SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
How can a person feel hopeful in these times? For Evangeline Gentle, the answer is their self-titled album.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ORDINARY PEOPLE")
EVANGELINE GENTLE: (Singing) I've been feeling afraid and lonely, but I don't ever want fear to own me. I want an open heart capable of loving fearlessly.
SIMON: Evangeline Gentle, who was born in Scotland and now lives in Ontario, joins us. Thanks so much for being with us.
GENTLE: Thanks so much for having me.
SIMON: I've read you began writing this album when you were 19, and it took three years. And recognizing, of course, that every life is different, those are three very significant years in the formation of any human being.
GENTLE: Mmm hmm. And I was concerned that when we got to the end of the recording process that the songs that I had written when I was 19 - that they wouldn't feel relevant anymore. But what had happened was it ended up being this journey through those formative years. And it made a lot of sense.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO IT GOES")
GENTLE: (Singing) I was 18. I was bold and burning, always in some kind of trouble, still learning when to draw the line.
SIMON: I have to ask, hearing your extraordinary singing, when did you realize you had a voice like that?
GENTLE: Apparently, I could sing before I could speak properly when I was a kid. And I started writing songs when I was about 12. But as soon as I started playing shows, I kind of knew that this is what I was supposed to do with my life. And I've always been very introspective. Writing became an outlet for me in that way.
SIMON: I want to ask you about identity stuff, gender identity. You've written that your queerness - I'm going to quote your words - was something that made you feel, quote, "inherently less gifted and valuable as an artist." Queer artists have been excelling in all the arts for centuries. Why did you feel that way?
GENTLE: Well, I went to a Catholic elementary school. And when I was realizing that I was queer, I had internalized a lot of anti-queer messaging discussions around sin. And that really stuck with me. And so the last few years of my life and over the course of writing that record, I was unlearning a lot of those things that I had internalized and believed about myself to be true.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DROP MY NAME")
GENTLE: (Singing) Do you want something from me? Do you want to take it, take it for free? Think you deserve it all so easily as if you don't know what it's worth.
SIMON: For whatever it means, my wife and I have two daughters in Catholic schools. Their schools aren't that way at all.
GENTLE: The world is changing. Religion is expanding to be - to catch up with the times, really. And it's becoming more progressive. And I certainly have nothing against religion. I'm a very spiritual person myself. And my experiences of homophobia within the church have not ever contributed to me losing my own spiritual beliefs.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DROP MY NAME")
GENTLE: (Singing) I'm nobody's shame. I'm nobody's Friday flame. If it makes you feel special, go ahead and drop my, drop my name.
SIMON: And I want to ask you about your final song because we ask...
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GOOD AND GUIDED")
GENTLE: (Singing) How do we become good and guided by the heart? How do we become good and guided?
SIMON: And, Evangeline Gentle, if you know the answer to that, I think the world needs to hear it right now.
GENTLE: I think that's the big question, right?
GENTLE: At the time that I wrote it, I was really trying to believe that at any given point in time, people are trying their best with whatever information they have, whatever their life experiences have been so far to get them to that place. And I'm definitely somebody that wants to be good and guided by the heart. But I believe that everybody wants to be that way.
SIMON: I assume you haven't been able to perform these past few months.
GENTLE: It's definitely different. It's definitely been hard, but I'm excited because I'm doing a livestream concert from a music venue. And I'm going to be playing with my full band, which is exciting 'cause we haven't played a show together since February.
SIMON: Wow, you'll be in the same place?
GENTLE: Yeah, so in Hamilton, Ontario, where I live, we are allowed to expand our social bubbles beyond 10 people now. Our COVID numbers here are very low, which I'm so grateful for, as well.
SIMON: Better than what we have south of the border. I know that. Evangeline Gentle. Their self-titled album is out now. Thank you so much for being with us.
GENTLE: Thank you so much for having me. This has been really, really lovely. Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUNDAYS")
GENTLE: (Singing) Well, I don't want to spend all my days alone when it's so nice to spend Sundays with you at home. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.