As we sit down cross legged behind a trailer at Governors Ball in New York City, I remind Michael Blume that he’s wearing white jeans. I don’t want to be the cause of grass stains on his ethereal outfit. He plops down and shows off his already scuffed pants—rewards from the stellar performance he put on earlier in the afternoon.
“This is my first big festival other than L.A. Pride last year,” he says. “It’s been such a crazy year… I got super emotional this morning about it. I looked around and had a full-on moment. Like, I cried,” he admits. I immediately recognize that Blume’s heart is in his work entirely. His 11-piece band is made up of his best friends. Three background singers, three horns, a four-piece rhythm section and Blume, at center-stage. “We played weddings and corporate gigs together; they are my homies,” he explains. “The people I’ve done shitty gigs with in New York all those years are now at Gov Ball with me. It feels great to be curating something that is becoming bigger than I ever expected,” Blume says while looking around in awe at our surroundings.
Speaking with Blume is thrilling. He speaks a mile a minute and truly believes that what he has to say is going to change the world. It’s refreshing and inspiring. He explains that he attended Yale University as a Latin American Studies major, performed in a prestigious a cappella group called the Whiffenpoofs and has had two coming outs in his short lifetime. “I came out as a gay man several years prior to performing with the Whiffenpoofs,” he says. “After traveling with them to 35 countries and performing, I had my second coming out, as an artist.”
Blume describes how when he realized that being an artist was his calling, he felt as though he were catapulted into it and there was no turning back. “I feel like this is my job, my duty, my purpose. I’m not super religious, but I believe that God put me here for a reason. Not God like, the man in the sky,” he clarifies. “But, the world, the universe, the spirits. This is my calling,” he declares.
As we sit there like old friends, listening to the melodies of The Strumbellas performing in the background, I prompt Blume to pinpoint what he really wants listeners to gain from his music. His response? “Bitch, live your life.”
“I want to inspire people to do what they want to do but at the same time, I want to wake people up,” he continues. “Let’s talk about privileges and equality. I want to shine a spotlight on the inequalities that pervade our society.”
In today’s society, it’s not uncommon to hear that artists are using their platform to inspire cultural conversations. Blume mentions artists such as Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper and Nicki Minaj as his inspiration. “These artists are focused around prayer of some sort,” he explains. “It’s tough because I want to talk about race, social justice, God, gender issues, climate change; but I also want to be like, let’s have fun. It’s all about finding a balance.”
Blume recognizes that self-doubt is a human emotion. He admits that he does doubt himself every once in a while. But today, performing to a thousand people on Randall’s Island, he knows he’s in the right place.
“I lived in Brazil for a while where I ran a choir. It was a violence-ridden city. There were barefoot children, unpaved roads and men with guns. But, there was a level of happiness that you don’t always see in wealthier communities,” Blume says. “It’s important for me to share those stories of social disparity and how to define love and happiness. It’s days like today that convince me I’m doing the right thing,” he concludes.
Main image credit: Cha’ves Williams