Broadway star Ben Platt (“Dear Evan Hansen”) is branching out with his first singer-songwriter album “Sing to Me Instead,” out Friday.
Ben Platt wants to set the record straight: “Sing to Me Instead” is not a coming-out album.
The openly gay “Dear Evan Hansen” star, who has been out to his family and friends since he was 12 years old, only recently started talking about his sexuality in interviews leading up to his debut album, out Friday. But he was in no way trying to hide it.
Having acted in theater and movies since he was 9, “I’ve only ever played characters, so my life wasn’t very relevant, other than my preparation for a particular project,” says Platt, 25, whose screen credits include the “Pitch Perfect” franchise. “But the whole point of this (album) is to be honest about my own experiences and talk about things that have happened to me. A lot of those things just happen to be with men that I’ve been in love with.”
“Sing” is Platt’s first major project since leaving Broadway’s Tony Award-winning juggernaut “Evan Hansen” in 2017, for which he won best leading actor in a musical playing a socially inept teen searching for connection. After recording the show’s cast album for Atlantic Records, label executives asked whether he’d be interested in a solo effort. Eager to hone his writing abilities, Platt was sent to Los Angeles and London to work with hit-makers including Eg White (Adele’s “Chasing Pavements”) and Ben Abraham (Kesha’s “Praying”).
The resulting 40 songs – which he boiled down to 12 for the album – are diarylike remembrances of the three major relationships that have shaped him, with earnest vocals and achingly specific lyrics that are reminiscent of Platt’s musical heroes Carole King and James Taylor.
“Temporary Love” is a soulful declaration of unwavering commitment, while the tear-jerking “Grow As We Go” describes a relationship at a crossroads, where two people realize they’re not right for each other right then. “Hurt Me Once” is about an impending breakup you both see coming, but neither wishes to admit.
“I wanted to write about this first relationship that I was in, where there was an embarrassment of kindness in the sense that I could feel him knowing this wasn’t right, but he didn’t have the courage to just tell me that,” Platt says. “So he started to remove himself in little ways that almost felt more painful, because it was like, ‘Why would you drag this out and make me guess where we’re at?'”
“Honest Man” was inspired by one of Platt’s exes who wasn’t fully out of the closet.
“It was his first real relationship and he had a lot of self-hatred issues that rubbed off on me,” Platt says. “He would try to make me feel embarrassed about doing nice things for him and wanting to tell people about us, so the song is about refusing to put up with that.”
Platt freely uses male pronouns throughout the album, which was a non-issue with his label. (“They felt authentic and people liked the songs, and that was the end of the discussion,” he says.) And while he in no way purports to be an expert on LGBTQ issues or how to live one’s life, “just having an example of someone who’s open and can share their sexuality through art is a beautiful thing, and I’m so happy kids are going to be able to see that.”
In May, Platt will embark on a 12-city headlining tour in support of “Sing,” although he cautions there will “definitely be no ‘Evan Hansen’ songs” on the set list. He’ll also return to the small screen opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix show “The Politician” (premiering Sept. 27), playing a wealthy high-schooler named Payton Hobart who harbors presidential aspirations.
Describing the ambitious new series as a hybrid of “Election,” “The Graduate” and “Dangerous Liasons,” Platt says Payton is a huge departure from the nerdy social outcasts he’s portrayed in the past.
“(Murphy) presented me with a character that was arguably somewhat sociopathic and ambitious and conniving and self-serving,” Platt says. “It was just a whole different world and felt sort of scary, in a way. But I think I am always chasing that fear.”
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