FT. WAYNE, Ind. – Singer Doug Strahm has taken the music scene and the country by storm with the release of his newest video, “Better This Way.” He’s been featured in Bear World Magazine, HIM Magazine in California and on The Huffington Post. And, it turns out, he’s a native of the Ft. Wayne, Ind., right here in the region. Doug took some time out of what has become a very busy schedule to talk with us here at GLD.
First, introduce yourself to our readers.
Hey everyone, I’m Doug Strahm, singer, songwriter, performer, father of four wonderful children, partner of 17 years to the love of my life and out and proud.
You’re a native Hoosier and grew up in Ft. Wayne. Considering the current governor’s attitude, is it tough being gay in Indiana?
The current governor’s attitude is pretty sad! You would think that after the supreme court ruling, most government officials would be jumping on the right side of history, but not ours. Indiana, unfortunately is always one of the last states to embrace diversity. Saying that, there are several cities that embrace diversity and celebrate it as well. Fort Wayne recently has been very accepting of the LGBT folks, but then we also have a great mayor who embraces the community. For me personally, it was tougher growing up gay in an Italian Catholic household where complete acceptance from family and friends wouldn’t have been an option years ago.
How long have you been writing and singing?
I have been singing for as long as I can remember. The first song I ever put together was when I was around 8 or 9 years old, but starting writing regularly during high school. Then I spent about two years traveling back and forth to Nashville participating in song writing seminars, shopping music, writing with independent artists and so. I wrote pretty regularly unit around the time I met my partner Bruce, and then just never had the desire to write. Between him and my kids, they were so much the focus of my life.
“Better This Way” is the first video from your debut album. What inspired you to write it?
“Leaving It Behind” is the first video from the album and it started getting a bunch of attention right out of the gate. It has a very powerful ending and was released right on the heels of DODT being repealed.
“Better This Way” is now my fourth video and it was inspired in part by friends of ours. The construction worker did actually work in this line however his love interest worked elsewhere. Love won out on their relationship and he came around in similar fashion.
I also wanted to break a stereotype and normalize the relationship at the end. There are so many jobs and tasks out there that a gay person would have to prove their worth whereas a straight person is just accepted. Areas like heavy construction, armed services, police and other public services, sports, and any of the traditionally macho male dominated jobs. I actually have had several comments from people who said I wrote their life in that short video. Some are still closeted, some have come out.
The rest of my videos can be seen on my YouTube page or just search Doug Strahm.
Was the video filmed in Ft. Wayne? And how did you get model Chris Miklos to star in a role?
Yes the entire video was shot in Fort Wayne and the hammock and garden is in our back yard. It’s funny, I had friends come over and say things like “wow, that’s the hammock” (Laughs). I have admired Chris Miklos for some time, heck who wouldn’t, the man is gorgeous! His modeling career is legendary and I thought he would be perfect for the role. So we chatted and I explained that I was working on a video for a song I wrote and sent him the MP3. He loved it right off the bat and thought it would be a fun project. So we scheduled it and he came to Fort Wayne for the weekend to shoot it. I didn’t now what to expect with him being so widely popular but I hoped for the best. Chris arrives in Fort Wayne and I pick him up at the airport. Right off the bat, you come to realize the man is a really nice guy. Over the weekend, we got to know more about him and Bruce and I now call him a friend. The man is off the charts intelligent, funny (quite the smart ass) and very down to earth. I’ve gotten a lot of great comments about his role in the video and also saw one or two bitchy ones as well. So this is me standing up for a friend! Chris comes wrapped in a package that some guys may think to themselves, “that dude will never talk to me” because he belongs to the A-crowd. We actually discussed this and, seriously guys, he can’t stand the type of guys that put themselves on lists like the A-list etc. He said he doesn’t have time for them. So if you see Chris working one of the bear events, or see him out in public, say hi to him. He is very, very approachable and just a great guy.
