The storm that drenched New York on June 7 didn’t stop Mina Caputo’s fans —some coming from as far afield as Philadelphia — from visiting the Parkside Lounge to watch the former singer of metal alternative band Life of Agony perform material from her candid fourth solo album, “As Much Truth As One Can Bear.” Armed with a few acoustic guitars and a wailing voice that belied her petite stature, Caputo serenaded the crowd like a lover confessing her deepest secrets, holding it captive for more than an hour as she revealed layers of her heart onstage.
The exclusive premiere of Mina Caputo’s video for “Identity.” NOTE: Video contains mature content.
Caputo’s ability to bear her soul — an admirable blend of shyness, brave vulnerability and uncompromising honesty — is “Truth”‘s most potent ingredient. The album touches on universal themes like self love, honesty and “aloneness without feeling that loneliness,” as Caputo says, making it possible for anyone to relate to the record. However, “Truth” is also the testimonial to the singer/songwriter’s very personal story: Mina Caputo was once Keith Caputo. The backdrop gives the lyrics of the album, like opening track “Identity”—”Look at me/All of me . . . I am not a man/I am not a woman”—another level of meaning. The video for the song, which Billboard.com exclusively premieres here, features Caputo and a friend, singer Kenyon Phillips, as intimate companions.
“I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror anymore. I couldn’t play. Living in my testosterone and my masculinity was killing me. It was just a nightmare for me. Words can’t describe the torture someone like me feels or anyone that’s gender fluid,” Caputo says of the lifelong torment that reached a breaking point in 2008 where she became suicidal.
She observes that she’d been “living my life for fans and family and friends and girlfriends for way too f**king long. It’s time to live for me now . . . It’s like people got a kick out of seeing me miserable, or I fell into the cliché of miserable rock star on the verge of putting a bullet in my head, and I didn’t want to be that person.”
Caputo publicly came out as transgender in 2011. Fan reaction on online message boards like MetalSucks.net was mixed: Many offered words of support, while some questioned or condemned her decision, sparking lengthy dialogues among posters. Two years after her announcement, both Caputo and her co-manager, Strong Management’s Kenny Gabor, say that as far as they can see, her coming out hasn’t really impacted her career. Gabor and co-manager Vaughn Lewis were longtime fans of Life of Agony and Caputo’s work, so when the chance arose about eight months back to join her team, “it was something that we really would have jumped at” a long time ago, Gabor says.
“I think those fans that have been supporting her have been the loudest so far,” he says of the public’s response to Caputo’s transition. “For her it has really felt great. I think it’s been a weight lifted off her shoulders, but as it relates to her profession, I think it’s still a story that’s not yet completely told. I think it’s a kind of a ‘take one day at a time’ sort of thing.”
But like any other musician, Caputo isn’t immune to the tidal change that’s washed through the industry in the past decade. Experiencing diminished financial returns as an independent solo artist has forced her to be very frugal, to the point where Caputo sometimes busks on the streets for spare change. That didn’t stop her from investing nearly $10,000 of her own money into “As Much Truth As One Can Bear,” an album she describes as “romantic rock’n’roll with rusty edges.”
“I was really trying to channel a lot of Paul Simon, a lot of Led Zeppelin, a lot of Pink Floyd and a lot of David Bowie and yeah, they are my roots,” she says. “I’m very old school with the music I listen to and you can’t help but hear that come through.”
To make physical copies of the album and to publish a four-color lyric book (filled with Caputo’s own artwork) for diehard fans, Caputo has launched an Indigogo campaign today in the hopes of raising $35,000 to cover production costs. She appreciates that her fans want more material, but fulfilling those desires requires finding the money to fund them. For example, a friend essentially shot the “Identity” video gratis, but “you can’t expect people to work for free,” Caputo says. “If [fans] want my product, if they want these authentic releases, it’s like, ‘You be my record company. Make it happen.’ Otherwise, [Truth] will be just another average digital release.”
Dealing with the financial demands of living as an artist, or any other trials that come her way, doesn’t make Caputo bitter though. Its evident in her voice throughout the album as she sings. According to her, life is full of challenges for everyone, no matter who they are.
“There’s times when you do great and there are times you don’t do great. It all depends on how you measure success. I don’t measure success, personally, on the dollar. To me, I’m already a millionaire,” she says. “I have a very abundant life . . . I have people that love me, I’ve done great things in the world, I’m really thankful. I’m very honored just to be alive and healthy. I think I’ve had a really blessed life.”