“I've never been very good at fitting myself into a box, whether it's gender or genre,” Greer tells Billboard in an interview ahead of her album’s release. “In some ways that makes it a bit of a jarring collage, with folky ballads bleeding into pop-punk scream-alongs. But it's an honest document of the music I've been making.”
Greer spoke with Billboard about using music as a means for activism, her struggle with being misgendered on a regular basis, and the eclectic mix of folk ballads and “pop-punk scream alongs” that is She/Her/They/Them.
If you were to describe the theme of this album, how would you do so?
The songs on this album cover a really wide range of topics, from personal struggles with mental health and insecurity to really concrete political fights like mass incarceration, or the ways the mainstream gay rights movement has often failed to fight for the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ community. But if there's one theme that ties it all together, it's an album about resisting binaries, fighting unchecked authority and oppressive power structures, and refusing to give up, even in these trying times.
I love that you named the album She/Her/They/Them. When writing your music, how important was it for you to draw from your experience as a trans person?
Being trans is just one part of who I am. But it was important to me to put my trans identity front and center in the album title. There are so few transfeminine and nonbinary musicians who are getting recognition and nods from the mainstream -- it's so important for young people to see others who share their identities and struggles out there making and sharing their art.
As the spokesperson for a national activist group (Fight for the Future), I'm also often misgendered by the press and have to spend a lot of time getting journalists to correct their stories and use accurate pronouns for me. So making my album title my pronouns was sort of one way to head that off. But it's also a way of signaling to trans and queer people out there that this music is for them, and that they are seen.
There's a lot of very different sounds on this album -- what inspired you to make such an eclectic mix of music?
I've never been very good at fitting myself into a box, whether it's gender or genre. I've been inspired by so many different types of music, visual art, and other cultural expression, and the songs on this album have been written over the course of more than 15 years of touring, activist projects, and musical collaborations. In some ways that makes it a bit of a jarring collage, with folky ballads bleeding into pop-punk scream-alongs. But it's an honest document of the music I've been making, and the awesome guest musicians like Chris #2 of Anti-Flag and riot-grrl legend Bonfire Madigan really brought the songs to life and made it feel cohesive.
How do you balance your life as an artist, writer and activist?
For me, music and activism have always been inextricably linked. The first time I ever played in front of more than a few people was at an anti-war protest I organized in high school. Throughout history, every social movement has had that drumbeat of culture and art as a tool to bring people together, a medicine to keep our spirits up, and a weapon to fight for liberation. After I dropped out of college I toured relentlessly for years, playing living rooms, gay bars, union halls, basements, small clubs, and coffee shops across North America and Europe. Once my kid got to school age, I wasn't able to tour as much, but I've continued to weave together my music and organizing.
I'm particularly passionate about finding ways to use music and art strategically to build political power and shift our culture -- beyond just benefit albums and awareness raising concerts. From curating Break the Chains, Boston's monthly queer dance party featuring nationally touring trans and queer performers, to organizing the Rock Against the TPP tour with Tom Morello and other celebrities, I'm always looking for ways to combine my passion for effective political organizing with my love for throwing an epic party.