BRENDAN Maclean has forgotten his lines.
Or rather, he’s deliberately decided to ignore them.
When asked to describe his role in stage show Velvet, the musician and one-time Triple J radio host could simply quote the Adelaide Advertiser that said the production “completely redefines cabaret as a disco inferno”.
[showads ad=MREC]But with the Star Observer in the room, he’s gone off script.
“With other papers, I have to sit there and say it’s about self discovery,” Maclean says.
“It’s about someone finding out they’re fucking fabulous when they let themselves be themselves — that’s what Velvet is about.
“It’s gay heaven, it’s about somebody who had no idea they had it in them walking into a club for the first time.
“For me it was Stonewall when I was 15 and got arrested because I was a little too young and realised I kind of adored the people who were being themselves.
“Some people find themselves in music and in dancing and sweating until 5am and it’s about that journey, it’s about learning if you love the club scene.”
Maclean first appeared on the radar in 2008 when his self-penned song Airport People won Song of the Year and in 2010 when his EP White Canvas saw him win Writer of the Year at the National Youth Week Awards.
Since then he’s worked with musicians such as Paul Mac, Jonny Seymour and Darren Hayes, with a bent towards indie and electronic.
Yet in Velvet, which is coming to Brisbane in September and Sydney the month after, his character stumbles across a club where divas belt out the Bee Gees and Weather Girls while acrobats fly across the stage.
“My life had nothing to do with disco,” Maclean admits.
“I had to figure out what it meant for me, why some of the greatest gay bars right now are playing stuff that is verging on beautiful disco tracks and people in Brooklyn and in Sweden are leaning on disco again.
“That’s why it’s been interesting for people to see me, quite literally, battling with my pop folk world and finding soul.”
It’s been a learning curve, with director Craig Ilott urging him to build up to a big finish with his performances.
“Coming from my indie pop world you have to start with a bang, bang in the middle and bang at the end — it’s a banagathon — but in this I’ve had to learn a completely new skill,” Maclean says.
He has an expert guide in the shape of legendary performer Marcia Hines.
“The first day we were recording, and I was singing ‘you to me are everything’ Marcia turned to me and said ‘Brendan, its every-thang with an –ang’,” he says.
Did Maclean ever imagine that someone with his musical background would be working with a former judge of Australian Idol?
“Me and Marcia get along because we both love performing so our commercial world, our indie world, was really pushed aside the second she embraced me and said, we’re going to have fun,” he says.
The costumes have also taken some getting used to.
“There’s a moment — it’s is as if a disco ball has melted on top of me and then a peacock transferred itself into my soul,” he says.
Maclean sees a lot of his own journey in Velvet’s transformative story. He grew up in Sutherland Shire, in Sydney’s south.
Today, he’s just as home in the Big Apple as the Harbour City, sofa surfing at Alan Cumming’s place, hanging with RuPaul’s producer Lucian Piane with who he’s working on music for Drag Race or drinking hot chocolate in Central Park with Rufus Wainwright.
Maclean has cultivated a circle of musicians and actors, many gay, who he says have a different role to his biological family.
“I call them my logical family,” he says.
“I can ask them anything like why it’s not working when I’m douching, what does this drug too, nothing will embarrass them because they’ve been through it and made the mistakes themselves and they have love and information to give.
“It’s another family in New York, which once again I would not have if I wasn’t gloriously homosexual.”
He is also grateful to Sydney’s LGBTI community.
“I would have no career without community, without people from ACON and the Honour Awards, the Aurora Ball and Alex Greenwich,” he says.
“All these people have let me perform for them at parties and told somebody else ‘maybe you should get Brendan’.
“We should be really happy that we are bizarre and sparkly and doing shows like Velvet because we’re the queer community and fuck everyone else.”
**This article was first published in the September edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.