Photography by Dean McDaid
“When I first started putting out music, I was in the closet,” Louis III tells Man About Town. “I wish I could say that I was always comfortable with my queerness but in all honesty I wasn’t and I rejected it for a while.” The London-hailing maker of effervescent pop’s exploration of his sexuality has been intertwined with his work. “Me becoming a better artist and enjoying what I do more and more has gone hand in hand with embracing my queerness,” he says. “It’s made my music better because it’s more honest. I feel so much freer to express myself now, whether that’s through fashion, how I move when I perform or through writing about things like gay sex.”
Like for most, the creative process has functioned as a sat-nav for navigating elements of his identity he might otherwise shy away from. “It’s forced me to embrace and celebrate parts of myself that I would tiptoe around.” However, that’s not to say the relationship between queerness and his art hasn’t been symbiotic. “Through my queerness I’ve also become more acquainted with my artistry,” he explains.
Since his first single “Anywhere”, a collab with chart-mainstay drum’n’bass duo Sigma in 2018, Louis has established himself as one of the most promising talents in British pop, cultivating a space for queer expression in the process, diarising his life not just through his music but with his 600k TikTok and 107k IG followers.
Sitting down with Man About Town, he talks what Pride Month means to him, the inspiring experience of witnessing Elton John’s Glastonbury headline slot last weekend, and why Spice World the movie piqued the attention of his younger self.
What does Pride Month mean to you as a queer person in 2023?
To me Pride Month is affirmation. It’s this beautiful public affirmation that queerness, its community, culture and history deserve to be celebrated, loudly and in spaces that it wouldn’t normally. I will never forget my first Pride event after I came out. I had never really experienced anything like it - what it felt like to see so many queer people sharing such a big space. I was just wandering around Soho with my friends, vodka, and wide eyes. Pride Month is like that spread over 30 days.
What has your own journey with expressing your queerness in your work been like? Is it something you always felt comfortable doing?
Not at all! I find with so many things that the harder they are and the more scared you are to do anything and be vulnerable with it, the more you get back from people in return. When I started talking about the real inspiration behind songs on stage and sharing my story I was so overwhelmed by the warmth and love I would get back from my fans. I didn’t want to give too much of myself away when I first put out music because that felt safe for me. Eventually I started talking about the fact that I was dating men, then I was confident enough to change pronouns in my songs and talk about what that meant for me and people got it and embraced me for it. My song “Goosebumps” was first written with female pronouns and now when I perform it I talk about how I have changed the lyrics to male pronouns because that’s who I love. The more I became comfortable with that side of myself, the more amazing queer collaborators I began to work with and now I am surrounded by the most incredible queer family of creatives who I work with on my music, shows, artwork, videos etc. My housemate Kareem Jarche is an amazing queer makeup artist who constantly inspires me.
Have you ever faced hurdles in expressing queerness in an unvarnished, authentic way?
My father is Caribbean and came here during windrush. For my whole life I was terrified of coming out because I thought I would lose the relationship I had with him. Some of that was down to my own shame, some of that was because of cultural and generational differences. In the end when I finally came out to him (something I thought I would never do) he told me that he supported me and I had to be who I was.
What do you think makes an environment conducive to expressing queerness without constraints?
An environment that helps queerness be expressed it one that is non judgemental, that is open and isn’t inwardly focused on perceptions or what others may think or what it means for the other person to be around queerness. It focuses on the happiness that queer people can and should feel when they are loved and allowed to just be!
Was there a lightbulb cultural moment or product that you consumed as a child that was impactful for you as a queer person?
I think my lightbulb cultural moments were a combination of my sisters being the biggest Spice Girls fans in the world and indoctrinating me for my childhood, specifically Spice World the movie, which is high, high camp and I would recommend!
Nowadays, when you’re not making art yourself, where do you find yourself turning to to consume queer culture?
I love sweaty queer clubs, like More Joy Disco or Adonis. The fashion, the music, the people, the community, the rareness: everything about it speaks to all the different parts of me that I love. I try and go to as many queer exhibitions as possible but that is definitely one area where I need to go to more. I have lots of queer friends who are artists and creatives so I’m happiest as well going to their events and showcases. To be completely honest, TikTok, instagram and Twitter are where I consume about 60% of my queer culture. Padam padam!
Who are some fellow queer creatives who are inspiring you just now?
I just saw Elton John at Glastonbury and the sheer scale of what he’s made, what he’s done for the queer community and other queer artists, it blew me away. He brought out Jacob Lusk from a band called Gabriels who I have been obsessed with for a while now. I saw them at Lafayette in London and couldn’t take my eyes off him. He is a performer through and through and represents for Black queer people. I supported an amazing queer artist called Girli on her European and UK tour in April and she inspired me so much with her energy, the relationship she has with her fans and just how kind and lovely she is.
What do you think the power of queer art is in the 2020s?
The power of queer art in the 2020s is to be courted by the mainstream and yet be so far ahead and transcendent by the time they think they’ve caught up with us.