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Marc Ambrosia: Gay and Proud

Marc Ambrosia is a talented up-and-coming singer-songwriter. He began pursuing music during his sophomore year of high school and now has released 4 albums: Footprints, Unleashed, Unleashed (Deluxe Edition), and Edge. Marc describes his music as “conversational songs about feelings and yearning”. His work comes from a raw place of feeling, making his music unique and lyrical. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Marc shares his own experience of self-discovery and inspires his listeners to be proud of who they are. “Don’t give up on yourself!” Marc says for those struggling with their own pride, “Allow yourself the opportunity to explore your feelings, take stock of who you are as a person, and accept yourself”.

Read below to learn about his journey with his own pride and for a sneak peek at what is in store for Marc Ambrosia!

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue music?

I can remember being fascinated by music from as far back as my memory goes. The love was there and I knew I had a good voice, but the thought of actively pursuing it didn’t come until later. I was a sophomore in high school and was in the midst of taking the PSAT and was just miserable. I felt defeated during the test and I had never ever wanted to go to college. I just sort of found myself on this path that every high schooler falls into out of default. Go to school, take tests, go to college - none of that appealed to me. As I’m having this existential crisis during the exam, I pulled myself together to try and finish the damn thing. The next part of the exam was reading a piece on Ella Fitzgerald and answering questions about it. I was enamored by the piece and so related to her picking herself up from her bootstraps and taking control of her own life. I finished the piece, closed the exam booklet, and didn’t even finish the test. I knew at that moment, it was time for me to take control of my life and make my own choices. I had already started writing songs by that point, but now I was ready to get serious about it. I wrote like a maniac and was determined to make music the focal point of my life. That’s where my happiness was and that’s where it still is today.

Do you play any instruments? If so, what caused you to play?

First and foremost, I’m a vocalist. I just opened up my mouth one day and started to sing. People said it sounded good and I just haven’t stopped since. It was really that simple! As far as instruments go, can I play some? Sure, but not exceptionally. I can plunk out melodies on piano for writing purposes and usually play all of the instruments on my demos, but I bring in other musicians to execute the parts better than I can on the records. After the finished musical elements are in place, I may go back and track little things to augment the main melody. Little synthesizer/organ fills, percussion, that type of stuff. Sometimes I get a little more adventurous. On my last record, I played a bit of xylophone and drum machines, that was cool. I also played a really pretty fender rhodes on a song of mine called “Fragile.” That’s probably my favorite thing I’ve ever played.

Who inspires you?

Those who are bold enough to fight for good; anyone who loves with their whole heart; people who persist and persevere.

What does pride mean to you?

I’ve known I was gay since I was eight years old. Despite that, I never in a million years would have thought I’d be able to admit that to anyone, let alone publicly. Growing up, gay people were misunderstood, mocked, and even murdered. Sadly, that all still happens today. Fortunately, though, there’s been some strides made. There’s been a learning curve that we as a society have been on and damn sure better continue. I knew I was gay for so long and felt rage, shame, and fear. I was so angry that I just couldn’t be “normal;” I felt ashamed that I couldn't change myself, and I felt so afraid that if anyone ever found out, I’d be disowned, harmed, or killed. Twenty years ago the only “normal” and accepted relationships were heterosexual ones, at least that’s what was widely represented to my generation as children. I was growing up gay as “don’t ask, don’t tell” was in effect, Matthew Shepard was murdered, Governor Jim McGreevey was made a laughing stock for coming out, and President George Bush adamantly backed the ban of gay marriage. I remember that press conference being on at home and just thinking to myself “What about me?” That was the moment I understood what all those feelings I had about other boys growing up were called - being gay. It took me twenty years to not only say it out loud but also to accept that about myself and love that about myself. So for me, pride is a celebration of life. A life that was so full of self-hate and one that finally became one of self-love, acceptance, and peace.

Where did you grow up? And how did (if it did) affect your music?

I grew up in New Jersey. I still reside in Jersey and I absolutely love it! I don’t know how much location affects my music. I think I’d be making the same music even if I lived elsewhere. There are beautiful parks in Jersey though and those are great for walking and writing, so there’s that. My younger self (who dreamed of living in L.A.) would laugh to hear me say this, but Jersey is damn near perfect! We’re only a couple hours from New York, a hop, skip, and a jump from Philly, and we have so many beaches! Not to mention, my favorite thing about New Jersey - Italian hoagies.

If you weren't pursuing music what do you think you would be doing?

Surely, I would’ve found a way to have my own talk show and be the next Regis Philbin! I’m a gossip and I love talking to people. A cup of coffee, a stage, and a live audience?! Name a better morning than that!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Yikes, such a daunting question! Wherever I do wind up in ten years, I hope it’s even better than I can imagine right now. I think I’ll still be making music, but I also hope to find myself in a serious relationship. A serious relationship with a man who I just can’t get enough of and who feels like a long-awaited dream come true. That’s what I hope. Oh, how I hope.

