On new CD, Cheyenne Jackson says 'This is who I truly am'

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — Cheyenne Jackson would like to get something off his chest: He's proudly old-fashioned when it comes to music.

The Broadway star, whose credits include "All Shook Up" and "Finian's Rainbow," has recorded cast albums and his own pop records, but his heart is in the classics — less Sarah McLachlan and more Sarah Vaughn.

He's showing his true colors on "Renaissance," a new studio album adapted from his one-man show, "Music of the Mad Men Era." The CD has songs such as "Besame Mucho," ''Somethin' Stupid" and "A Change is Gonna Come."

Jackson also has rejoined FX's "American Horror Story." Last season, he played the husband of Lady Gaga's character. The Associated Press caught up with Jackson to ask about both the music and the horror.

AP: The CD has a great mix of songs, including ones by Joni Mitchell, Elton John and Sam Cooke. What connects them?

Jackson: Over the last few years, I really have just been searching myself and figuring out what really is my voice. And, to be honest, I had to go back to the beginning of my life and the first music that I ever loved and responded to. And that was the American Songbook and jazz — Nat King Cole and Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. As a little kid in the woods up in northern Idaho, it's the stuff that always connected the most with me.

AP: You've appeared on Broadway cast albums and written pop songs. Is this stuff more you?

Jackson: The thing that makes my heart sing and the thing that connects the most is this style of music. When I first started singing it as a young person, everybody said, 'It's so old-fashioned.' I knew I didn't have a pop sensibility. I didn't listen to the stuff that was on the radio. I listened to older stuff and I kind of felt maybe a little embarrassed by it. As I've gotten older, I've said, 'No, no. This is who I truly am.' So this album is really a coming out, I guess.

AP: Is there one song on the album that has lots of meaning?

Jackson: Sure, 'A Song for You.' I've never performed it before but I feel like I have, if that makes any sense. It's a song that I've have loved since I was 10. I love the words. I love the melody. I love all the different versions of it. I just thought, 'I want to sing that someday when I can really sing the lyrics and really live them.' I kind of came back to it and I thought, 'Oh, it's the perfect time.'

AP: Getting cast in "American Horror Story" seems like a nice stretch for an actor.

Jackson: I never thought I'd be involved in a horror fantasy. I was a fan of the show but I didn't necessarily see myself on it in my head. I thought I'm more thought of as a comedic actor coming from '30 Rock' and 'Glee.' I just thought, 'Well, I'll just enjoy it from afar.' So when I was asked, I really had to envision it and then get on set and see if I could do it, to be quite honest. The best thing about it is that it's such a creative space. It's like a theater troupe. Everybody's constantly pushing each other and challenging each other and encouraging each other to make bold, crazy choices.

AP: What is it like working with Lady Gaga?

Jackson: Getting to know her has been one of the great joys of this last year and a half. I am a huge fan. Prior to meeting her, I saw her in concert maybe six times over the years, from when she was first blowing up to huge arenas and then to her jazz stuff with Tony Bennett. Musically, I think she's just unbelievable. So I was excited.

AP: We know everyone is very tight-lipped about Season 6. So what if we asked if you've had to learn any special skills?

Jackson: I wish I could say more, but wild horses could not drag it out of my body. Suffice it to say it's very, very exciting, very new and that's all I can say.