Ok, back to the video. Being an independent artist, I have a low budget so a good friend of mine, David Lengel, agreed to shoot the video in HD. David has a great eye when it comes to shooting scenes and is a really good photographer as well. We put Chris up in our spare bedroom to save hotel costs, I cooked breakfast for all of us and we began shooting on Friday afternoon, wrapped it Saturday and I had it edited and online by Tuesday. It really was a fun project.
“Better This Way” has been a hit and you’ve gotten a lot of attention from the bear, gay and some music press. Are you surprised at the reaction? Why do you think people have latched on to it?
I am surprised and very grateful. I thinks people see in this video something they don’t normally. That is, two very macho men who are in love. The sad part about this is that it is not normal in our society. Uninformed straight people seem to think that all gay people are either hair dressers, designers, drag queens or singers like me (Laughs). Seriously though, I really wanted to make the relationship as normal as possible in the video. That whole scenario of the back yard scene is totally Bruce and me on a weekend. Well, maybe not the hammock part because he doesn’t let me rest when there is yard work to be done (grins). But the bedroom scene is our bedroom and yes we are two macho men that share a bed together, snuggle and spoon through the night, hold each other in our arms, wake up with morning breath etc.
You’re joining the ranks of other furry country singers like Mark Weigle and Drake Jensen. Any ideas why bears gravitate to country music? (Other than the beards and tight jeans.)
Wow, thanks for that compliment and that is cool to hear, I love those guys. Man, I don’t know why we gravitate towards country. Perhaps because there is so much dance and electronic music out there and this is something different. Plus bears tend to be bigger, more hairy etc. and maybe country is more masculine … who knows? Granted, I really like club music and there are a lot of great artists out there doing some awesome stuff. As a bear myself, I tend to gravitate toward the more musical styles of Pop, Rock and Country.
You’ve been with your partner since 1996 and you have three kids. What do they think of your new fame?
Actually we have four kids. One daughter and three sons. They are all very proud and supportive. They are also my rock and keep my feet on the ground and my head small enough to fit through the door (Laughs). Bruce and I were just in New York and went to Monster across from Stonewall. There were these really hot muscle bears sitting at the end of the bar staring at us. Then one pointed and said, “I know you … you’re that guy that did that video.” That was really cool and Bruce laughed and said something like here we go …
My kids were the first ones I told about Bruce and me when I came out. They love him dearly and are so supportive and encouraging. They are as proud of their dad as I am of them.
Where are some places people can see you perform?
I will be in Indy at the 501 as a guest judge and performing a couple of songs on Oct. 19. Then I will be in Palm Springs on Nov. 1,2 and 3 doing four shows for Palm Springs Pride. I have other bookings pending and will keep them updated on my website www.dougstrahm.com.
You’ve also made an acting appearance on the hit web show “Where The Bears Are.” (We interviewed writer and actor Rick Copp earlier this year.) How did you get involved with the show? Think you’ll make an appearance next season?
Our dear friend George Petropoulos turned us onto WTBR and we were hooked instantly. FYI George is also a awesome photographer and just about all of the images on my website were taken by by him along with the ones we took with the WTBA cast. He also filmed the video “I’m Gonna Go” that we shot in New Orleans.
Where was I? Oh yeah, “Where The Bears Are” … As I mentioned, we were hooked right up front so we decided to help sponsor the show for season two and chatted online with Ben Zook. Then we decided to fly out to LA to meet them and be extra’s the day we were there. Man I tell you, we hung out with Ben, Joe, Rick and Jeffrey Wylie for some time while we were there. What a bunch of great, talented guys! We also met a lot of the guys on season two – oh and guys, Scott Beauchemin, even though he plays a serial killer, he is a real sweetheart!
I don’t have anything planned for the next season but who knows.
Now that you’re album is getting attention, what are some of your future plans?
That is wide open right now. I am working on music for a follow up album and I’ll just have to see where this ride goes.