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Covers "We Belong" For The Trevor Project
Matt Zarley
The song has late-'80's, open-for-interpretation lyrics. They are much more universal than I initially thought they were. I realized it was a song of unity, not just a love song. - Matt Zarley
by Michael Shinafelt
Matt Zarley
Matt Zarley

"Bullying" is a current buzzword for an epidemic that has reached major proportions, thanks to more readily available outlets such as texting, hidden cameras and social networking sites.

An alarming amount of these incidences have resulted in teen suicides - the most notable casualty is amongst gay and lesbian youth.

Known music artist and Broadway baby Matt Zarley is out to help the cause. His latest single, a cover of the great Pat Benatar's "We Belong," benefits The Trevor Project - an organization dedicated to preventing gay teens from committing suicide. The Trevor Project also has a partner in social responsibility, the renowned columnist and activist Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" campaign.

Matt Zarley is here and ready to rock!

MS: Congrats on your cover of "We Belong". So what is happening with the single in terms of response?

MZ: I have been overwhelmed, everyone has been really supportive. I am also really excited. I am going back to New York this summer and doing a show for the organization Broadway Cares, called "Broadway Bares". I will be closing the show with "We Belong."

MS: That's awesome!

MZ: It's part of my old family, where I came from. It's almost like going home. It's a really cool thing and sentimental to me.

MS: You started on Broadway.

MZ: Yes, that was my launching pad. So many of those people are such close friends, it's so cool to be going back!

MS: How did the project come about?

MZ: The whole project came about in the beginning stages of me working on my album. This wasn't something that I had planned to do, it side tracked me for a hot minute (laughs). "We Belong" is a song that I have always wanted to cover, it worked out great!

MS: Correct me if I am wrong, I know the proceeds go to The Trevor Project. Is this tied into the "It Gets Better" campaign as well?

MZ: They are a sister organization of The Trevor Project. "It Gets Better" was inspired by the whole bullying epidemic that was going on this past year, as well as The Trevor Project. The campaign was started by Dan Savage.

MS: I think Dan Savage is great!

MZ: Absolutely! It's amazing how much awareness that campaign has raised.

MS: By the way, since you mentioned you have always wanted to cover "We Belong," does that mean you are a Pat Benatar fan?

MZ: Huge! I mean, yeah, that's around the time I really became aware of music. I was the Pinball Wizard in "Tommy" on Broadway around 15 years ago. The woman who played the mother in the show was leaving, there were rumors we were going to close. There were also rumors that they were going to bring Pat Benatar in to replace her. The deal ended up falling apart and we ended up closing, but I was so excited, I was like, OMG, I get to work with Pat Benatar. That would have been amazing!

Matt Zarley
"Here I Am" by Matt Zarley

MS: "We Belong" is a perfect song to cover for the cause you are trying to raise awareness for.

MZ: Covers are not something that I really am interested in doing. I would rather write original songs. DJ Bill Bennett approached me about doing a cover of the song for the NOH8 campaign and I thought it would be perfect for that. The NOH8 campaign didn't happen, they had another artist attached to a project so they really couldn't support another one doing something for them. A few months later, Bill said to me: 'What do you think about The Trevor Project?', and I thought it was such a great idea.

MS: It is!

MZ: The song has late-'80's, open-for-interpretation lyrics. They are much more universal than I initially thought they were. I realized it was a song of unity, not just a love song.

MS: I've always viewed the song as a song of unity.

MZ: That's because you were ahead of your time (both laugh). I always thought it was a more romantic kind of song. Really, you are more sophisticated, because if you really look at the lyrics they are more unifying than romantic.

MS: In my opinion, the song was intended the way you have covered it now. I saw Pat Benatar perform at Long Beach Pride twice and she made a point of mentioning how she had a gay brother who had died.

MZ: Wow! I didn't know that. But, I found out recently, when she wasn't available to sing on the song "We Are The World," she donated proceeds from "We Belong" to that organization.

MS: Yeah, that makes sense.

MZ: When I was approached to sing it, I really wanted to do a reinterpretation of the song.

MS: You have succeeded!

MZ: Thank you!

MS: Chat about the single from your forthcoming album.

MZ: I have a song that is coming out in May called "WTF?" It's a total dance song.

MS: Such a departure for you!

MZ: It's completely different than anything I have ever done. It's the first time I have had some fun with studio trickery. The song is based on a very odd experience with somebody I had a little bit of romance with last year.

Check out Matt and his cover of "We Belong" at www.MattZarley.com or donate to The Trevor Project at www.thetrevorproject.org.

Michael Shinafelt
Michael Shinafelt has covered pop & dance music since he first burst on to the writing scene, interviewing everyone from pop icon Olivia Newton-John to pop artist E.G. Daily. Not to mention the many dance divas (male and female) who he has crossed paths with. Other interviews of note are Pamela Anderson, Heidi Fleiss, as well as cover stories on Margaret Cho and Kathy Griffin. Peace.
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