“I think gender fluidity is the natural evolution of humanity”
In the video for melancholy pop banger Escalante Street, singer-songwriter Jaime Nanci moves through the eerily empty streets of Cabanyal Barrio in high heels, a white blouse and a wide-brimmed black hat. As song and film, it’s a beautiful outburst of bittersweet joy amid the loneliness and terror of the pandemic. It’s the first in a string of releases from Nanci, who music fans may know as the soulful vocalist of Irish bands Cuckoo Savante and Jaime Nanci and the Blueboys.
Nanci and her husband, Michael Barron, moved to Valencia three years ago, largely for the sake of his health. Nanci was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 15 years ago. A year after the move, the pandemic began. “We moved here because it was so lively and full of noise, music and street markets… And then it was gone overnight. And since then, we’ve been trying to find him.
Nanci remembers exactly when he knew he could sing. “It was on a road trip to Donegal when I was seven or eight,” he says. “We would sing in the back of the car to whatever tape my dad had… He would listen to Ry Cooder or JJ Cale but then he would listen to Bette Midler which I thought was amazing. I remember one day in the car where we were singing and my dad let out a roar and just said ‘Shut up!’ I remember saying, “I thought I could sing,” and he said, “You can, but your sister can’t.” ”
I had a pretty big jazz musician in Ireland who told me I could do it, but I should try to be less gay. It was only three years ago
He never stopped. He traveled from punk and grunge bands to discovering jazz while at Galway University. “I fell in love with a trumpeter and he encouraged me a lot.” He has always had eclectic tastes. “When I was a kid, I went to a store and bought Bananarama and the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks at the same time. I wanted to be punk, but I was also a queen of disco.
Although he loves the people he has played music with, he has never felt well integrated into the Irish music scene. “I was always made to feel like I was on the periphery,” he says. “I think it’s just because I’m queer and the time I spent there, but I internalized it to the point that I never let myself be part of a scene. I had a quite a prominent jazz musician in Ireland who told me that I could be successful, but that I should try to be less gay. That was only three years ago. You can see it in the pop scene in Ireland: we never had a prince or a madonna. We had a wealth of talent in Ireland, but the things that kept developing were really seamless. That piece of music, and especially the video, it was like, ‘I’m And that’s what I’ve always been. And that’s who I am. , artists like Lil NAS X or Anhoni who are really amazing, unusual, shameless and shameless.
After years of touring and gigging, and a year of mastering jazz vocal performance, Nanci fell in love with the stage for a time (although he now performs with an ensemble called QTF). “I had given up music as something that brought me joy. And then I started therapy and I rediscovered a lot of things and answered a lot of questions about what I had done and how I had done it.
He had been crushed by a certain idea of commercial success. “Now my level of success is: I’m healthy, I have a roof over my head, I have food on my table, I have love and I can go out. and play sometimes and it’s fucking killer.”
He also faced the repressive homophobia he grew up with. “I absolutely, definitely internalized the shit of my youth growing up, things that I had heard. As a queer man in Dundalk who is told by part of your life that you are exceptional and by another part of your life that you are a freak and disgusting and should not exist and should hide everything about you -even – it takes its toll.” He sighs. “I fell in love with Michael when he told me what he did for a living.”
I could go off stage and collapse and go to bed for two days. It’s very strange
In the early 2000s, Barron founded BeLonG To, the groundbreaking organization for LGBT youth. “I may have cried that night when he told me that. The kids who have been there, how they excel, how good they are to the world at large. It’s such a shame that people weren’t allowed to shine unhindered. I think if I hadn’t been told to delete these things, I would be much freer. I think the gender fluidity that’s emerging now and coming to the fore is the natural evolution of humanity.
The Escalante Street video celebrates Nanci’s sexuality but also her physique. In it, he strides and runs through the empty streets, then eats and drinks voraciously. Before he was diagnosed with MS, he had had health problems for years: periods of blindness and pain problems that required him to walk on crutches. “I’ve had hospitalizations where I’ve had to be treated with a steroid transfusion for maybe a week and then a month or two of recovery… Every time you have something it leaves scars and you become more disabled over time. Right now I’m just having issues with my eyes and my energy levels.
Does singing and playing allow him to have a different relationship with his body than the one he has as a person with MS? “No matter how shitty I feel, as soon as I step on stage, it’s almost like I’m not there. I never remember a concert, really. Everything is so instinctive or instinctive. I went on stage with an eye patch and a crutch and it’s the same. Then I could get off stage, collapse and go to bed for two days. It’s very strange. It’s an unconscious thing that I don’t quite understand. I don’t particularly want to understand it. It is magic.
He sings without realizing it, he says. Barron sometimes taps her on the shoulder when they’re shopping to say, “You sing.”
“There’s nothing else when I sing,” he says. “I feel like my body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do at that moment. I’ve said this in the past and I still feel embarrassed about it, but I consider it a bit like praying. For me, it’s a song to the universe.
I definitely have feminine energy, I think. Again, this comes down to internalizing things as a child. For me, I’m undeniably feminine
He wanted to work with Tim Howarth, his co-writer and producer, when he saw his Instagram account was 7.83 hertz. “It’s the vibe of the universe, and I’ve always been quietly obsessed with it and what it means. I feel like the purest way to give back to that vibe is to sing.
The Escalante Street video was made by neighbor Jean-Marc Sanchez, who approached Nanci and Barron out of the blue one day because he wanted to photograph their dog. They have become friends. “I sent him a song and he said, ‘I’d like to do a video.’ We did a guerrilla shoot. He used an iPhone and a drone. Michael did the lighting. I did the costumes. It was very guerrilla and very low budget.
Those high heels look hard to wear. He’s laughing. “These are horribly cheap shoes. They are so uncomfortable. I got them at the market for The Rocky Horror Show three years ago… I definitely have feminine energy, I think. Again, this comes down to internalizing things as a child. For me, I am undeniably feminine. So I accepted that. »
You must try to make your own joy as you can, dancing with your lover or alone or with your dog in a park at night
What is Calle Escalante about? “I think everyone, at some point in the last two years, has ended up on Escalante Street,” he says. “You could change the lines to ‘Take me dancing down Clonliffe Avenue. It’s that moment you have, where you’re standing on a street where you’ve had all of your stimuli and all of your daily joy and energy and you’ve taken it for granted and then you find yourself standing in the middle of the street at midnight looking up at the sky saying ‘What the fuck is going on?’ And you must try to make your own joy as you can, dancing with your lover or alone or with your dog in a park at night. Just try to feel something other than terror. I wish for four minutes, 40 seconds, someone didn’t have any of those shitty feelings we had. That was really the goal. »