On Point With: EJ Garlands

A multitalented performer who’s played a lot of roles on stage and in many facets of nightlife, EJ Garlands is about to take the spotlight in a brand new showcase.

Thotyssey: EJ, hello! Thanks for chatting with us tonight! I understand you’re taking part in a new show.

EJ Garlands: It’s called The Garlands Attraction! I’m so excited to finally be back on the Red Eye stage: “Jazz/Blues chanteuse EJ Garlands and international ‘Triple Threat of Burlesque’ The Maine Attraction host an evening of high end burlesque, all accompanied by Emmy award winning musical director Lance Horne and his band, The Maine Hornes. Come celebrate 4/20 and the solar eclipse with these NYC scoundrels as we have a toke and take it off!”

I’ve dreamed about headlining a band for burlesque ever since Cher and Christina got together in Burlesque in 2010. As a committed tambourine player, when Christina snatched that tambourine player onto the stage the first time she sang live, I was hooked! I have always been a fan of burlesque and am so excited to finally combine forces with my dear friend, The Maine Attraction, on this new endeavor.

EJ, you’re probably best known as a singer and show producer, but you’ve worn a lot of pretty hats in NYC nightlife: you’ve been a door goddess, you’ve done backstage tech stuff, and you’ve performed as a drag queen! How might you generally describe EJ Garlands’ role in this scene to someone unfamiliar?

I like the term “kaleidoscope” because it incorporates all the different facets I bring to this show. As a singer, there’s jazz, there’s rock, there’s pop, there’s Broadway, etc. as a producer, I’m covering everything from designing the marketing to building the band with Lance Horne to literally filling the seats with everyone in the city that owes me a favor. Lol… everywhere you turn, there’s a new angle of rainbow.

So where are you from, and what were your early creative pursuits and interests?

My people are from Ohio, but I grew up in Richmond, VA. I was the full child performer. I took community dance classes…with my mother! I had the lead in all the church plays; I always had the solo for “Away In a Manger.” I even traveled with my family as a full Partridge Family-style contemporary worship team. Mariah Carey’s “Hero” was my go to solo growing up.

Was there always an inner war between being a queer kid and doing these church shows?

Absolutely, but I didn’t realize it so much at first. My mother used to say, “he’s just a happy child,” I didn’t realize it so much until we changed from the Lutheran church to the Catholic Church…once my dad started “figuring things out.”

What brought you to the City?

I originally moved to NYC to pursue theater / Broadway, and quickly discovered that cattle calls and doing things the same way eight times a week were not for me. Luckily, I discovered my musical director–Emmy award winning Lance Horne–along the way. He opened my eyes to the world of jazz, and all things Curated Chaos!

You also performed in drag at Ellia J. Garlands for awhile! How did that begin?

Ellia originated in Richmond, VA because it was easier for me to get a drag gig than book a singing gig. I thought to myself “if they’ll give me a microphone, I’ll put on a dress.” I was the only live singing drag queen in the area, and was so excited to move to NYC with that special skill. Little did I know–every bitch in NYC sings!

You were also a mainstay at Club Cumming in and out of drag for awhile.

Yea! Sam Benedict (general manager of Club Cumming at the time) asked me to cover coat check one night when the bar opened, and I made a permanent home quickly. I experienced Lance Horne and his Monday nights, and the rest is herstory. You can still find me there on Monday nights as the co-producer of “Mondays in the Club with Lance” alongside Lance Horne.

What are your go-to songs these days, or favorite musicals or artists?

One of the things I’m really focusing on this year is getting my original music out more. I’ll be singing an original at my show on the 20th at Red Eye and am so excited to share it with everyone! Shoshana Bean is my absolute goddess. She taught me how to scream! Do yourself a favor and dive in! My current favorite musical is Titanique; it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on a stage. That show is going far!

“Cringe” is a fun song from 2022 that features your vocals.

“Cringe” is so fun! My best friend, Thomas Cole, came to me with the idea and I was immediately drawn to it because of it’s jazzy house vibe. It was inspired by people in our lives that have tried to stifle our creativity and outward expression. We haven’t actually performed it live yet, but we’re hoping to do that this pride season! It’s been wild finding out that DJs around the world are playing it at festivals and parties.

So this Red Eye show on the 20th is no doubt going to amazing… do you think you might do more stuff Red Eye down the road? Or what about at their new / old sister venue, The Ice Palace?

I hope to make this burlesque review a residency [there], once we settle in and figure out our feather budget! I’m also planning some other series concepts for the future…hopefully at both venues. Anything for a trip to Fire Island!

What else do we need to know?

Well, I’m looking for a social media intern that doesn’t need get paid. Other than that, keep your eyes on my Instagram for more shows, and new original music!

Find us one of those interns, too! Okay, let’s end with an ending: Phantom of The Opera! Did you have a favorite thing about that show?

Funny that you asked this! Phantom was actually my first Broadway show, but we were late and missed the chandelier raising in the beginning. I’m still a little bitter about it. Watching it rise for the last time via TikTok definitely didn’t have the same effect.

Thanks, EJ!

Check Thotyssey’s calendar for EJ Garlands’ upcoming appearances, and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok.

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