Singing OUT across America, from home

Heather Mae and Crys Matthews’ virtual Pride tour is the first of its kind.

The Washington, DC-based musicians Heather Mae and Crys Matthews had a massive American tour planned for Pride this year. When COVID-19 pushed them off the road—every date, more than three dozen, cancelled—the singer-songwriters got to work planning an online version.

P1G21yau0zQsyiMHQVj8QUBvRyi1_publicImageUrl_sidedoorcrop-1588368491000-SOT 2020 Virtual Tour Poster.png

The Singing OUT Tour (tagline: “Because Pride must go on”) launched June 3 and features 23 dates presented by venues across the country, including Club Passim (Boston), The Ark (Ann Arbor, MI), and Isis Music Hall (Asheville, NC). 

“When all of our shows got cancelled, we were scared,” says Mae. “But we started doing a Sunday night concert series from my dining room and people were coming out to that.”

The virtual tour was created not just to recoup the artists’ losses from the cancelled tour, but to support the LGBTQ+ folks they love so much. “It’s far too important to too many people in the community,” says Matthews of Pride. “There are people who need that outlet every year.”

In the days leading up to our chat, both artists were in the streets of DC protesting against police brutality, in support of Black Lives Matter. Whether to even continue with the tour in the face of the civil unrest in the United States was a necessary conversation, but the history of Pride—which began to celebrate the progress of the queer community as a direct result of the Stonewall riots of 1969—is also rooted in exposing police brutality and political uprising. 

“Heather was beside herself, she didn’t know if we should go on,” says Matthews. “But the realization and remembrance of how Pride started, with people of colour standing up and raising their voices.”

The Singing OUT tour’s stage is Mae’s dining room, her behind a keyboard and Matthews armed with a guitar. They sing their own songs, share harmonies on each other’s songs, interact with the audience—Mae’s go-to nickname is Amazing Humans—and generally create and hold safe space for togetherness, celebration, and allyship. The songs are serious but the mood is joyous.

“My dog is always with me,” says Matthews. “The shows have been incredibly relaxed, no shenanigans.”

“Let me just be clear—she goes in her room and ties her bowtie, spruces up her fauxhawk, tunes her guitar and calls it a day,” says Mae, laughing. “I have to do my makeup, my hair, pick my outfit, what’s gonna translate onscreen. It takes hours to get looking this good.”

“I use the Beyoncé model of ‘I woke up like this,’” counters Matthews.

“I did not wake up like this,” says Mae.

As the tour winds on, virtually, throughout the month of June, the pair will use it to honour those who came before them in the LGBTQ+ community, and to support their allies in the streets right now.

"First and foremost, we are social justice songwriters. We do this tour one month a year, but all other 11 months of the year we’re also raising our voices,” says Matthews. “We’re doing this because we have a platform to reach people in this moment, to remember the historical importance of Pride, and to remind people that just because they are members of a marginalized community, you don’t get to take a month off.”

“We want to empower our fans to be activists themselves,” says Mae. “This unrest is because of the injustice our Black communities are facing right now and we have to support them. I have not had a Stonewall, but we remember Pulse and we remember Orlando. And we rose up and got angry, and our communities of colour and our friends, they rose up with us. It’s our turn.”

Dance+Movie+presser+2012+CREDIT+RIchard+Lann+%281%29 (1).jpg

Written by Tara Thorne

Tara Thorne is a writer, editor, and pop culture critic in Halifax.