By Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
Drew Schiff makes a conquering return to pop radio with “Ride the Wave,” a song he wrote about the importance of leaning on loved ones in times of need. Distributed by U.K. label AWAL, “Ride the Wave” is Schiff’s third single release and is available on iTunes, Spotify and all digital platforms. All proceeds from “Ride the Wave” are being donated to the Stonewall Community Foundation.
“There have been times I have felt I wasn’t strong enough to deal with a problem,” Schiff said. “I’m a strong guy, so yeah, I probably had most of what it took to rise above the crisis but sometimes, when things get really dark, everyone needs that tiny ray of light, that little whisper of ‘I believe in you’, to help overcome what appears to be insurmountable.”
Schiff said he encountered many storms over the past few years but the most impactful was when he was forced to leave home due to his inability to live up to what his parents dreamt him to be.
Growing up in Hungary, Schiff enjoyed a nice childhood surrounded by his sister and cousins (who were also like siblings to him). Everything changed, however, in his teen years with the divorce of his parents and his mother openly objecting to his sexual fluidity. He found solace in pop music.
“Pop artists like Pharrell, Kanye West and Lady Gaga provided an escape from the everyday wreck of my life,” he said. “They helped me to ride the wave of my troubles until I was ready to make it out on my own.”
Schiff writes and records songs that take listeners on journeys. His debut single, “Ray-Bans,” is an upbeat, fun, summer-y track. His second single, “It’s Just Today,” about missing a special someone, presents a more sentimental side to the young singer. In “Ride the Wave,” he digs even deeper into his emotions.
Though Schiff has split ties with most of his family, he counts himself lucky to have forged lifelong friendships with men and women in the LGBTQ+ community. It is a big reason why Drew decided to donate all proceeds from “Ride the Wave” to the Stonewall Community Foundation.
“This year marks the 50th year of the Stonewall Riots, the very first modern-day LGBTQ+ march,” Schiff said. “Back then, it was [a stand] against police oppression and [for] basic human rights. It makes you stop, think and appreciate what the generations before us have done. The liberties we all have now to live our lives, be ourselves, and not just be accepted and tolerated but respected and celebrated.”
In an interview with Gay San Diego, Schiff discussed his upbringing, creative process and sexual identity.
Describe the fluidity in your sexual identity?
“I’m just a boy; pretty boring answer. (laughs) To be honest with you, in my book, everyone is ‘fluid’. It’s a spectrum and it can change with time, it’s a journey. As we grow, we evolve physically, mentally and sexually, which is a combination of both. I personally just don’t like to think or talk too much about it, it’s just me and that’s it. Many people tell me … they say I might be on a journey to become gay, and that’s alright. In that case I’ll be happy that way. I am just trying to accept myself as I come. OK, this last bit sounds slightly different than I intended!” (laughs)
Tell me more about your upbringing, your parents and how you found your chosen family in the LGBTQ+ community.
“I’ve spent most of my childhood in the outskirts of a big city. My father was a typical ‘macho man’; against most things that were different than he was. He used to call me names. I was a mommy’s boy until I started to reach puberty and once showed interest in a boy. That was the point when my relationship with my mom turned upside down. She didn’t accept it at all. We had big and ugly fights which led to me having to leave. Growing up without my biological family, I’ve had times when I felt incredibly lonely. I tried to find family in people I’ve met, connect with them. I think many people from the LGBTQ community can relate, as there are so many of us with similar stories, which is so sad.”
In picking the Stonewall Community Foundation as your charity choice, how important do you believe that younger generations understand LGBTQ history?
“Very. To be honest, I’m a bit of a geek and love history and asking questions. Most of my generation doesn’t know much about the Stonewall Riots, or the symbolic importance of Judy Garland. The very first pride march, exactly 50 years ago, happened in the week Judy Garland died. Some say it’s related, some think it’s coincidence. The chosen flag of this community, many say, is also attributed to a little girl named Dorothy singing her heart out. But let’s not forget that people of this community died every day. It was brutal. I feel that in this special, commemorative year, it makes you stop and think for a moment and appreciate what the generations before have done so that we can now live a life where we are not just accepted and tolerated but respected and celebrated — at least in some places, of course, still not everywhere. The donation is just a tiny contribution from me to the cause to say thank you.”
Can you tell me a little more about your creative process in producing music?
“I do write my own songs. It’s sorta funny as I feel that right now I’m evolving so rapidly, I often get annoyed by certain parts of my music that I released just mere months ago! But it’s a good thing to evolve and grow. Since I am an independent musician, I have full control over what I release. I am not too sure how it works once you’re signed, I suppose these days people know you before you reach that stage so I doubt labels would force a very different agenda on you, like it happened with Pink at the start of her career.”
What message do you have for LGBTQ youth that are facing the same problems that you faced growing up?
“This is very tough. I might be expected to say ‘Be and act who you are on the inside and fight for who you are.’ But if I said that, some people could be bullied and hurt because of my advice. So I guess I’d like to say, be smart. Strategic. First of all, it would be nice to find allies within your friends and family. Siblings or a nice granny. They should be able to help. Be yourself, yes, but do it in a smart way so once you are becoming fully formed, you won’t have to be an underdog.”
Who or what inspired the single, ‘Ride the Wave’?
“The song was inspired by hardship I’ve experienced in my life and how, at times, you can feel that you’re different or not good enough because the environment that you’re in doesn’t understand you. But no matter what kind of shitstorm there is around you, as long as you’ve got at least one person who cares for you, that can really give you the armor to face everything. As I say in the song, together you can become the ‘eye of the storm.'”
What do you hope to do with your new platform as a pop singer?
“I always loved the idea of being able to spread a message, influence people, be the soundtrack of their special moments. It can be a very powerful and rewarding tool.”
Drew Schiff’s “Ride the Wave” is available on iTunes, Spotify and all digital platforms. Follow on Instagram @drewschiff.
— Albert Fulcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.