The energy of Sunday's Rainbow Republic concert at the Domain in Sydney felt bittersweet. The sun was shining, backing up a streak of perfect weather days in the past month, the crowd was excited, encouraging, engaged. As we all stood there, witnessing people like Keiynan Lonsdale and Kim Petras on stage, I couldn't help but feel a sense of loss that moments like this – moments that we'd been lucky enough to experience over the entire month for WorldPride – would soon be coming to an end.
It's been an intense month, intense emotions, intense joy, intense parties, energy, experiences. It has been felt acutely across the community, all in awe at the way we've been able to come together and be there for one another during a season that can take as much as it gives. For Lonsdale, the actor and singer who has no plans of slowing down, it felt the same. "The energy the past few weeks has been nothing short of insane in the best possible way. So from an energetic standpoint, all that's been building."
He was part of the lineup for the closing concert at the Domain, where he performed alongside both the new guard of queer talent, and established queer pop icons. He was one of the first to perform, ramping up the energy for the crowd with dynamic choreography by Matthew Gode, who, on working with Lonsdale on this project, noted that "once we were all in the room you could feel the flow and moments of magic were happening quite naturally. I knew that I really wanted to push the boundaries a lot more as well and really embrace the power and sexuality of his music and energy.”
Here, we catch up with Lonsdale on what the experience was like, navigating WorldPride and the commercial connotations it carries, and what's next for him.
You’re performing at Sydney WorldPride’s Rainbow Republic concert to close out Sydney WorldPride. What makes this one so special?
This is the first WorldPride I've ever performed at. It's the biggest stage I've ever gotten to step onto and sing original music, the biggest crowd I’ve ever performed for. The energy the past few weeks has been nothing short of insane in the best possible way. So from an energetic standpoint, all that's been building. Getting to close out Sydney WorldPride with a bang is seriously one of the greatest honours of my musical life, thus far. I've been waiting my whole life to perform on stage like this!
What was your approach to putting this show together and working with your collaborators?
Honestly, it took me a while to find clarity in the exact collaborators to work with and what and how I wanted to present the show. Ultimately, it came to a point where I wanted to embrace these almost two seemingly opposing energies, like fire and water. And I worked with two choreographers. Caitlin Watson, who is like water completely. The way she moves is so fluid. And then Matthew Gode, who I would say maybe more than fire is like electricity. It's like lightning! I wanted these two opposite styles to come together. And with the help of creative director, Marko Panzic, we were able to realise a lot of those dreams and make them happen. And it was the perfect combination across the board, from choreographers to dancers, everyone creative involved – onstage and off. For me, a lot of it is really about the vibration you create and curate between people and just making sure everyone feels like we're a crew and that we're on the same page and we can communicate safely. You're going to be in the mud with these people, so you want to know that you're able to have fun when it’s tough.
What can you tell us about the new music you have coming out? Can we expect to see a preview of any of this during the performance?
Yeah, 100 per cent. I definitely teased new music in the WorldPride show. There’s a completely unreleased song from album number two. I've been working on this album for a year and a half. Well, way longer actually. But yeah, there's some songs on there. One song, in particular I wrote seven years ago but I wasn't ready to put it out at the time. So it's better now with my voice and we've elevated the production. Although it was already amazing, this new sound for me, I feel like I've been able to hone my lane a lot more sonically. I'm not using as many colours of the rainbow, although they're always present. I am sticking mainly to my R&B roots. It's a lot about love, heartbreak, and trying to be a better guy.
Your work in film has often included themes of queer love and relationships. Do you explore those same themes in your music?
Yeah, 100 per cent. My first album was called Rainbow Boy and my biggest song is called Kiss The Boy. This next one is all about dating and trying to navigate relationships after coming out. I’m trying to find something with substance and trying to figure out what that is. I explore my life and my music – my heart, my head, my spirit. Always trying to make sense of what's going on. That's really why I write music.
How do you navigate partnering with brands during Pride when there is so much conversation around the commercialisation of queer identity?
It comes down to this for me. If I see a company wanting to involve me and give me a platform or the funds where I can also give back to my fellow queer creatives and artists, then, to me, I'm aligning with the right brands. I feel like if a brand hits me up, they kind of know what's up. And if it doesn't feel right, it doesn't feel good and doesn't really feel aligned then I just don't do it.
How did growing up in Western Sydney inform your creative path?
Incredibly – I think it gave me a lot of my drive and a determination to hit as hard as I can and to not back down. I still feel like I'm yet to properly share my story in terms of how I grew up. It definitely has had an influence, but I haven't portrayed it yet in any big way. One day when I get enough clarity and I can do it the right way, without muddling it up – I'll do that. But regardless, it’s been a big influence. It was always a massive goal of mine when I was growing up to show people what a kid from St Mary’s can do. I feel like the creative collective of Western Sydney talent is just getting started. It’s having a massive impact on the country and our culture at the moment. I’m super excited about seeing that takeover happen.