Actor, writer, lawyer, nightlifer and recording artist Jack Tracy is perhaps best known for penning and starring in the hit web series “History,” but has made waves with unique songs and their sexy videos as well. Having to do a complete 180 like the rest of us during lockdown, Jack’s creative flow never slowed… and now he’s about to #FreeBritney!
Thotyssey: Happy Easter Weekend, Jack! How are you?
Jack Tracy: I forgot it was Easter weekend! I haven’t celebrated those sorts of holidays in a long time, and quite frankly the pandemic has made every date on the calendar meaningless. But I’m good! I just come off my fasting hours, and am digging into a lovely omelette.
You seem to be in great shape! Was maintaining that physique a challenge in this year of forced inactivity?
It’s incredibly infuriating, because I finally got in the best shape of my life last March; it felt like a 37-year-old fight was now over. And then the goddamn pandemic hit, and I remembered that I liked cheese. So we went on a bit of a weight journey, but I am feeling close to recovered at this point.
Good for you! It’s going to many of us awhile to get back into that groove. But you haven’t exactly been inactive these past few months, releasing new music and videos, plus a comedic dating advice mini-series. Have all these projects been long planned?
The plan for 2020 was, of course, entirely different than what ended up being possible. When it became clear that we would be on lockdown for a long time, I scrapped my plans for a new movie and the new season of my web series History, and instead focused on making new music–because that’s something I can do from my apartment. In the end I ended up with nearly 30 new songs that I recorded over time, and picked the first six songs for an EP–and began the process of making videos this year once I felt like I could do that responsibly.
What can you tell us about the planned movie? Is this something you wrote entirely?
I usually write everything myself, but then I stage a table reading with people I trust to give me feedback and to hear it out loud. I had intended on creating a specific movie that I actually never ended up writing because of the pandemic, and instead wrote two other movies–both of which are working through some screenplay festivals right now. The movie I had planned but have yet to finish is sort of a gay version of Marriage Story. As for the ones that are actually done, one is a lesbian murder mystery and the other is a gay coming-of-age sex comedy. Hopefully one of these will sound appealing to an exorbitantly wealthy reader of yours, and they can fund it.
I have no doubt! Okay, so before we discuss more of the present and future, we better cover to the beginning: where are you from exactly, and what were your earliest creative pursuits while growing up?
I am originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and I like to say that my personality was forged in 1993 by the combination of the Janet album, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. As far as creativity goes, I always loved music and my family always had a ton of records and cassette tapes. But I think it really began when my sister started taking ballet, and we went to pick her up from class and there were kids practicing tap dancing; that really caught my eye. So I really started off as a dancer, and then joined all the school choirs–and it all sort of came out of there. I went to Penn State as a musical theater major, but quickly found myself not fitting in with the musical theater crowd… so focused more on academics and ended up becoming a lawyer. Thinking about it now, it’s kind of sad to think that I was the misfit among the misfits.
Fascinating! Did you ever go to trial?
My area of expertise is corporate bankruptcy, so you don’t really get to do trials there. But I have presented in court.
Do you incorporate lawyering into any of your screenwriting?
It certainly influences the way I write. I did make a web series that focused on working at a law firm a few years ago, but I think being a lawyer definitely made me better at shaping characters by figuring out what their side of an argument is. My characters always end up with very clear points of view, because I think in my mind they are all representing different sides of some argument or obstacle. I also love a good monologue, and when I do end up bringing something to a table read the first comment from any friend or collaborator is always. “you sure like your words.”
At what point do you find yourself in NYC, mixing it up with the nightlife folks here?
Even before I ever came to New York, I always knew I would end up here. It was always the goal. I think on a subconscious level, I always knew that this was the place where I could fully be myself–even if at the time I didn’t quite know what that meant. I came here right after college in 2005, and worked for a law firm for a bit before I went to law school in the area. So I was pretty much a corporate slave for two years, then a law student for three years, then back to being a corporate slave for five more years. But I remember those first few years living in Hoboken, getting off the Path train and walking over to Eastern Bloc, which was my favorite bar at the time. There was also some bar with a heaven or hell / upstairs downstairs kind of theme, but I don’t quite recall its name, and a cocktail lounge called XL near the Maritime. Those were all my favorites. Actually, I remember being in college ready to move here, going on Therapy’s website to check it out. Flash forward ten years, and I’m filming my web series there!
Tell us a bit about History, your acclaimed web series which came about during a boom time for indie web-based scripted serials, but has definitely been a standout with staying power. First of all, what was the inspiration and process to bring that series to life?
The inspiration was, I hated Looking. Lol! I had so many high hopes for that series, and I very much wanted a series like it… and at the time, I was tinkering around with screenwriting. So when I watched the show and hated all of the characters and the story, I decided to write my own version. At the same time, I was going through a very bad breakup which was providing lots of material to write about–and it sort of started as an angry diary that I eventually reshaped into a story. I didn’t know anything about filming or producing at the time, so I watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked friends for help, and we put it together the best we could.