Have you ever struggled with your pride?

I thought for the longest time that I would take the secret of my gayness to my grave. While I guess I still consider myself bisexual, I consider myself a very “gay-leaning bisexual.” Like sure, there’s a small amount of women I find myself attracted to, but to commit to one and never be with a man again? I could never! Nonetheless, for years I thought I would just resolve to marry a woman, have children, and then engage in secret gay relationships on the side. I had this whole idea of living a fraudulent life just because the thought of coming out of the closet and being my truest self seemed ultimately impossible. That took me to some dark places. The idea of limiting the realness of any gay relationship I was in or limiting my own realness as a human-caused me to break down. I couldn’t go on living that way, I wasn’t going to go on living that way. Plenty of other people come out and maybe they don’t have the best experience with it, but eventually, it gets better for them, so I just thought, “Why not me?” Not long after that, my Grandparents were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary and we had a big celebration with a lot of family and friends all gathered around. I remember thinking "What a beautiful gift it is in life to find your soulmate and share a happy, prosperous life together." I knew I wanted something like that for myself one day, but it was only going to happen if I came to terms with my gayness and came out. Fast forward to now and that’s what I’m doing. I’m coming out, and I’m coming out with pride!

Do you have any advice for people struggling with their pride?

Don’t give up on yourself! Allow yourself the opportunity to explore your feelings, take stock of who you are as a person, and accept yourself. Once you achieve self-acceptance, self-hate- becomes self-love and shame becomes pride. When you love yourself and have pride, it’s easier to come out because whether people are there for you or not, it won’t matter - you will have already achieved inner peace and that’s what counts more than anything.

What is your creative process like when writing songs? What inspires you?

My creative process starts from the inside and works its way out. Meaning that all of my songs come from a place of my own emotions. Once I feel something, writing is my way of working through it. As of late, the whole process of coming out has been particularly inspirational. I’ve written a number of songs about that and am making a new album all about coming out.

What is something most people don't know about you?

Well up until this interview, the fact that I’m gay! Aside from that, a number of my older songs had underlying elements of my struggle with living in the closet/ or were about guys I was into/dating. “Let Me Be Your Secret,” “Garden of the Vine,” and “Send the Hurt Away” are all examples. “Painting the Shape of My Heart” was also written for a guy I had a fling with, Joel Dunn. Whenever I hear that song, I think of him.

If you could choose anyone to collaborate with, who would it be?

My answer to this will always be Lindsey Buckingham.

What are some common misconceptions people have about Pride Month? How do you think we can address them?

I think a lot of people simply assume pride month is just an opportunity for gays to have parades and party. While pride month is a jubilant time of celebration, it’s the overcoming we’re celebrating. The overcoming of our own coming out journeys, the overcoming of police raids on gay bars/establishments, the overcoming of gay marriage bans, and also to celebrate significant moments in gay history and pay homage to all the gay brothers and sisters we have lost due to gay hate crimes and homophobia. It’s a chance to celebrate how far the Gay liberation movement has come and also to continue the charge for gay rights and the safety of gay people. I think history and representation are the two tenets of debunking these pride month misconceptions. Gay history is not only inspiring, it’s so important. It’s important because society only accepts what they already understand. If they aren’t aware of history, how can we expect them to be allies? It’s important for little gay kids (like I was) to learn that they are not alone and there are other people (many people) out there just like them and gay people have existed since the beginning of time!

What is your favorite song to perform? Why?

Later this month, I’m recording a Neil Sedaka song called “Beginning to Breathe Again.” I’ve been rehearsing it for several weeks and it’s a gorgeous masterpiece by one of the all-time great songwriters. I don’t record many covers, but this song is such a knockout and so beautifully captures my emotions in regards to coming out, I just have to record this. I plan on putting it on the new album.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

When I was working on my first album, “Footprints,” my friend and co-producer, Jamie Myerson said to me, “Don’t rush this.” I’ll tell you - that advice has just been so true for me in so many facets of my life, not just that record. Don’t rush, let things happen as they happen because they have a way of happening at just the right time.

What is next for you? Do you have anything in the works?

My new single, “Gay and Proud” will be released worldwide on June 23! Coming out has been a milestone twenty years in the making and this song is all about celebrating that. Not only is “Gay and Proud” the name of my new single, but it’s also the title track of the new album I’m working on, which explores the whole process of coming out and yearning for acceptance. It’s an album that rocks and I can’t wait to get it out in full later this year.

Interviewed and Written by Grace Bugin

Photographer: Cody Williams

Assistant Photographer: Rebecka Darby


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