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Q&A with Chris Hassett: Popular San Diego singer-songwriter releases new CD and VIDEO

SAN DIEGO -- Chris Hassett is a beloved member of San Diego's extended LGBT family, and his music has entertained and inspired fans for decades.

The singer has just released a new CD titled "This I Promise You," a collection of love songs.

Hassett will join Kenny Ard, Sue Palmer, Drew Massicot, Kay Etheridge and other musicians for the "25th Anniversary Friends and Lovers Concert" at 7:30 pm Friday, July 20, at First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego. Donation of $10 is suggested. For more information, contact chris@chrishassett.com.

The concert is sponsored by Rainbow Action Group, an LGBT service organization at the church, and will benefit patient services offered through Community Health Clinics, affiliated with Owen Clinic, UCSD, in Hillcrest. The concert is being held during San Diego Pride weekend.

Hassett spoke with San Diego Gay & Lesbian News (SDGLN.com) about his new album and his future plans.

SDGLN: What is the theme of your new CD, "This I Promise You"?

CHRIS: "This I Promise You" contains 11 original love songs. So, it's all about love -- the many aspects of love -- from puppy love to a song I wrote for a lesbian wedding, from a humorous gay love saga to an anthem for loving the human family. So it's a big theme, but it's looked at in many different ways. The collection also covers several different musical styles: pop, country, R&B, ballads and rock.

SDGLN: How and why did you choose the songs on the CD?

CHRIS: My two previous albums were a mix of covers and originals. This album has been in my heart and my mind for some time. Love is the enduring theme for songwriters. I think it's at the heart of why we sing, why we write. Love inspires, love frustrates, love compels us to engage the world -- with varying success, I might add. These songs cover a broad spectrum from the personal to the global. And that was my intention — to share my personal perspective and attitudes about love and relationship.

SDGLN: Are any of the songs that are deeply personal to you?

CHRIS: "Give Me Your Arms" is the most personal. I wanted to communicate the importance of physical intimacy as a way to recharge our spirits. The idea for me is: We all try to do good things in the world but it can drain your energy and your spirit. Love brings you back -- gives you strength and purpose to carry on another day.

SDGLN: What inspires you as a singer and songwriter?

CHRIS: I'm a people watcher. I love the human stories that are played out in everyday life — at the check-out counter, on the freeway, over coffee, in the shower or during the family dinner hour. I think I've got a good eye and a good ear for genuine storytelling and my love of music compels me to tell those stories with songs.

SDGLN: Do you have plans to tour this year?

CHRIS: I am trying to "clear the decks" with my professional work as a writer and marketing consultant to free up more time for performing and touring. I have done out-of-town shows but I'm now in conversation with different parties about a Pride tour in 2013 or a series of concerts sponsored by progressive faith communities. This year, I already have several CD release events and concerts scheduled for the San Diego area. I am always open to taking the show on the road for any group or venue interested. I do have a growing fan base around the country as friends share my music with others.

SDGLN: What are your future plans?

CHRIS: Having produced and released three of my own CDs in the last 30 months, I will now settle back into a one-per-year pace, I think. I have more of my own music in development but will continue to interpret other composers' material, too. I love the American Songbook -- from the Broadway greats like Rodgers, Gershwin and Porter to relatively more modern composers like Leonard Cohen and Sondheim — and I am considering a pretty ambitious project to focus on these great song writers. I also have a theatrical project in development that I'm very excited about. And some of my songs have been considered as part of a movie soundtrack -- I hope I can share more details on that in the near future.

SDGLN: You note that you are 62; so how has time affected or changed your music?

CHRIS: Why did I say that! Well, it's no secret. I'm living a wonderful and full life. I have a greater capacity now to bring my personal energy and nuance into a song -- more than I did 10 years ago or certainly 40 years ago. I am more comfortable than ever in the spotlight and I better understand why people are eager to hear someone sing about their life and experience. Plus, just being older has given me a sharper perspective on life -- the folly as well as the profundity. I find myself more aware of the finiteness of life. And that makes it more precious to me. I find that meaning pops up in small things -- those observations can be fun for a songwriter.

SDGLN: What do you like most about San Diego's LGBT community?

CHRIS: The support and validation we offer each other. I moved to town in 1979 and promptly came out. Those early years through the '80s were a time of activism and involvement in lots of social organizations. I was always impressed with how community-minded these groups were. How supportive.

SDGLN: What would you like to see change in our LGBT community?

CHRIS: I have always noticed how petty we can all be in the LGBT community. Hey, I know we're human, so why am I surprised? I'm not as active in organizations now but I suspect it's still true: Members of the LGBT community can offer great support to each other and we can also indulge in spiteful, withering commentary. I would hope that the anti-bullying initiatives right now might invite us to put a focus on our own, internal bullying. You gotta take the good with the bad but I always respond to the positive aspects of community. I'd like to see more energy going into challenging stereotypes, bridging the generation gaps, having more productive dialogue across political lines, addressing racism. That kind of thing. And of course I always speak up for supporting local artists. We are mesmerized by international pop icons but oblivious to talent that's right under our noses and deserves our active support.

SDGLN: What is something that many people do not know about you?

CHRIS: I have four brothers. I'm a middle child. I'm the only gay sibling. And I started out my career as a high school math teacher. Oops, that's several things, isn't it?

SDGLN: Single or taken?

CHRIS: Taken. My partner and I celebrate our eighth anniversary this summer. We are a little family -- two dads and a dog.

SDGLN: If you could host a dinner party and invited three people (dead or alive), who would they be and why?

CHRIS: I'd like to throw these hypothetical dinner parties weekly, for about a year! But if I only had one shot at it, I'd say . . . Stephen Sondheim (a musical genius), Oscar Wilde (a literary genius) and Paula Deen -- because someone's gotta help me cook and keep the conversation lively.

Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at ken@sdgln.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.