Crys Matthews and Heather Mae release poignant new single “6 Feet Apart” and announce virtual The Singing OUT Pride tour.
Stream: “Six Feet Apart” – Crys Matthews and Heather Mae
LGBTQ+ advocates Crys Matthews and Heather Mae have joined forces to create a powerful anthem for those struggling with the enforced social distancing rules. “6 Feet Apart” brings a little lightness to these unprecedented times, demonstrating how we can still find closeness with one another even if it’s not physical.
Individually the musicians are known for their critically acclaimed songwriting, which have landed them some impressive accolades. Both use their voices within music too, for example Crys Maathews’ 2017 EP Battle Hymn For An Army Of Lovers touching on social justice and Heather Mae’s recent album Glimmer which addresses mental heath. But united the two pack an even more potent punch, allowing audiences to bask in their musical prowess while simultaneously resonating with their thought-provoking lyricism. Their latest single “6 Feet Apart” is a stunning concoction of Mae’s soulful vocals and Matthews organic tones, fused to form a spine-tingling release with an entirely relatable narrative.
Six feet apart
Won’t stop us
Don’t need to hold you in my arms
I still know you in the dark.
Just ’cause I can’t kiss you underneath the moonlight
Doesn’t mean you have to feel alone tonight
Let’s get closer From six feet apart
Accompanying the new release is the announcement of their virtual Pride tour ‘The Singing OUT Tour’, which allows others to continue to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community from the safety and comfort of their own homes. The duo encourage audiences to get into the Pride spirit, dressing up to join them with singalongs, games and giveaways.
Atwood Magazine spoke with the two artists to find out more about their collaborative project.
A CONVERSATION WITH CRYS MATTHEWS AND HEATHER MAE
Atwood Magazine: Your latest single “Six Feet Apart” is a stunning track that illustrates how even at a distance we can still remain close during this current pandemic. How are you two staying connected to those closest to you in these trying times?
Matthews and Mae: We’re doing a lot of Facebook Messenger video chat and Zoom chat with our families. We also started an online community for our fans called Apart Together Community back in March (before we knew that we would be able to make The Singing OUT Tour a virtual event) to help sing them through this incredibly trying time.
You two are a strong collaboration and the new single showcases just that. How did you both meet and why did the two of you start creating together?
Matthews and Mae: In March, we were on our way home from a tour for Heather’s new album Glimmer. We (me, Heather, and her husband Rah) were all just days away from moving in together and then COVID-19 hit. We were quarantined together and trying not to panic about the fact that we were unemployed with absolutely no end in sight. The idea for this song first came after reading a friend’s Facebook post about keeping perspective during this crisis. She was reminding us of the Jews trapped in their homes during the Holocaust and how they couldn’t sing or make any noise at all for fear of certain death, but that we, even during this very scary ordeal, can. Just after stumbling across that post, I received a message from a woman who had just seen Heather and I perform in Vermont. She was telling me about how she and her fiance were apart from one another because one of them was working on the front lines and so, in order to keep their kids safe, they were in separate spaces for the foreseeable future. The thought of their love and the perspective that my friend’s post gave me are what planted the seeds for this song. I was playing it and Heather walked in and asked what I was working on. I played it for her and then realized that, in the seven years we’ve known each other, we had never written a song together. The rest is history.
Your Singing OUT Virtual Tour promotes social justice and hope, but most of all LGBTQ+ pride. How did you come up with the idea for the tour and what do you hope your fans will walk away with?
Matthews and Mae: Heather and I have both been big fans of the other’s music since we first met about seven years ago. Because we both lived in the DC area, we would find ourselves at some of the same gigs and would end up singing harmonies with each other. Our fans loved it! So a few years ago, we thought, let’s take this show on the road. It first began as just the two of us, but by our third year, we had developed this amazing stage show with a full band and wardrobe changes. Last year, we played about 28 shows in 33 days and this year (pre-COVID-19) was set to be even bigger! Now that we’ve found ourselves celebrating Pride amidst a pandemic, we are determined to make sure that the show is just as fabulous. There are giveaways from our amazing sponsors, there are lights and confetti and, most of all, there is fabulous music that will inspire and encourage you!
