In My Own Words: Danielle Grubb Talks About Identity
"In My Own Words" is a series where we give artists the space to express what is on their mind--unfiltered and uninhibited. Today, indie R&B artist Danielle Grubb, who recently came out as trans-masculine and nonbinary, talks about identity, authenticity, and being honest with yourself.
The talented artist (whose pronouns are they/them) has a penchant for space. They once dreamed of being an astronaut; now, they're learning to be happy here on Earth.
On the role music played in coming out at trans-masculine and nonbinary:
A lot of my big discoveries with gender and sexuality have been through music. Music has played the role of the therapist, the best friend, the parent, the girlfriend, the direct line to all the meta that exists in our universe. I use it as a reflection tool. Nowadays, I write when I don’t know how I’m feeling, in order to learn about how I’m feeling. I look at my words and see which ones I use or abuse. That has helped me with identity in a huge way.
You start to identify positive and toxic-thinking patterns. I think most songwriters either don't want to admit or don't understand that the words we use are our actual emotions and thoughts. Maybe not outright - it could be a line, it could be a word, it could be a name. But it’s all derivative.
I found myself at times referring to myself as a boy/boi (in songs no one has heard) or using masculine type words like "king." When I use those words, it feels affirming. Same situation when I was coming out as queer earlier in my life. Using she/her pronouns while speaking about lovers is affirming too.
It’s not just writing, though. I’d say listening is even more important. Tegan & Sara, The Clicks, Sick of Sara, John-Allison Weiss, and Janelle Monae are artists that helped me discover a different part of my identity at different stages in life.
Through music, I learned who I am. I gained a sense of self. I learned to be confident with the words that I say and to say what I mean.
On how their latest music reflects their feelings about identity:
I was speaking to Alexis Inglehart (a collaborator on my latest album, The Fall of Jameson Roye) after a therapy session, and it was the day I realized I was trans-masculine as well as nonbinary. She told me that she’d always seen me that way, in a soft but strong way “like kings who wore pink,” and I’d realized that could be a part of myself. In my last tune “Dancing by Yourself” I say, "Call me little King, dressed pink, silver trim."
On the interplay between identity and the creative process:
My current feelings about identity affect my creative process. It may sound weird, but it feels like I’ve unlocked my truth and the things that I want to say. I write with more confidence now, and probably more concisely. I’m still trying to find some of the words to tell people who I am, and those are coming. It’ll just take a little more self reflection.
On the pressure to attain social media popularity, and the "game" of going viral:
I think to play the game, you have to make a lot of compromises. I made one with my identity when I was younger. I felt that, in order to be successful, I had to fit into the binary scope of things for marketability reasons. But I also think that it may depend on what kind of growth you’re wanting, and I’m not playing the game anymore. I think that organic growth never really equates to viral success but to longevity and sustainability. Whereas viral success is short-lived, and may take more sacrifice in creative areas as you keep chasing it.
I don't think you can play this kind of game while keeping true to yourself. It’s a game that shouldn’t exist, so how are you really supposed to navigate that ? I’d say do your best to stay true to yourself, without engaging in the game. Focus on quality content, and when you're at the point where you have to engage (because you’ll have to engage unless things change) your sense of self could be resilient in a way that is untouchable.
On trying to represent yourself online in an authentic way:
[I'm trying] to figure out how to present myself online in a way that represents who I am in real life. Transparency is important. And it’s funny, because now all the pics of me online are in this spacesuit, and I obviously don't wear it every time I go to the store.
There are so many aspects of ourselves; it’s hard to capture a personality.
On how fans and listeners have responded since they came out:
Everyone has been supportive so far, and I’m very lucky. I think a lot of people already knew or caught a vibe, and some people have been politely asking questions to better understand. People have been very receptive.