Out singer and songwriter Tom Goss, touring in support of his sixth album, “What Doesn’t Break, performs at the Metropolitan Room in Chelsea this month. Probably best known for his jaunty song “Bears,” Goss takes a darker direction with this CD, with songs revealing a troubled childhood but also anthems of strength and resilience, as well. The artist chatted about his music in a recent Skype session.
GARY M. KRAMER: Your songs are mostly personal stories. “Mama” is about your family. What inspires you to tell these stories through song?
TOM GOSS: I’m not sure I have any other option at this point! I tell stories about what I know and my life. In that regard, when I sit down to write, I draw from my personal experience. I’ve always been writing those songs, I just haven’t been releasing them! [Laughs.] “Mama” is a hard one. It’s about fear of rejection, something that we all feel as gay men. We fear it because we have felt it. It can come again at any time.
Sometimes our families reject us because they don’t understand us. We shouldn’t have to struggle with this, but we do. Is my mother or brother or father going to love me anymore when they fully understand who I am? What kind of question is that? That they may throw me away as a result of that? That was a hard song to release because it speaks to those moments in my life. At the same time, I don’t want to throw my family under the bus, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a struggle at times.
GMK: How you do balance giving fans what they expect from you and growing as a musician and doing different things?
TG: I am who I am, and I am always going to be. You’re not going to pick up a Tom Goss record and think you’ll get someone else. I strive to put positive energy into the world and create positive change. Even in songs like “Thirteen” or “Someone Else” or “Mama,” there is that positivity that is peeking through. Though the production is different or the music is different, I’m not betraying who I am as a singer/ songwriter.
GMK: Can you talk about the different genres of music you play? I’m curious how you create songs — do the lyrics or music come first?
TG: I experiment with different rhythms and sounds. I’d get bored otherwise. My songs all come together at the same time. “Someone Else” is super simple; it’s mostly the loop of a riff. I sit with the riff and it evokes a kind of emotion. I don’t say, “I’m going to write a song about elephants.” I sit with the guitar and play something. I play a chord and that evokes a feeling, and then the lyrics come from that. It’s pretty organic and fluid.
GMK: Do you feel you have to sing gay songs because you are a gay singer, with a gay fan base?
TG: I don’t feel like I write gay songs. I write songs. I don’t know that songs have a sexual identity. I write from my personal experience. I’m a gay man married to another man. A song like “Bears” taps into a gay audience, but I don’t think it’s a gay love song. It’s a love song. I talk about love without using male pronouns. I would never use a female pronoun. I wouldn’t pretend I’m something that I’m not.
The amazing thing about music is that you can hear a song and it drops your walls and hits you in your heart, and you feel you have the same emotions. I try to speak about truisms that we all have that are relatable and accessible to anyone who would listen. Even instrumental music has that ability.
GMK: I love the track “Someone Else” which is a real “Fuck You” anthem to an adulterer. Do you feel a need to be edgier?
TG: It’s funny. There have been several times in my career I thought: Do I need to be more edgy? No. I have felt I could be edgier, but I am who I am: a good wholesome Midwestern guy who speaks honestly about love and relationships. This record does have more edge to it, but it is still a true representation of me.
GMK: What can people expect from seeing you in concert?
TG: They can expect these songs stripped down to the core of their message. They can expect strong storytelling and hearing why these songs are important to and resonate with me. I get to show you a piece of myself and make an entire room happy.
Here, Tom Goss sings:
TOM GOSS | The Metropolitan Room, 32 W 22nd St. | Aug. 13 at 4 p.m. | $20 at metropolit