Crys, you are a skillful storyteller and possess a unique Jazz/folk sound. What drew you to these two genres and do you have a favorite lyricist?
Matthews and Mae: Because I started writing songs in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina, folk has been a constant presence in my music in some way, even back when I only played keys and my music had more of a Jazz and Blues vibe. Most of my newer music is more rooted in folk and Americana I think because it presents such a pathway for storytelling. That’s what I love about some of my favorite lyricists like Tracy Chapman, Chris Pureka, and Kyshona Armstrong- they are able to craft such powerful stories.
Heather, you sing with so much conviction and power yet you have an intoxicating gentleness to your tone. How were you able to develop the captivating style your voice portrays?
Matthews and Mae: It’s about having an authentic voice and not making my voice be anything other than what it is.
Both of you are activists for social justice and that is reflected within your music. Why do you feel so strongly about using your music as a platform for social change and what causes do you champion?
Matthews and Mae: When Heather lost her voice to vocal nodules a few years back, she made a promise that, if she got it back, she would only use it to do good in the world and to be her most authentic self. She had recently come out as queer and had also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder II, but hadn’t been sharing her truth in her music. She got her voice back and so she keeps that promise every day. She is a fierce mental health advocate, she sings about how imperative it is to stand up for BlPoC, she sings about women’s equality and feminism, and she sings about love. For me, as a black, butch-identified lesbian woman from the south who writes largely autobiographical songs, almost all of my music is, in some way, social justice-music by proxy, even the loves songs. As Heather often says to fans, until the day our love is boring, even the love songs are revolutionary acts of resistance. We both think this world could be as amazing as the people we meet in town after town, so we use our platform to try to do what we can to make it a little better each day.
Do either of you have a favorite pride story you can share with our readers?
Matthews and Mae: After she came out, Heather walked the Capital Pride parade hand-in-hand with her mom. Her hersband Rah is a photographer and took a really beautiful picture of it that sits on a shelf in our living room. Heather is in rainbow butterfly wings and her mom has rainbow balloons attached to her bag. It is a beautiful reminder of what it is to be fully seen and valued as an LGBTQ+ kid which, at the end of the day, is a big part of why we do The Singing OUT Tour.
Can you share your coming out story, and how has your life changed since then?
Matthews and Mae: Our coming out stories are polar opposites. Heather’s coming out story was kind of the dream. With very little exception, every one she came out to was just so happy that she was happy. Her dad was outside cutting the grass. She opened the back door and kind of just yelled to him “I have a girlfriend” and he was like “Great! Would you mind bringing me some water?” I’m a preacher’s kid from southeastern NC, so my coming out story was quite tumultuous. But, thankfully, the relationship that my mom and I have today is incredible, so I wouldn’t change a thing. I like being able to say to LGBTQ+ kids that ‘it does actually get better’ and share with them why I know that to be true.
Who are some LGBTQ+ artists that inspire you and why?
Matthews and Mae: For Heather who has bipolar disorder II, Mary Lambert is an inspiration because she’s so open about her mental illness and has been that way from the very beginning. She also really admires Brandi Carlile because she ‘s been out in the open in a genre that has been notoriously unkind to LGBTQ+ people. As for me, I’m a huge Ruthie Foster fan, her voice and spirit. I also love Mary Gauthier’s writing so much.
What is next for Heather Mae and Crys Matthews?
Matthews and Mae: In March, every gig we had through May was canceled and, as the pandemic rolled on, May turned into September. It was only because of Heather’s determination to make sure our fans got the chance to celebrate Pride and our agent’s understanding of just how vital it was for them to be able to do so that The Singing OUT Tour transitioned from in-person to virtual. So, even though we don’t know what’s next, we will keep doing everything we can to keep standing up and singing out, even if it’s from our dining room.
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