GREG Gould was just 16 when he auditioned for Australian Idol in 2005, and he already knew without doubt that he wanted to be a professional singer. Music and singing were the most important things to him.
What he wasn’t so sure about was his sexuality. He was confused and anxious and wanted to remain label free until he could work it out. That is what he told the judges at the audition after they asked if he was gay or straight.
Gould was mortified.
“I walked away from that and I stopped singing for four years,” he told the Star Observer.
Gould was afraid that having a singing career meant his sexuality would be made public.
“I wasn’t ready for that – I hadn’t even dealt with it myself yet.”
The years before he recovered his confidence were marred by seclusion, sadness and weight gain.
When he returned to the stage on Australia’s Got Talent in 2013 it was a more positive experience: he came in as runner up and effectively re-launched his career.
But most people know him thanks to a music video that was made on a shoestring budget, and has already received over six million views since it was uploaded to Facebook a few weeks ago. The video is a collection of short vignettes – windows into the true worlds of people from the LGBTI community; all based on people Gould personally knows.
The drag queen who can’t get a taxi and eventually gets bashed is based on a friend who had that experience and ended up in hospital for a week.
Gould grew up with a girl who is now estranged from her father after coming out. Her story inspired the lesbian couple in the video. He also personally witnessed a man roughing up a young guy at a bus stop.
“[The man] came up, gave this guy one look, spat at him and then pushed him against the bus shelter,” he said.
These stories together with Gould’s own encounters with homophobia (he was advised that coming out would be “career suicide”, and told by producers and agents “Don’t be too gay”) that spurred him to make the video.
The stories and the creative concept took shape easily – he just needed the right song.
“I just listened to lots and lots of songs… then a friend of mine came over to my house and she started singing that song and I just thought the lyrics were perfect: ‘I won’t be satisfied ’til we’re taking those vows.’”
That song was the 90s En Vogue hit Don’t Let Go (Love).
When it came to making the video, Gould had more hurdles to jump.
“Throughout the whole process I was uncompromising of the vision. I actually went through three filmographers before I went with the ones I did,” Gould revealed.
The three he dismissed were negative and reluctant, from a creative point of view.
“They didn’t get it,” Gould explained. “You can’t do this, and you can’t do that.”
Gould knew otherwise. He was strong willed and committed to purpose, and he got his video made, even enlisting the likes of Victoria Anthony, Julie Goodwin and Father Rod.
Despite his intentions and hopes for the project, he never imagined it would garner the reaction it has.
“I didn’t even expect a million [views] but I said to a friend, it’ll be nice to see this video take flight… because it’s so important.”
And take flight it has – like a rocket. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
While Gould has strong views and believes in being active, he is still wary of being labelled. He is proud, he will always support his community, but he is also an artist who seeks creative freedom.
“My name is not gay Greg, I don’t ride my gay bike, I don’t go to my gay apartment, and I’m not a gay singer… I’m a singer first who has things he wants to say.”
Having said that, he encourages LGBTI artists to use their platform for positive messages whenever they can. Art has power, and he cites his video as evidence.
“You only have to look at some of the inspiring comments to know that it’s making a difference.”
The video makes a strong statement about marriage equality, something Gould advocates as the thin end of the wedge.
“What marriage equality will do – it will make the rest of equality easier.”
His ultimate dream is to sing and have a husband, children, a dog and a white picket fence – and to be an inspiration for young gay artists.
Don’t Let Go is a five track EP and Gould’s first release as an independent artist. It includes a cover of the Eurovision winner Euphoria, a live recording of American Boy featuring Printz Board of Black Eyed Peas fame, and an original written by Gould called Today.