This article was published on February 27th, 2023
As a genre, country music has garnered a reputation for being deeply entrenched in toxic masculinity. However, in recent years there’s been a notable resurgence of brilliant, queer country artists working to combat the toxic stereotypes that the genre once perpetuated. Whether it’s the undeniably catchy chorus of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road”, Orville Peck’s sultry crooning, or Brandi Carlisle’s breathtaking ballads, country is experiencing a bonafide queer renaissance. Now, School of Rock alumni Brian Falduto is the latest gay artist to throw his proverbial cowboy hat in the ring. with his latest single, “Skip the Step.”
Released on February 10, “Skip the Step” is the fourth single from Falduto’s forthcoming album, Gay Country, out this Spring. It’s an undeniably catchy tune backed by blues-inspired guitars. But beneath the lively instrumentation, Falduto is ensnared in one of the most painful and necessary truths of a breakup: to get over someone, you have to feel your feelings.
Falduto elaborated on the song’s inspiration in the accompanying press release,’ “Skip the Step’ is based on a conversation I had in therapy once. I was stuck in a hard place trying to move on from some relational pain, and I was doing everything I knew how to do in order to process that pain: journaling, talking about it, meditating, traveling. Then one day it finally hit me: I needed to feel my pain, not just process it. My attempts to process it were my attempts to skip the step of feeling it.”
This sentiment is echoed in the chorus where Falduto sings, “Can’t skip the step where I cry/ Thought I could just move on since the day you up and gone/ I just lie./ I say that I’m okay/ but I’m really just afraid that I’ll die.” The chorus is an energetic burst of drums, guitar, and Falduto’s soaring voice, but the emotional core of the song is the prescient force that binds all these elements together into an absolute bop.
Falduto had a hand in every aspect of the song’s production, and he fought to include a key change, a musical choice that’s often eschewed by country artists. Falduto explained, “I had to fight to get this song with a key change included on the album because I was told, ‘there aren’t key changes in country music anymore’ and ‘country radio would never play this.’ Mainstream country radio isn’t playing music from queer artists anyway so why would I follow a formula that’s designed to leave me out? If anything, it just made me want to include a key change more!”
As a musician, Falduto has always fought against the emotional and genre constraints of Country, championing queer artists and narratives in a genre that has been entrenched in homophobic rhetoric. He continues to subvert expectations of the genre, even visually. The album art for “Skip the Step” features glitter-encrusted boots and hot pink font, a direct contrast to the boots and mud approach that populates Country radio.
In 2020 he released “God Loves Me Too,” a song that Faltudo wrote as an antidote to his own experiences of struggling to feel accepted while growing up gay in the church. He utilized the song and the accompanying music to offer love and acceptance to queer youth of faith that he never experienced while growing up. The song and accompanying video garnered support from several prominent LGBTQ+ organizations such as GLAAD and the Trevor Project. It was also added to Apple Music’s “Country Proud” playlist.
An outspoken LGBTQ+ musician and advocate, Falduto got his start in the entertainment industry as the precocious Billy, also known as, “Fancy Pants” in the cult-classic rock-and-roll coming-of-age film, School of Rock. His fellow castmate and rock-and-roll aficionado, Jack Black, showed support for Falduto’s foray into country music by sharing Falduto’s track “Same Old Country Love Song” on TikTok to the tune of 1.3 million views.
Falduto is readying to enter the country arena as an out and proud artist regardless of his initial hesitations, stating, ““Even as recently as four years ago, I was really unclear about my identity as an artist in the country lane. I knew that I would never deny being gay for the sake of being a successful country music artist, but I simultaneously felt as though I had to be careful how I pitched myself. How much of my queerness would be acceptable amongst the audience I’m trying to reach?”
“Skip the Step” is a triumphant foray into queer country. It’s a track that is simultaneously resilient and tender, practically begging listeners to blast it with the windows rolled down for all to hear.
Listen to “Skip the Step” by Brian Falduto now.