America's Got Talent finalist Brian Justin Crum came out to audiences on national TV during season 11. He told personal stories in between classic cover songs and returned for America's Got Talent: The Champions to sing Elton John's "Your Song."
His background includes being in various Broadway musicals, including Wicked, Altar Boyz and Grease. He toured with productions of The Addams Family and We Will Rock You.
Crum just released new music with the song "I & U" and has plans for playing live in Chicago at Market Days.
Windy City Times: Hi, Brian. You have a lot of musicals on your resume.
Brian Justin Crum: I do. I actually got my start in professional musical theater in Chicago. I debuted in Wicked in Chicago when I was 18 years old.
WCT: That's when I met your fellow cast member Telly Leung, who was later in Glee.
BJC: I love Telly!
WCT: Is Wicked your favorite musical?
BJC: My favorite musical in general is Next to Normal, which I did a while ago.
WCT: Do you plan on doing more musicals?
BJC: I am focusing on my music now, but I would dive back into the world of musicals when the right opportunity comes along.
WCT: What do you have planned for Market Days?
BJC: Market Days is going to be my all-out show. I'm bringing dancers and costumes. It's a whole new setlist. I'm debuting new music and singing "I & U" and "Circles." It's really going to be a 40 minute party with some hot boys behind me. It's going to be a good time and I'm keeping it light hearted. The Chicago audience is going to have a good time.
WCT: How was Pride Month and what does that mean to you?
BJC: It means so much right now. It was the 50th anniversary of Stonewall so it's important that we pay respect and honor our history as queer people. I have spent a lot of time watching documentaries and reading up on where we have come from. It has brought me so much pride to know that I have come from a long line of fighters. I have benefitted so much from what they went through. I'm grateful and indebted to them.
WCT: You must have heard from so many LGBT folk after your appearances on America's Got Talent.
BJC: I have. I knew that the show was very popular, but I didn't grasp how worldwide the reach was. I got messages from kids who were living in the Philippines and Africa, places from all over the world, where going gay is punishable by death. I even got a message just yesterday from a kid in Morocco.
Whether we agree on how large corporations may possibly use gay people at least we live in a country where we can be who we are and be proud.
It's amazing the reach and visibility AGT has brought.
WCT: How was returning to the show for America's Got Talent: The Champions?
BJC: It was cool! When you are doing these reality shows you can feel like a number. You are in a holding room with tons of people. It is a lot. Champions felt like a gathering of a small group of people that they were very passionate about. They took very good care of us. It was very nice to be back under different circumstances.
WCT: People wanted you to win.
BJC: It wasn't America voting this time. They selected people to vote. It felt like a practice run for them. They didn't quite have it all down, but it went great. I felt the support online.
WCT: Was covering the song "Creep" a daunting task?
BJC: It's the one song I still perform live from all the songs at AGT. It's a part of me now. When I chose that song I knew what it was going to do. I knew what talking about my mom raising me was going to do. I had a feeling it was going to touch people. There wasn't really another option. I knew that was going to be my song.
WCT: How do you make a cover song your own and connect to it?
BJC: For me, it's about putting my own experience onto it. I don't think too much about changing it because these songs are classic songs. They are amazing songs because they are already amazing. You don't have to do too much. It's about putting yourself into it and seeing what they brings out.
WCT: Talk about your new single "I & U."
BJC: I have to say that I am beyond excited. I just posted about it this morning and it's already getting so much love. I am getting emails and messages about how it's a great song. I am happy it's being well received. I recorded it a while ago and we have been waiting to put it out. It felt like the perfect time to share it with the world.
It's a continuation on "Circles," and that was all about being in a toxic relationship. "I & U" is about the ending of that relationship and the confusion we have about the longing for it to have it back. We have a way of fantasying and remembering only the good when relationships end. The song is about still wanting someone after all they went through, with all the lack of something why is that person still thought about all the time?
It's a human emotion that everyone can relate to and put themselves in. I'm so glad that people are feeling it.
WCT: You decided to have a dance vibe to the song?
BJC: Yes. It's got a groove.
WCT: Talk about the video for it.
BJC: People are going to freak when they see the video. It's the first time that I have really felt strong in my queerness and being able to express myself through fashion. The video is a nod to George Michael and we feature a number of really incredible models. I think people will have a sense of nostalgia about it, but it's very modern. I am pushing boundaries with the clothing I am wearing in it. I am very excited for people to see it.
WCT: Do you feel fashion is moving into men being more feminine with their clothing?
BJC: Absolutely. Gender is dead. I think it's time that this heteronormative "masc4masc" bullshit goes away. I grew up gay in musical theater. From the time I was 6 years old, I was told to butch it up and be more masculine. I want to express myself however I want to express myself. If someone has a problem with it then it's on them.
I love that Billy Porter is out in the world and living his fullest fantasy. I grew up with Adam Lambert who was the first person to really do that. We did musicals as kids together. We took from the same voice coach. I have known him since he was young and was always compared to him. He's an incredible vocalist and human. I am happy to call him friend.
Again, I am so grateful for the people that have come before and have given us permission to play.
Look for Crum Sunday, Aug. 11, at 4:15 p.m. at the Nissan Partners of Progress Stage, on Halsted and Roscoe streets.
For more on this artist visit BrianJustinCrum.com . Details about Market Days are at NorthHalsted.com .