People need to know how unbelievably challenging it is to get even a “small” indie series written into multiple episodic scripts, casted, crew assembled, funded and filmed! That must’ve been all quite a learning curve in the first season.
Very much so. I still look back and I’m very proud of it, but I can’t help but think of all the things I know how to do differently now. Funding is always the biggest issue, which is why I have always been self-funded… but unfortunately the pandemic cost me my job, and that’s no longer possible. So that’s my 2021 challenge to conquer: find investors. Season three of the show–which only happened because each season the audience grew larger and larger–was really the first project I felt like I knew everything I was doing.
Have you had a favorite moment related to that series, either a favorite scene or episode or story arc, or just a moment during the creative process?
The best part is always the fan reaction after. Each season has a bit of a reveal, and the reveal in Season Three is one that really kicks you in the gut. There’s a twist to also give fans what they want, but I make them wait a long time to get it. So honestly for me, the best part is the letter I get after it is released from a stranger saying “I’ve been crying the last two days because of you… but goddamnit, that was great. “
When did you start recording and producing your own songs and videos?
The songs actually came from Season Two of History. In the first season I licensed music, and it was a nightmare. I also ended up with songs that I didn’t quite love, so I promised myself I would learn how to make music myself to use in the backgrounds of bars and coffee shops in the show. So I did that, and a few of the beats I made I really ended up liking, and I started thinking about lyrics. So after Season Two was released, I decided to turn some of that music into what ended up becoming my first album.
That album spawned four music videos and a few gigs–including performing at Jersey City Pride, which was my first real set and it’s still a career highlight for me. When I walked off stage after performing 15 minutes of original music, a few new fans came up after and told me how much they enjoyed it, and it was in that moment that I realized music and performance had to be a central piece of my creative works. No one could tell me I was not Beyoncé after I left that stage!
It makes sense that your sound started as movie music! I’d describe it as kind of down tempo melodic pop with a sorta dark, almost gothy industrial sex club vibe!
I like that. Though I definitely like to genre hop. I miss the pop albums of the past where you get a few dance tracks, a few ballads, maybe a Dancehall number, and then some attempt at a country track, and then maybe like a bossa nova thing. That’s what I want to do: I want my sound to be more about my point of view, and try different styles. This new EP is definitely the most eclectic.
Just to insert a little retro self-plug here, I enjoyed your performance at Thotyssey’s twice-monthly Thot Mess at Rebar… that was, like, a year and change ago already! You had four background dancers and slayed.
That was really fun. There will always be background dancers: I am a child of Janet Jackson, so that’s just part of the blueprint. We were performing a song I really liked, and the crowd seemed very into it. That was at the tail end of my last project which was a series of EPs, where every song had a music video.
As far as recent releases go: “Love Yah” is a joyful, bouncy track with a very positive, theoretical post-Covid video that includes an opening bit by Sherry Vine! That must’ve e been super fun to film, even if the whole Covid restrictions business was a carry to adhere to.
Yes, I love that song. When figuring out how to make the video, which was my first post-Covid, I decided to break it down into three separate locations so I could manage background people in small chunks. I hired a Covid protocol officer who made sure everyone was socially distanced and took temperature checks, etc. And Sherry filmed her portion remotely from LA. Anyone who came to set had to have negative Covid test results received a few days prior… so we were very diligent.
And the folow-up single “The Feels” is a bit freaknastier, with a sexy video. Yay butts! Is that costar your real life partner, and is on-screen nudity fun or weird to do?
My costar is Matt Blum, who is a friend and regular backup dancer of mine. My real life partner is an eight-year-old cocker spaniel. At this point, I have been naked and simulating sex in projects for so long that it’s just clinical; there’s nothing thrilling or sexy about a sex scene. We’re all getting ready to be naked again in two weeks to film my third music video for my song “Prince.”
A true professional! And I see that on April 5th, you’ll be joining the digital cast of “Vinyl Fantasy: #FreeBritney,” a titular tribute showcase, 8pm on Twitch!
Yes! And honestly, I don’t think that would’ve come to pass if I wouldn’t have performed at Rebar and met [Vinyl Fantasy’s co-producer] Marcel the Artist, who asked me to join the lineup. I am performing a cover of “My Prerogative,” which felt very destined because the original version by Bobby Brown was my favorite song as a child, and my very first cassette tape. So it feels full circle. You should expect what you can always expect from me: a big production with sharp editing in an interesting space, with tons of background dancers. Also, hot pants.
Have a great show! Is there anything else to add?
I would say that the Love Yah EP will be out on April 14, which you can preorder now on iTunes and pre-save on Spotify. The first two singles “Love Yah” and “The Feels” are streaming now with videos on the Necessary Outlet YouTube page. Tune into Vinyl Fantasy on Monday for my Britney performance, and follow me on Instagram.
Excellent! And lastly: what’s the best song that came out during quarantine?
Oh no! I don’t keep up with new music, lol! I think the only thing I’ve downloaded this year is the new Toni Braxton album, which is incredible.