As Australia grapples with issues surrounding same sex marriage and the current impact of a hurtful debate on the rights of the LGBTI community, Canada’s Drake Jensen has already walked the path.
With singles and airplay already under his belt, it was the dedication of his single‘On My Way to Finding You’ in 2012 to Ottawa teenager Jamie Hubley (who committed suicide after severe bullying) that cemented Drake Jensen as not only an accomplished musician, but also a courageous one, coming out to the notoriously conservative country music establishment in a big way.
Now in 2016, Jensen has released a brand new track ‘Wherever Love Takes Us’, an ode to love in all its forms and a reminder to his fans in Australia of the universality of the world’s most powerful force.
“My early-life story is one that’s punctuated by abuse at home, bullying at school and repressing who I truly was. It was when I saw the appalling story of Jamie that I realised that his story wasn’t that far from my own and many, many other LGBTI teenagers who are struggling with who they are and to find acceptance in a world that simply doesn’t understand.”“Coming out has been not only liberating for me personally, but also musically. Music is about expression and if you’re writing with complete truth in your heartrather than putting forward a version of yourself that you think people want to hear, then you’ll really connect with your audience. That’s certainly been my experience. The world is full of amazing people and I choose to be defined by those people, not the haters.”
Being one of the first openly gay men in country music is a badge that Drake wears uneasily. He doesn’t care to be labelled as a pioneer that kicked in the door—just that the door stays open and creates an easier life for other young country artists who want their passion for music to be what defines them, not their sexuality.
His bold stance with the dedication of ‘On My Way to Finding You’ and his own story earned him a Hats Off Award from Montreal’s Foundation Emergence, an accolade previously bestowed on Ricky Martin and Lady Gaga. He followed this with ‘Scars That You Can’t See’ to further the cause, which led Drake to his current role as spokesman and activist for bullying.org, a movement dedicated to stem the tide of bullying-related suicides of gay teens.
But Jensen is a musician, not just an activist. With a long touring schedule over many years and a strong history of releases, he is one of Canada’s most respected country stars; his cover of Tammy Wynette’s hit ‘Stand By Your Man’ with Ru Paul’s Drag Race alumnus William Belli stirred the country establishment, while his Christmas releases ‘Christmas at Home’ and ‘Little Toy Trains’ have delighted yuletide audiences around the globe.His 2013 album OUTlaw received plaudits and airplay around the US and Canada including the single ‘When It Hurts Like That’, his third song to clock up over100,000 views on YouTube. His last album ‘Retro’, a collection of some of his favourite classic tracks was yet another critical success with the single ‘Every Time I See Your Picture’ achieving airplay across the continent.
The new single ‘Wherever Love Takes Us’ is the first taste of Drake Jensen’s forthcoming album and is already one of his most successful tracks at Canadian radio. It’s his first single release in Australia, an important move to make for an artist who has been closely watching Australian LGBTI politics.
“While we’re down the line a little in Canada, the fight for equal rights for LGBTI people is one that’s raw in our recent past and reading about how the struggle is progressing in Australia made me want to release ‘Wherever Love Takes Us’ there as a matter of priority,” said Jensen. “It’s not really about straight or gay or the definition of what constitutes a relationship, it’s simply about respect for all human beings and an understanding that we’re all defined by love. ‘Wherever Love Takes Us’ is a really simple message of tolerance, respect and freedom and that’s what I want for my sisters and brothers in Australia.”