By david-elijah nahmod
Singer/actor Tituss Burgess, who was a recurring cast member on NBC's 30 Rock, is very happy with who he is. He has forged a successful show-business career with no thought to the obstacles he might face as an African-American gay man.
"I was out at a very early age in Georgia," Burgess said in a phone interview with Windy City Times. "I don't know how to be any other way. Holding it in was never an option. I've never been in a line of work where I've had to be anything other than myself. I don't know where my strength comes from. I hope fans like my music. I hope mom likes my boyfriends, but I don't ask them if it's okay."
It therefore seems appropriate that Burgess, so at ease with who he is, would name his debut CD Comfortable. With one exception, Burgess wrote and arranged all the songs.
"They wrote themselves," he said. "They're based on my life experiences. They came from breakups, stalls in my theatrical career, moments where I wanted everyone to go to hell, and moments of self realization."
He performs the songs with a uniquely powerful voice in which he invokes the classic era of R&B great Stevie Wonder and the bygone days of romantic crooners such as Frank Sinatra. His emotionally charged vocal style easily induces chills, and no wonder. Burgess is a seasoned performer. His career has included headline engagements with symphonies in cities like Detroit, Cincinnati and Prague. He's opened for the Divine Miss M herself, the legendary Bette Midler. And he's a Broadway veteran, having appeared in Jersey Boys and The Little Mermaid.
"I've had the great fortune to originate all the roles I've played," he said. "One desires to be in the creative process from the ground up. You learn that every night isn't opening night—you learn how to flex and keep it fresh."
He's also performed for President Obama. "I'm honored that we have a person of color in office," he said. "It's good for kids who are young and only have him for a reference. It starts a different kind of dialogue and opens up the possibilities of what can be without the barriers of race."
Burgess has walked in some very tall grass indeed, crossing paths with a President and with movie stars.
"At first it blows my mind," he said. "But as I get older I see that they're just regular people. It's inspiring to have role models who teach me and keep me down to earth."
Burgess was asked if younger performers or LGBT youth might view him as a role model. "Whether we like it or not, we are all role models for each other," he said.
For the immediate future, Burgess is focused on Comfortable. "I want to see that this album gets to as many listeners as possible," he said. "That's what I'm focused on until the end of the summer."
The CD will be available May 14. More information about Comfortable and its very comfortable singer/songwriter can be found at www.titussburgess.com .