Jim Verraros, the first openly gay top 10 finalist from American Idol (from the show's very first season in 2002, which Kelly Clarkson won) is back on the music scene with his first song in 12 years.
It's a brand-new single entitled "Take My Bow," which was produced by Laev (who's worked with artists such as Mac Miller and Chance the Rapper). Yahoo! News called the song "a sexy new gay anthem." (Three remixes are slated to hit the United Kingdom, produced by Paul Morrell, Morlando and Until Dawn. The U.S. remix will be produced by house-music legend Tommie Sunshine.)
During a recent talk, Verraroswho resides in Chicago with his husband, Sean Michael Buckdiscussed "Bow," the significance of "thirst traps" and the meaning of being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Note: This conversation was edited for clarity and length.
Windy City Times: I was a little confused by the song because the title is "Take MY Bow" but the lyrics say "take A bow."
Jim Verraros: Yeah, there's a little mix of it. For one, I didn't want to take from Madonna's classic song. I intermingled them a little bit but mostly the term is "my bow," meaning it's personal to mebeing ready for things, now that the climate has shifted for the queer community.
When I came out publicly in 2002, I was just 19. We really didn't have a framework for a gay pop singer in the United States. If my career had started 10 years later, I might've had a better shot. It's more about the timing and the alignment of the stars; with all the incredible representation right now, it just seemed like a really good time [to release the song].
WCT: And I was wondering why you chose to release the song now.
JV: One, when you're a creative or artist, I don't think that "pilot light" ever goes out; it's whether you want to touch it. My husband is also musically inclined and music is throughout our house every day. During dinner, Sean immediately puts the speaker on. And I started to think, "What would Jim do now?"
And I'm inspired by a lot of mainstream queer artists. Kim Petras is finally getting her flowers right now after all these years. If you've seen the arc of Sam Smith, [they have] come into [themself] with this unabashed love. Troye Sivan came on the scene 10 years after I came out; I love that he's this powerful queer voice. And then you have artists like Hayley Kiyoko, St. Vincent and Todrick Hall, who was on Idol as well. All of those representations helped make me feel good and safe. It made me think, "Jim, the time is different. I think people are going to pay a little more attention to the music instead of your sexuality or identity."
WCT: And you also have people in the rap world like Lil Nas X and Saucy Santana.
JV: For sure. [Lil Nasx X] has brought so much light to the queer community. He's amazing. There's a lot more now than there was 20 years ago.
WCT: So [echoing Yahoo!], would you call this song a queer anthem?
JV: It could be. I co-wrote it with this incredible queer songwriter named Jayce Green; he's out of Oklahoma City and he's like 23 or 24just a babybut he taught me a lot. [With the song,] I struggled with saying something politically because we're in such a shitshow right nowor do I do something that feels good and gives people joy?
I saw this video of RuPaul that came up in my Instagram News feed and she said when there's darkness, you can't live there, because it'll just make you crazy. The only thing we have control over is what we bring into the world, right? That really resonated with me because there are so many things to get angry about right now. So I decided to put something out that's funsomething that's dance-y and fun to remix.
WCT: So you've released this song. Is an album forthcoming?
JV: I don't know how to answer that. The immediate plan involves three remixes for the UK, and the goal is to get it to chart overseas. Should that happen, I think it'll give me more credibility. The U.S. remix I'm really excited about; Tommie Sunshine has worked with everyone, from Nicki Minaj to Kim Petras to Harry Styles.
What would probably make the most sense is to do a video. I've never done one, and this song would been good for it.
WCT: And you've released photos to promote the songand some show a bit of skin. There's still a school of thought that people who take "thirst trap" photos shouldn't be taken seriously; however, there are also people who say, "Why not? Do what you want."
JV: I do see your point. For me, turning 40 this year was very eye-opening for [various reasons]. I have been focused on putting others before myself and trying to please people. So when I hit 40, I just said "Fuck it." I am who I am, and I'm tired of trying to fit an expectationwhether it's an image or perception. If you don't want to look at me, you don't have to; no one's forcing you to look at it.
