Queer recording artist Kenyth Mogan, loves his pop divas. He always has. In his first full-length album, Star Stealer, he pays homage to the women who inspired him. Consisting of twelve covers, Mogan puts his spin on songs by Tiffany, Belinda Carlisle, and even the Queen of Tejano herself, Selena. Matt Rettenmund of Boy Culture calls the first single, “‘You and Me,’ a pop/rock affection confection with a gay-gay-gay video.”
Why do an album of cover songs? There’s something about the music you grew up with. A song can bring back memories of people and places – and for me, there’s joy in that nostalgia. With everything going on in the world, I wanted to release something that was familiar. Something people could connect too.
Every song on the album was previously released by women. Is there a specific reason behind that? Of course it was! I grew up around powerful women, and as a young gay boy, in Montana, I related more to female singers than male ones. I thought Belinda Carlisle was so glamorous, Tiffany was so much fun, and Selena – well, she was just in a class of her own. As an out queer artist, it’s kind of fun to play with these songs, and give them my own rainbow kisses and unicorn sticker kind of spin. Does He Love You? Was especially fun, because it is about a gay relationship, where “the other man” is “the other man” the same with Live Your Life Be Free. The guy I’m singing too, is / was with a girl, and is unhappy. It’s just a new perspective and it’s kind of fun.
How long have you been working on this project? I’ve been recording cover songs since I started doing music- so about five years or so. I originally recorded Belinda Carlisle’s “Leave a Light On” and “Live Your Life Be Free” for my first EP Fall Apart, but cut them, because I didn’t feel like they fit on that particular project. Tiffany’s “You and Me” was going to be the title track for the EP that eventually became LOVE, but again, I cut it because it didn’t fit. I was working on a project of original songs, but with everything going back, I took a step back, and started to reevaluate what I wanted. Again, I found joy in the nostalgia of listening to the original songs (which I do, almost on a daily basis) so I wanted to share that with people.
What are some of your favorite songs on the album? “You and Me’ is probably at the top of my list. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to share the song with one of the original writers, Steven McClintock, who really enjoyed my take on the track. It’s a truly unique experience to have the man who literally wrote the soundtrack to your life not only praise your work, but become such an advocate for it. “Rainbow Land” is also right up there. It’s a children’s song from a record that accompanied the animated series Rainbow Brite. It was written by Lois Blaisch (who also wrote Tiffany’s Could’ve Been) and one I use to listen to on my grandparents phonograph while I was learning to read. I recorded it after my grandmother passed away, so it’s probably the most sentimental for me. Olivia Newton-John’s “Magic” is also right up there. I went into it knowing exactly what I wanted, and Blckbx knew exactly how to turn my ideas into sound. t was the most fun I’ve ever had in the studio. “If Love is Blind” and “Kid on a Corner’ are also songs covered from Tiffany. They were also written by Steven McClintock and Tim James and are very close to my heart.
What was the most difficult song to record? Hands down, that would be “I Think We’re Alone Now.” There’s a lot of pressure when you’re recording a song that was already a hit – and this one massive. It’s iconic. It’s also a song I’ve literally listened to every day since I was four. Also, Tiffany is my favorite recording artist and someone I’ve connected with over the years. I really didn’t want to mess it up. I must’ve had this song mixed, and remixed and re-recorded ten different times. We went through so many different sounds. A 60s pop bob, an 80s inspired synth style track -at one point we were even talking about doing a K-pop version of the song. But eventually, we stripped It and slowed it down to pop-rock style ballad. I’m pretty happy with the results.
Why Reba McIntire’s Does He Love You? I lived for that video when I was a kid. I would have CMT on all day, just so I could watch it. It was so campy and fun! It was brilliant.
How did Brendan Velasquez get involved? I’ve been friends with Brendan and his manager Raymon Smiley for probably the better part of a decade. Originally we were going to do a cover of a Jem and the Hologram’s song called “Who is He Kissing?” because all three of us are HUGE fans of the series and Ray and I are good friends with Samantha Newark (the voice of Jem /Jerrica) but Ray, who worked for Reba mentioned we should do Does He Love you? Both Bren and I were on board immediately. Ray and I also came up with a concept for a music video, that is hysterical.
What’s next? Honestly, I’m just going to take it day by day. I am working on the next album, but at the same time, I really want to be able to sit and enjoy Star Stealer. A lot of work went into this album, and even though it’s not my own original material, it’s a very personal project for me and one that I’m very proud of.
Star Stealer is now available on all digital platforms and will soon be available as a disc on demand from Amazon. You can view the music video for You and Me here.
Follow Kenyth on all social media platforms under @KenythOfficial.