Not Your Daddy's 'Son of A Preacher Man' :: Tom Goss on Reimaging the Dusty Springfield Classic

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday March 14, 2016

In his albums and videos, you could say that Tom Goss is preaching love. It's his touchstone; though he often addresses other concerns, and his videos have frequently struck a lighter, happier tone, Goss always returns to themes of love and connection, and his body of work is as filled with poignant reflections and expressions of tenderness as it is with dunes that bounce and bring a smile.

Love is the theme once more with Goss' cover of Dusty Springfield's classic "Son of a Preacher Man," as song which, as done by Dusty (not to mention other artists such as Aretha Franklin) is one part heartfelt nostalgia to three parts smoking sexuality. As interpreted anew by Tom Goss, however, the song carries a quality of immediacy and tenderness -- a quality that anchors the accompanying video, which tells the story of two boys in love in a hostile religious community. You want to protect the boys from their own church, and that's part of the point, because Goss has teamed up with The Trevor Foundation and PFLAG to support GLBT youth artistically as well as financially.

Goss' new video starts during Sunday services, with a preacher offering his thoughts on I Corinthians, Chapter 6, Verses 9 and 10. Naturally, the focus of his sermon is how being gay is wrong and immoral; for that matter, the preacher thunders, acceptance of gays is not Christian, either. "But this is about love," the preacher adds, with a smarmy smile.

Meantime the preacher's own son takes note of a new parishioner - a boy his own age sitting not far away, Across a homophobic church their eyes meet, and...

Well, let's just say Goss' rendition of the Dusty Springfield classic is sweet and powerful, bolstered by lush orchestration and Goss' own heartfelt delivery. There are sunlit afternoons spent in happy companionship, pastoral scenes that suggest the Garden of Eden, and nowhere a hint that nature rejects the boys' growing attraction.

Then comes that first kiss - and all hell breaks loose.



"This video is a re-imagination of Dusty Springfield's classic of the same name, tackling the complex relationship between the LGBT community and Christian church." a press release from Goss notes.

This subject is, of course, a fraught issue in the faith community, all the more so when it comes to GLBT youth.

"A lot of gay men and women throughout history have felt condemned by religious institutions," Goss told EDGE. "What we wanted to do was speak to that experience and highlight how damaging it is. We believe we've evolved as a community, but this kind of messaging is still happening in the present day in America, and around the world. We want to put a spotlight on that behavior, and show how destructive it is."

Throughout his career Goss has tackled the civil and human rights topic of the day, though without ever losing sight of the greater objective: To create music his audience will enjoy listening to, music that celebrates love and life. With this new project, he's captured all of that.

EGDE caught up with Tom Goss to chat about the new single and video, his upcoming album, and his collaboration with PFLAG and The Trevor Project to prevent gay teens from tragically succumbing to the hatred they still encounter all too often.

EDGE: This must have some personal resonance for you, given that you actually were in Seminary at one point in your life.

Tom Goss: I've heard a lot of this messaging my whole life, as an athlete and former church-goer, and I do think it's really harmful. That said, I'm lucky to have been in a family where I wasn't getting that kind of messaging from my parents, but that doesn't mean I wasn't getting it other places, that it's not pervasive in society as a whole.

EDGE: Could you address how the song takes on the issue of internalized homophobia, depression, bullying, and teen suicide?

Tom Goss: Ultimately, we wanted to show two boys falling in love. We worked hard to show young love authentically, as innocent and pure as it truly is. When two gay kids fall in love, it's often unknown by the participants themselves. They are in love, they know they want to be around each other, and they know they are attracted to each other, but they don't know how to put a label on it. All the messaging tells the kids that homosexuality is wrong, and is something to be hated, so they don't perceive that label to apply to themselves. That's what happens in this story. These two boys fall in love and they don't really know it until they kiss. That moment of realization also happens to be the preacher's moment of realization. His suspicions are confirmed, his son is gay, and the fallout is swift. We show the turmoil that families have as a result of this judgmental Christian messaging and how it goes beyond the church, following them home and into all aspects of their life. Coming to the realization of who you are and who you love in the context of that hate speech can be so demoralizing, to the point that you could consider taking your own life.

EDGE: Your press release says, "We've been working closely with The Trevor Project and PFLAG." Can you say more about this?

Tom Goss: We worked with them on the story and the visual imagery, knowing how sensitive these issues are. We were very concerned about making sure that this video does good and isn't harmful. We wanted to stay away from images that could trigger people who might have had suicidal thoughts in the past. It was really important to us that when we were addressing the issue of gay teen suicide we did it in a way that was delicate. Additionally, we wanted the song and video to generate money for non-profits working hard to address this issue head on. YouTube has this new feature that lets you make donations directly from videos via embedded card. So you can donate to the Trevor Project and PFLAG directly from the video. Our goal is to help generate actual monetary donations for those two organizations.

EDGE: You're working here once again with director Michael Serrato. I love how polished he's made the video look, with such great lighting, staging, and camerawork.