But on the other side, it was pretty liberating. I bust my ass in the gym and I feel really good about myself right now. If it leads to a download or awareness, I hope people will consider the scope of my career and what I did what I was 19not on a shirtless pic. I had never posed like that in a shoot; a good friend of mine literally had her five-month-old baby attached to her as she's oiling my ass. It was hysterical.
WCT: When I last interviewed you in 2020, I asked you what 37-year-old Jim Verraros would tell 18-year-old Jim Verraros about life, and you said, "Success does not mean fame." Do you still feel the same way?
JV: I think that's very true but I might tweak it a little and say, "Success is not a tangible thing; it's how you feel." I've been through a lot in the last two decades of my life and, being 40, I think I can say that I love my job, even though it's corporateand having this passion project on the side and being in this beautiful relationship and having a house [are signs of success].
I came from this world that said, "You need to have the same kind of success the other Idols have and have a record deal like Kelly." I had to work so much harder because I didn't have the exposure they did, and I was openly gay. For what I had to work with, I didn't do too badly. But I think success is really a feelingit's being in a solid relationship, it's having a great partner, it's paying your bills, it's having good friends. I think success is different for [each person], but don't negate or compare. I think comparing is the thief of all joy.
WCT: So if Hollywood came calling, what would your response be?
JV: I don't know. I think I'd be open but it would depend on things. We've come a long way with queer entertainment. When I think about the movies I did in the early 2000s, they were campy but there were also moments of representation that I think are very important. I think I would be open but it would depend on the project. Never say never.
WCT: You also seem pretty politically aware. Would you ever consider running for office?
JV: OoohI have too many skeletons in my closet. That's a whole other world; I'd rather support someone. We're living in Chicago; it's a shitshow right now so anyone who steps into that role as mayor is going to have a very hard time. It's not easy to manage this city.
I'm very staunch in my beliefs. I don't want to be a sole-identity voter but I have to care about my life as part of a couple in Chicago. I want safety for everyone in Chicago, like a lot of other people.
WCT: So you mentioned Kelly Clarkson a little while back. What are the chances of you being on her show and performing your song?
JV: Oh, that's a good question. It's funny you say that because of the writers' strike [which has now been resolved]. I know she's moved her show from LA to New York. If that ever became a possibility, I'd want her to sing it with meshe could sing the second verse. I wonder if she'd ever do a remix with memaybe go to a different place because she's the best vocalist of our time or at least this generation, for sure.
I've loved her since I first met her 21 years ago, although I haven't seen her in a couple years. I feel like she's better now than ever, and I didn't think that was possible. I love seeing her trajectory and all the accolades she's received, not just as a singer but as a talk-show host. I'm waiting for her to do the next James Bond song, and that made me think about Jennifer Hudson and all the successful Idols: Kelly, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert (who I'm a huge fan of), David Archuleta (who came out as well). But you also have David Hernandez, Mikalah Gordonall the queer Idols who have come out of other seasons have been so inspiring. It's pretty amazing where we're at.
WCT: And you have Adore Delano and others.
JV: Adore has talked about living in secrecy on Idol; it's exciting to see her really grow into herself now. She's amazing; I'd love to do something with her, too.
WCT: My last question is something I've asked others this year: For you, what is it like to be part of the queer community in today's America?
JV: Oh, GodI think the word, for me, is "inspired." The younger generation is so unapologetically in their skin and it's a beautiful thing to see. I didn't have anyone to look toward or look at and say, "There's room for me, too."
But the queer community is constantly evolving because we evolve, as people. That's why there are more letters [to describe] the community, and why sexuality and identity are more fluid. Experiences can lead to discoveries about ourselves.
We're always on this constant journey to find our true selves. I know that, politically, things aren't that greatbut that's nothing new for us, and it's a battle we'll have to continue to fight. I hope I inspired people when I was coming up; now, I'm being inspired. It's very full-circle.
To listen to "Take My Bow," visit www.youtube.com/watch. The song is available on all major online retailers, such as Apple Music.