Breaking pop music convention and spiritual-sexual politics, Jason & deMarco pursue a higher calling—in hearts and on the charts.
By Steven Foster
Cover photo by dirty sugar photography • Secondary photo by Scott Ashton (courtesy RJN Music)
GOD WORKS in mysterious ways.
Three weeks ago, Sandy Stewart and I met for dinner. Stewart is Stevie Nicks’ go-to songwriter when Nicks is looking for something beyond her usual angel-and-black-chiffon oeuvre. Stewart’s penned the Nicks solo hits “If Anyone Falls” and the Natalie Maines duet “Too Far from Texas,” as well as the Fleetwood Mac smash “Seven Wonders.” Naturally, our conversation turns to music. Stewart asks if I’ve heard of Jason and deMarco.
“They have voices like angels,” she swooned. “They sing at Unity when they’re in town. You have to hear them.”
One week later, I’m home, channel surfing, and I happen to land on Showtime’s premiere of We’re All Angels, Jason and deMarco’s acclaimed documentary. Then, last week, OutSmart calls, asking if I could write a piece on Jason and deMarco for this issue.
Call it karma, fate, whatever you want, but I’ve read Eat, Pray, Love. These things happen for a reason.
In 2004, two prettyboy singers—blond, sunkissed Jason Warner and darkly handsome deMarco DeCiccio—splashed into the public consciousness pool with a glossy Advocate cover. They had serious vocal chops and fierce determination, a combo that should guarantee chart-topping success. But they were both gay and Christian, a double-edged lightning rod in today’s stormy weather culture. There may be a section of the population that truly exhibits a kind of spiritual kum ba ya, but the fact of the matter is Gay and Christian often seem as likely to hold hands as Arianna Huffington and Bill O’Reilly.
“You say the word Christian,” admits Jason Warner, “and people automatically assume you’re Pat Robertson or James Dobson.”
Sad but true. Confess a faith in Jesus, and, more often than not, the Left brands you a Dubya-adoring fundamentalist whack-job who longs for the Good Old Days, somewhere around the time “the little woman” wore hoop skirts and “Negroes” got the hose. Say you’re gay, and the Right Wing doesn’t simply believe you’re going to hell, but you’ve got a VIP table with your name on it, roasting uncomfortably alongside Judas, Hitler, Hillary, and Madonna. The political sword cuts both ways. It’s just hard to tell which slice draws more blood.
So here are these two young men in a spiritual-sexual no-man’s land, declaring in big, bold typeface that they’re Gay Christian Lovers. Pissing off the liberal left? Check. Enraging the religious right? Jackpot. Not exactly the way to win friends and influence (music-buying) people.
“I feel like the church has hurt the gay community so much that it has prevented them from coming to see us in concert when we are in churches,” deMarco DeCiccio says softly. “There’s still a lot of people, especially in the gay community, that don’t want to come into a church. And a lot of them for just reasons.”
“They’ve been burned,” Warner adds. “Whether it’s God they’re pissed at, or just organized religion—anything to do with church—they’re like, F–k it. You know?”
Warner knows. He was once in a Christian boy band, groomed by a giant Christian record company to be The Next Big Boy Thing On The Block until a bandmate discovered romantic e-mails Warner sent—to a guy. Let those without sin cast the first stone, right?
“Not only did they not want me in the group,” Warner laughs, “But they didn’t even want me to be on stage with them that night.”
But Jesus might be smiling now. The church has opened its arms to the duo, giving them a venue for their voices, and a faithful, fervent fanbase.
“The church has been so supportive of us. The Metropolitan Community Church has allowed us to get to this point. Now we’re doing outreach to different denominations.” DeCiccio’s eyes glow as intently as the blue light on a flame.
Warner shines as well, at the karma of it all. “The church has given us a venue.”
“There’s no way we would have been able to do this without the church bringing out their supportive audiences. Without them, what’s there? Bars? Hooters ?” DeCiccio laughs.
What’s there now is small venues of their choosing, a national mix of both churches and small concert halls, which is perfect, because entering from left field is open-armed acceptance from the other branch of the family tree. J&D’s dance single, “It’s Okay,” is now a club staple, rocketing up the Billboard dance chart, right alongside hip gay faves Madonna, Cyndi, and Rhianna.
The icing on the cake?
They’re getting married.
“He took me out for our seventh anniversary. I thought we were just going out. And he proposed.” Warner plays with his naked finger, missing the antique symbol of love and fidelity while it’s getting sized. For those who’ve seen the documentary, Warner’s frustration with DeCiccio’s romantic reticence is a reality many viewers—gay and straight—have related to in droves. And the shy DeCiccio compensated for that lack spectacularly.
“That’s the way I am. I’ll just resist, resist, resist, and then one day I’ll wake up and I’m like, Why am I being such a dick? ”
In addition to the ring, DeCiccio customized a wine label for their evening that sported a vintage photograph of the two of them holding shotguns. (Symbolism, party of two.) And every patron at Salud that night were in on it, so when the magic question was popped, the venue erupted into concert-level applause.
Warner, of course, accepted.
In the studio, I confess to J&D that, musically, I’m a vicious critic. Maybe even a snob. Most pop music bores me, and J&D’s last CD, though capably produced and impressively sung, mostly, lyrically, leaves me flat. The writing can be frustratingly juvenile (“ I sat alone this afternoon/I watched the summer sun go under the moon ”) and, while legions of teen girls and mass-market music buyers would swoon, to me it’s as edgy as a junior high journal. But then, the CD slams you with “I Found the Number,” an angry ode to suspicion that yields real emotional and intellectual heft that, surprisingly, is as soul-searing as any simple truth Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has scribbled.
“Every part aches inside
And feels it’s funny how
the very thing you’ve blamed me of
is what you’re doing now.”
They spin me their new single, “Safe,” and I am duly impressed. More so than over their previous musical morsel.
Gone are the obvious musical choices and inherent, standard overdubs that are rife in pop music. The usually simplistic songwriting is now more sophisticated, advanced. And the vocals are toned, focused, nuanced. Glassine guitar work frames and enhances their vocal union, the whisper-on-skin harmony, without sacrificing their aural individuality. Like any enviable couple, they are singularly separate, yet seamlessly together as one. They might not have written the song, but they are the song. And, to my amazement, I am moved, touched. Both sonically and spiritually.
And I realize why I am here. To hear this. Granted, that may not be enough for them, or for you. But it’s perfect for me.
God works. And, apparently, through two singers who happen to be both Christian and gay.
Maybe I need to rethink this whole not-going-to-church thing.
Jason & deMarco’s latest CD is available at Best Buy. Their upcoming release streets in September.
Steven Foster interviewed comedian Lisa Lampinelli for the March 2008 issue of OutSmart magazine (“Dirty Girls”).