Interview with Ellen Gurley
April 7th 2013
E: Shane, I have known you for over fourteen years, all the while you were always an artist in some regard. But I have to imagine that it began a long time ago. I envision you as a toddler, dressing up and doing shows for the neighbourhood. Tell me, roughly, about when it all began for you.
S: Girl, my first gig was at the age of 5 years old singing "How Great Thou Art" for Flint Groves Baptist Church! I never looked back! I was either singing solos in church, drawing faces on my fingers and telling stories to my classmates in Kindergarden or acting out Madonna songs in my bedroom!
E: I have met your mother, she seems more than proud of you, talk to me about how she supported your love of the arts (from day one). (How blessed you are to have eachother, by the by.)
S: My mother is my hero...along with my Husband...and Madonna of course! She has always been there for me! Even as a single mother working double shifts in a textile mill, she was at every performance I ever did...And I was shall we say quite the involved kid! I was always performing in something!
E: Let’s talk about your love affair with New York City. Will you always have a place in your heart for Manhattan and will we ever have to say ‘bye’ to you again?
S:NYC is not just my second home...it gets in your veins! Especially as a performer! I had my second life there! Met some of the most important people in my life there! And had some of the most important experiences in my life there! But though I miss it, I love living in my home in Belmont with my husband and his two boys and our dog Elroy and cat FERA. This is who I am now and I wouldn't change it for the world!
E: Okay, let’s talk “Shane Elks’s : the Elks Academy”. You offer classes in tap, musical theater, music theory, voice, theater, movement and audition prep. I am assuming that this academy came about due to the fact that you have so much talent and experience and were not feeling ‘greedy’ to keep this all to yourself. Who is your average student and what are the ranges in age of your pupils?
S: The best way to celebrate your passion is to teach others how to do it! I LOVE teaching! I have students from 6 to 21 at the moment! Each are talented and I am so greatfull to lead them on this journey of self-awareness and exploration of their art!
E: You have an album on iTunes (“Gonna Be”) (tracks: Imaginary Friend, Drawing Pictures, Young Boys, Happy, My Everafter, Raindrops, So Go On, I Remember Daydreams, For a While, Somebody Different, I am Ready and Gonna Be) that went up in January of 2013. Who produced this album and how has the reception been?
S:Self produced! It was like having a baby! I am mainly a musical theater actor and cabaret artist so I normally perform other people's songs. But I have always written just never put it out there! It was a time in my life where what I had to say could no longer be stifled! And it was a time in my life where I said.."What the hell are you waiting on?" Everyone who has listened say it is unexpected! I guess they are thinking it is going to be like my cabaret/jazz music but it is more experimental/pop! I get people stating that it is very Bowie meets George Michael! Over all I just love that it is out there for people to experience! the best is when people I have never met contact me and say WOW! I love your voice and music! That is so crazy to me! Apparently all my fans live in Brazil! I'm huge in Japan...right?
E: When it comes to your moniker “Mr. Red”, I would loosely characterize this genre as opera. I know you can do better in describing it. (Watching you perform brought tears to my eyes and that ain’t no bologna.)
S: Mr. Red came from when I was performing in Underground Clubs with my sister Kelly Ray aka: The Bombshell! Mr. Red is a cabaret/operatic/clown! Now when I perform I am just Shane Elks. Thanks for the sweet words...you were probably crying because there was glitter in your eyes!
E: Talk to me about your relationship with Opera Carolina.
S: I joined Opera Carolina over 6 years ago! They are an amazing company! I had the pleasure of working with the finest musicians and staff in the country! James Meena is a Maestro to be reckoned with! With them I did such great shows as MacBeth, La Boheme and Tosca! I last did a concert with the chorus a couple of years ago. Though at anytime (if time were to ever permit) I would not hesitate to rejoin this company in any show it was producing!
E: Honky Tonk Angels… you are currently conducting audtions in the Little Theater of Gastonia. Tell me about this project, it sounds amazing.
S: This will be my first stint as a Director! I have directed many small projects but never a full show! I am so excited! The show will run May 30-June 9 and follows three country gals on there way to Nashville in search of stardom! This show pays homage to some of the great Country women such as Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and more!
E: Okay, Madame Midnight Ruby…. your drag personality, how long as she been on the drawing boards? How many performances have you done under this moniker and what can we expect from ‘her’? (By the way, she is freakin’ flawless.)
S: Well you know I am just a big old Queen anyway! Midnight Ruby has been around for ages just never has taken center stage! But as any Queen, she has come a busting out in rare form! She is just another extension of myself! She is a Cabaret Queen who does parodies! She is my way of paying respect to the Diva's I love such as Liza and Bette! Of course she sings live. She only lip synchs when doing Gangsta rap!
E: When it comes to drawing inspiration from other artists, in any of your projects (Mr. Red or Madame Midnight Ruby), who or what do you cite as inspirational to you (local or inter/national)?
S: I find all forms of art and therefore artists inspirational! I have always been drawn to vintage and classic forms of art! I love the twenties era! I would say my mind is a collaboration of Tim Curry/Bette Midler/Freddie Mercury/Madonna/Salvador Dali.
E: My City Magazine can boast you as a personality (columinist) to follow. We are very proud to have you on our team. You seem to wear an awful lot of hats (including husband and stepfather). What do you do in your spare time or do you even have any?
S: SLEEP! I love relaxing with my husband and family! I am really just an old married lady these days! And I am so excited to be a part of this new project I could spit glitter! Thanks for having me Momma!
E: Driving down the street, soaking in the bath, cooking a meal … while you are doing these things are you in constant creation-mode? Or do you turn it off sometimes and think of nothing, nothing at all?
S: I have taken up trying to cook more! Though my husband is not amused at having to pretend it is good...I find it very therapeutic! :I must have hundreds of projects going on at once or I feel antsy! But when I am relaxing...Do Not bother me in my sacred space! My home is my refuge!
* Shane Elks can be found performing as Mr. Red every Tuesday PM at the Dandelion Market
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