lifetime?
Matt: I hope so. I think so.
Do you believe that gay marriage is important for couples?
Matt: Absolutely. For all the legal and civil opportunities. I also think that it’s important to be recognized by society as a loving, consenting couple. I would love to get married one day.
What is the biggest issue facing the gay community today?
Matt: Personally, I don’t think we support our own enough. I also think ageism is a huge problem in our community. Look, we ALL grow old (if you’re fortunate). I’ve been on the receiving end of that a few times and it drives me crazy. It’s completely absurd… but unfortunately, all too common.
I think we’ve covered a lot, but is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
Matt: Happy Valentine’s Day! If you’re lucky enough to have someone special to call your own, hold on to them; cherish them. Communicate and just love one another. xo