Meet 'Love, Simon''s Keiynan Lonsdale
Keiynan Lonsdale is a performer from Sydney, Australia, whose talents stretch from dancing and acting to singing and songwriting. He has starred in numerous popular television shows and movies, including The Flash, Love, Simon, the Divergent series, All Saints and Dance Academy.
Lonsdale released a debut EP, Higher Vol. 1, in October 2015, and is currently working on a full-length album. His recent singles Kiss the Boy and Preach have garnered a significant amount of global attention for good reason, and he is someone who you will certainly have to keep an eye out for in the future.
Who were your early influences?
As soon as I saw that Michael Jackson existed, I knew my life path was set out for me to be a performer. I was drawn to his magic, and his love for the world.
What drew you to the acting and music industry?
Even though I loved dancing and was successful in that field, I knew I wanted to express myself beyond that. I knew I had a message to share with my art and that it had to be told in several different ways in order to be truly felt.
What drew you to your particular brand of music? Why are you not, for example, a jazz singer?
Well, I experiment with all kinds of music, whatever feels good and fits the feeling. But I like to bring everything in under the umbrella of pop, and I chose that as my genre because it allows the artist to reach people of all ages, all over the world, and invite them into your world, no matter what music they traditionally gravitate toward. I really hope I can do that.
How did you find the transition from actor to musician?
I always thought my music would pick up before acting, so it caught me off guard when life went the other way. I put music on hold for a while, just recording in my set trailer or at home after shooting whenever I could, but after a couple years I became sad and frustrated that I couldn't give it the time and attention I knew it deserved. The next step from there to grab people's attention was just to show my audience that this isn't just a hobby – I had to show them I was something they hadn't seen before, and I believe we did that this year with the releases of Kiss The Boy and Preach.
What do you find the major differences between the music and acting industry to be? Which do you prefer?
I think there is a greater opportunity for more creative freedom in the music industry. I get to write my words, choose the video takes, create the story I want, and mould it in the ways I dream of. It presents a lot more challenges though, because a lot more responsibility falls on you to have everything together.
Do you think that your profession as an actor has helped or hindered your music career?
I know that my career as an actor has taught me invaluable lessons. Whether through triumph or trying times, I am a more well-rounded human being from my experiences on set and working in the industry overall, and I don't think I was supposed to learn these things any other way. I've grown into the kind of human and music artist that seeks and speaks only truth, only love.
What’s the creative process behind your music?
It changes depending on who I'm working with or the project, but for this first album, I'm working mostly with my friend and producer Louis Futon. We're just locked in together creating from the ground up. We start every session talking about what I've been feeling that week or even just that morning, and we run with that emotion, no matter what it is, even if it's something that might seem silly at the time, because often it blossoms into something pretty beautiful.
I start humming melodies and spurting gibberish, while he plays with different chords and sounds. We jam out with each other for a while and just let it all build, then once we catch the vibe and gain a strong sense of the direction, we both dive into our respective work to complete the song. The only rule I go by is that it has to feel 100% authentically me, even if it doesn't make any sense.
How did playing a teenage boy who was struggling with his sexuality help you with your own sexuality?
It just meant I could come from a space of direct truth. It made it easier to tap into that pain and share it in the work.
What do you think the most incisive moment in your career was?
The journey leading up to it was obviously so confusing and painful, but the moment itself of coming out publicly was by far the best and most truthful thing I've ever done for myself and my work, and it won't be the last. It changed my entire life. I can't imagine even having a career anymore if it wasn't based in honesty and unconditional love. I wouldn't want it. It's those moments you look into your fears and say, "I don't believe in you anymore, you no longer serve me". Those are the times you become a butterfly, and you inspire others to do the same.
How do you think your racial background has affected your career, if it all?
I am very aware that a black person has to go above and beyond in every single way just to get one-tenth the recognition of a Caucasian person in that same field. Of course it is unfair, it's stupid, but it's the reality we're in, and a reality we must be aware of so we can change it. I'm willing to be the absolute best I can in order to get people's attention, and once I have their full attention, I can shed light (compassionately, like so many other beautiful black people have done before and do now), on the total truth of our choices, our thoughts, our mess, and our beauty. No matter what, whether I'm given an advantage or disadvantage, all I can do is make the most of the platform and do it gracefully, I promise to do that best I can.
How have you tried to express your personal beliefs and values in your music? How successful do you think you’ve been in that?
I've only been able to express honestly and with my best creativity after coming out last year. Since then, I haven't held anything back. I ask myself what isn't being spoken about with absolute confidence, what are others (even queer artists) afraid to embody or speak on because they don't want to make people really face their shit? Then if I believe speaking on those things will genuinely free myself & others from our fears and false security, I will.
What career achievement are you most proud of?
I'm most proud of Kiss The Boy, because I wish someone sang that to me when I was growing up. I know for a fact songs like that can save a kid’s life. But that was only the beginning. I'm working on my first album at the moment, and every single song is infused with the beliefs and values I've found help me fly, and I couldn't have it any other way.
What do you hope to do in the future?
Just keep dreaming and learning, making new music, touring the world, healing people, playing video games, dancing in the water, making love (a lot), and discovering magic powers with best friends.
What’s the hardest part about your line of work?
You go through a lot of downs and doubts when your work is based in emotion. It's obviously not fun being in those waves, and they can last a while, but I've learnt to find a lot of beauty in them, and I know they are blessings in disguise, testing our belief in love.