Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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Q&A With the Creators of “The Crime”

By Christopher Treacy

L to R: Chuck Prophet, Lauren Tabak, Jules Indelicato. Montage by Lauren Tabak.

Our new pick for Song of the Week is a deceptively simple tune called “The Crime” that’s part of a larger narrative. The story in question is a ‘lesbian western,’ a film project called The Adventures of Charles Mercy that Queer From Here photographer Lauren Tabak is working on with numerous collaborators. “The Crime” goes down easy and moves at an inviting pace. The arrangement is fairly simple. But there’s darkness stewing down below—a surreal southern gothic oddity that lets us know that all’s not well. The protagonist has committed a crime. They’re sorry-not-sorry. They had to do it. They’ll live with the consequences. They’re named Charles, but the vocal is deceptively femme. And the musical juxtaposition of Americana flourishes with a girl group aesthetic creates an eerie air of mystery.

We got to ask a few questions of Tabak, who wrote the tune and plays on it, Chuck Prophet, who produced it, and Jules Indelicato, the song’s brilliant vocalist. Here’s what they had to say.

The protagonist is apologizing for being selfish in committing a crime—is it literal or more figurative? The “crime,” whatever it was, seems like “something they just had to do,” despite the consequences. Almost as if they didn’t have a choice. And then, they mention doing the time, which also could be literal or figurative (i.e., going to jail or perhaps just suffering through a period of guilt and self loathing). So, as the songwriter, can you talk a bit about how this fits into the larger narrative of the project?

LT: Charles would probably say something like “Ain’t no body, ain’t no crime”, and as you say, it doesn’t seem like they are capable of accepting any wrong-doing in this non-apology of a song. For context: “The Crime” is the prequel to “Give Me Something” – another Chuck Prophet produced track with this gorgeous string arrangement by Nashville’s Austin Hoke and played by Cosa Nostra Strings – which is a song about disappointment, whether by actions or expectations. Both of these tunes are part of the soundtrack to The Adventures of Charles Mercy which is a film project I’m writing – a Gothic American Lesbian Western that follows this character, Charles Mercy, from the eastern seaboard to the Pacific Shore. At this point in the story, Charles hasn’t really undergone any growth or transformation. Does the apology work? That’s TBD. Follow the project on Instagram and watch it unfold!


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

I hear a piano riff that reminds of Lennon & McCartney, backup vocals that hark to the girl group era and Americana touches that keep this from being a pure pop song. What was your end goal for the finished track – did it align with your original vision, or did you end up with something a little different than what you’d set out to make?

CP: I don’t think Lauren thinks of herself as a Pop artist. So there’s that. But neither did Kris Kristofferson when he started out. Her original vision for these songs was for other people to sing them. And Jules Indelicato does a great job here. I believe every word they’re singing.

But, one thing I keep returning to is that there’s something unique about Lauren’s feel. Her energy… And her ability to make the track dramatic.  To me, that is almost more important than being a technically good musician.

So, it was really about the song—finding a way to frame the song. And not let the music overpower the vocal and the lyrics. That was how we came up with the instrumentation. Mostly in an effort to just stay out of the way. I don’t really respond to records that are too layered. I like a tight little combo: bass, drums, a guitar…  piano. And I always try to get Lauren to play on the track. Because that way her DNA, her feel, is embedded in it. Otherwise, it could be anybody’s record.

The goal was to make Lauren sound more like herself. Kris Kristofferson first made his name as a songwriter for other people. But, people really responded to Kris Kristofferson singing his songs. And the singer/songwriter genre was born. Who knows? Maybe we can get Lauren to step up to the mic on the next single?

Can you talk a bit about inhabiting the character that sings this tune?

JI: Throughout “The Crime,” we see the main character evolve from a place of self-condemnation and shame about committing a crime of passion to one of uncompromising resolve. If I take infidelity out of the equation, and I step back and really look at those themes as they apply to my personal life, I can see correlations between this character’s arch and how I’ve come to regard my feelings about my own gender identity. At first apologetic and somewhat penitent, I have since evolved to adopt an unrepentant pride in the way I live my truth.  I had a blast embodying this character, and am overjoyed that the track has been featured on Country Queer. 

How does gender factor into the equation?

JI: Within the framework of  country music, music that tends to follow lyrical traditions of highly gendered language in regards to love, it makes sense that in the modern day, the gender representation we hear in country music is evolving to become more inclusive. 

It is all too common for people whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex to have difficulty identifying with the experience of those with expansive or non-binary gender identity or even conceptualizing the ways in which gender restricts them in their own lives.
Research has consistently shown that the approaches to infidelity in western society vary greatly when looked at through a gendered lens. I believe that the more we are presented with situations in which gender is not a defining factor, the themes become much more expansive, oftentimes shedding light on ways in which our society falls short in its struggle for equality.

Christopher Treacy has been writing about music and the music industry for 20 years. He’s contributed to The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald, Nashville Scene, and Berklee College of Music’s quarterly journal, as well as myriad LGBTQ+ outlets including the Edge Media Network, Between the Lines/Pride Source, Bay Windows and In Newsweekly. He lives in Waitsfield, VT.

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