Emerging artist and New Jersey-native Michael Blume does not shy away from difficult conversations, both on and off stage. As a queer-identifying man who blends singer-songwriter chops with neo-soul melodies and electronic beats, Blume finds that how he presents himself deeply affects his music and the social messaging that accompanies it, saying, “how I look is crucial to the work, to the project, to the art.”
Blume has been an outspoken supporter and activist for many social issues that are prevalent in today’s society, including the Black Lives Matter movement and supporting rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Through his music and sense of style, Blume expresses his identity while bringing awareness to the issues at hand.
As Blume gears up for a packed summer of festival appearances, including Governors Ball in New York City this weekend (Friday, June 2), and Firefly and Lollapalooza, Billboard had a chance to catch up with the eclectic soul singer and find out what drives his style.
How would you describe your style?
This might sound corny, but the first thing that comes to mind is “whatever I like.” Just whatever feels good on that day or in that moment. I just want to feel like me.
When you’re going shopping, what exactly are you looking for?
Just something that speaks to me. I rarely go shopping, though. If I have a show and really need something, I’ll go out. But usually, when I buy something, it’s because I was walking past a store and saw something in the window that caught my eye. I am always looking for pieces that look unique and interesting, that I feel spiritually connected to. I just want to feel different, like my clothes are my shit and no one else’s.
So do you tend to avoid shopping at mass market stores?
Definitely. But at the end of the day, there’s not really a difference between something you got at a thrift store and something that looks exactly the same [as that thrift store piece] but it’s from Urban Outfitters, besides how you feel in it. It’s the same as making music. It doesn’t matter if the lyrics or the melody come first, if we lay down the instruments or the vocals first, at the end of the day, what the fuck does the record sound like and how does it make you feel?
When you’re performing or in the studio, how do you dress differently than when you’re out on the street?
Honestly, it really depends. I was in the studio this week and lived in sweatpants and a t-shirt. But sometimes, when I know we’re cutting vocals, it’s nice to get dressed up and get in character for the music. Sometimes, I’m really feeling myself and want to get dressed up even though I don’t have a show and some shows, I want to wear something simple.
How do you use fashion to push boundaries and bring attention to the social issues you fight for?
There are quiet narratives that inform how we operate. There’s all these unspoken and unwritten rules that we all follow all the time, but they may be hurting people; you never know. Clothes are a big marker of how we quietly follow rules about who we are and how we’re supposed to be and how we’re supposed to organize ourselves around other people. I feel like I’m most interested in using clothes and fashion to call attention to these narratives. I want people to look at me and think, “that garment looks unusual on your body.” And then I want to ask, “why is that? Is it because you’re only used to seeing this garment on a body that doesn’t look like mine?”
Can you give us an example?
I feel like I went through a period — that I’m kind of coming out of now — of heavily experimenting with female clothes, dresses, skirts and things. But I’m past that now: I’m having a slight masculine moment; I cut my hair, I’m straight now (that’s a joke). I went through that phase and I was experimenting with that so that the femininity and queer elements of my music are sort of strengthened by a slightly more traditionally masculine approach in my appearance. Everything is a part of the work. If I sing about sucking dick but I’m dressed like a f—-t, then it means less than when I sing about sucking dick and I’m dressed like a gangster straight dude. How I look is crucial to the work, to the project, to the art.