Tom Goss: Michael and I have worked on a couple projects in the past ("Breath and Sound," "Illuminate the Dark") and honestly, he really killed it on this video. Although I have experience with homophobia and my own attempted suicide at 13, this story mirrors Michael's more closely than it does mine. He put his heart and soul into this video and visualized it expertly. Our shot list and setups were extremely ambitious. In addition to producing, I'm often giving a lot of creative direction as I shoot videos. Not as much on this project. Honestly, when we were shooting, Michael was on another level artistically, he understood the story so clearly, so effortlessly. I remember telling myself midway through the first day of shooting "Tom, step back and watch. You're witnessing something special. If you want this to be perfect, get out of the way!"



EDGE: I was interested in the performance you deliver in the new video. You're sort of a musical narrator, and for a while I was afraid you might be kind of a grim reaper.

Tom Goss: We were dealing with really serious subject matter, but our main point was how beautiful, innocent and pure this love really is. You're getting two competing messages with the imagery: First, how this is all very innocent and pure, which in my opinion is the most authentic reality. However, you're also getting that contrast with the opening scene in the church, and the music, which is ominous. So you're watching this and you're starting to identify with these boys, but in the back of your mind you know that another shoe might be about to drop.

Or rather, you know that another shoe is gonna drop. And you know that because we are gay people in this world that is not always accepting of gay people. When we see images of a boy and a girl falling in love, our heart is warmed. We think it's cute. It's sad that we always have this suspicion when it comes to gay love, because we have seen so much of it fall apart, oftentimes as a result of something that's outside of your control.

EDGE: I was blown away by the sweeping, lush string arrangement that you've made part of this cover version.

Tom Goss: I worked with Nicholas Pavkovic, who has done a lot of work with Matt Alber. I was in love with Matt's cello quartet, especially 'Old Ghosts' and the haunting sound those four cellos made, so I reached out to Nick, and he took the arrangement there. I brought him on to this project to get this beautiful, sad and ominous tone.

It was an interesting process, because usually I create songs and then make videos that fit them. In this case, we had started with the storyboards and knew the story we wanted to tell, and then approached it musically. It became almost like writing a score for a movie, rather than creating a video for a song. We actually shot the video before the audio was done. It probably wasn't until a month after we finished shooting that Marr Zimm finished adding the drums, playing bass and mixing the track.

EDGE: Having had that taste of thinking about music - from a cinematic vantage - would you be tempted to take on a film scoring project some day?

Tom Goss: I'd be interested in that! I love creating, I love music, and I love images. There's a lot of audio engineering going on in this video as well, which was a totally different challenge for me. I'm mixing in audio dialogue, background noises, whispers, wind and other aesthetic noises. Additionally, there's a whole new song that plays after the song ends [as the boys leave the church - playing over the credits], which created after the video was picture locked, exactly like a movie score!

If you listen to the song, you'll hear that the version that we're releasing as the single is different from the version in the video. It's the same song, but it's edited differently. When I listened to the song at home, honestly, I miss the other pieces; I'd heard the video version a thousand times so I'm used to it. When the song ends I miss the little piano track at the end and the ominous break in the middle. For me, they are two totally different experiences.

EDGE: You also wrote two original songs for a movie, "Out to Kill," which you also starred in. You performed those songs in character as Justyn James, but was that a similar process - thinking about music from a cinematic vantage?

Tom Goss: No, not really. For Justyn's songs, I really just went about writing silly, trashy gay pop songs. I always intended those songs to live on their own. The story didn't depend on the movement of the song. They really were created more to feel the ego and Justin and help me understand who he was as a person. It was more character development than anything.



EDGE: Is this new single meant to stand on its own, or is this a first taste of a new album?

Tom Goss: This is a single and a video that will stand completely on its own. That said, I did receive the masters and my new record is done as of yesterday! So, I do have a new record, but I don't know when it's going to release. I'm working on art and images for that, and I've started shooting a couple music videos a well. That said, I'm putting no pressure on myself for the release of the album. The video for "Son of A Preacher Man" was a really big project - it took six months. I'm not eager to jump into something else huge and stressful too quickly, so I'm going to ease into this next one a little more.

EDGE: Speaking of artwork, I understand that, just as you hinted in an earlier interview, cutting edge gay fashion and fine art photographer Venfield 8 is doing the cover art for your new album.

Tom Goss: He is! There was this image we had shot a couple months ago that we both really loved, and we had kind of joked about it being an album cover, it was really more just friends talking and laughing. But in the back of my mind I kept coming back to that image over and over again, which I thought was really interesting.

The new album sounds different from anything I've done in the past; it's definitely got a lot more edge to it, it's full and and rich with a lot of synthesizer and electronic elements. I'm not gonna lie, Venfield 8's aesthetic was visually in my mind as the album's sound was coming together. I tend to be very clean and polished and approachable in a boy-next-door kind of way; this album is very different that, topically and sonically. I kind of made sense to work with somebody who is always pushing the limits of visual imagery.

EDGE: You could probably get him to do one of your videos one of these days, if you wanted. He does some work in video now, too.

Tom Goss: We've already started talking about it. He has some really interesting videos - I love his work. It's so different from anything that I've done. For me, I'm all about collaboration and experimentation. I find that working with others really pushes my ability to the limits, helping me learn and grow. All that said, I'm not making any statements about when the new album is coming out, or the videos, I want it to be very artistically cohesive.

EDGE: We can "Wait." We've done it before, and the results have always been worth it.

Tom Goss: Thanks! But you've got this new single and video to tide you over. Hopefully it'll work for now.


Learn more about Tom and his music at http://www.tomgossmusic.net

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.