Queer pop musicians Cory Stewart and Jxckson’s newest track Grab the Fire is an impeccable blend of bold lyrics, an unforgettable tune, and velvety vocals. The song, released on the 3rd of December, came to fruition when the two singers met online, shortly after the start of the pandemic. Grab the Fire is infectious and powerful, inspired by the pair’s astrological signs: Aries and Leo respectively.
Lyrics like “I’m going just one way / And that’s what you admire / No longer easy prey / Yeah, I’ve already won” are as empowering as they are beautiful.
Cory Stewart is the host of the Official Queerantine Aftershow, as well as the online Queer Music Social. His music has rightly been described as “unapologetic and relentlessly catchy.” The singer has been a supporting act for several artists, including Boy George and Crystal Waters.
Jxckson, based in Austin, is a pop singer and dancer, famous for his catchy songs and witty lyrics — both of which he uses as a method of storytelling.
In this conversation with the two artists, we learn more about their influences, hometowns, and their favourite song they’ve created so far.
Q. How did you first start creating music?
Cory: At four years old I used to dance around in my mother’s kitchen apron, singing along to Christine’s part in Phantom of the Opera. Two things, I’m sure, were evident to my parents in this moment; firstly, I loved music; and secondly, they may have a gay son on their hands. By the age of about six or seven, I was put into singing lessons and with that, began writing music. Funnily enough, I can still remember the first song I ever wrote — which dealt with betrayal in a romantic relationship — heavy themes for a seven-year-old, but I was a very pecuar little kid.
Jxckson: I created my first original song during my senior year of high school. From there, music was almost like my diary. I would take beats and random sounds I found online and mash them together and freestyle words and melodies of whatever I was feeling at the time. Wasn’t always pretty or wouldn’t even make the most sense, but it was therapeutic. 12 years after that first creation and years of experimenting with my own sound, I decided to take some serious steps in making music for other people to enjoy.
Q. What are your biggest influences?
Cory: I would say my biggest influences come from a mixture of Madonna, Darren Hayes, Brandy, Bette Midler, along with movie and stage soundtracks. I also draw a lot from my queer indie peers, including my duet partner Jxckson; and people like Gavin Bradley (who is also my longtime collaborator), Kisos, AlexZone, J Grgry, Andrea Di Giovanni, Zach Benson and so many others. The queer indie music scene is bursting at the seams with talent, so they tend to get me very inspired — then I try my best to convince each one of them to work with me!
Jxckson: Most of my influences come from my 12+ years of listening to K-Pop and early 2000’s pop music. What I love about K-Pop especially is how the genre essentially fuses other different genres together. I also love how each comeback is an opportunity to reinvent yourself, which is something I strive for with each release. I’m also heavily influenced by Lily Allen, who plays across genres as well. She’s very tongue-and-cheek when it comes to her lyrics and her melodies are infectious – all things I want to reflect in my own music.
Q. What is the inspiration behind Grab The Fire? How do you want it to make people feel?
Cory: I’ve said in the past that Grab The Fire truly came from a place of anger — perhaps even hate, at some points for me. There is a lot of frustration, ups and downs and difficulties to conquer when you make the decision to pursue music seriously. That said, Grab The Fire has recently turned into an anthem of resilience and strength for me – almost an anthem of survival. My hope is that no matter what mood the listener is in, they’ll find something they can take away from it. My favourite type of songs are the ones that carry multiple meanings, open to interpretation of the listener.
Jxckson: Grab the Fire was inspired by the first meeting Cory and I had via Zoom. We were getting to know one another and discovered we were both fire astrological signs. This sparked (pun intended) the idea of embodying our signs. The song eventually drew inspiration from the familiar feeling of being underestimated and seizing on opportunities to prove naysayers wrong. I hope that comes through and that listeners feel empowered to believe in themselves and run with it.
Q. Where do you come from, and how has this had an influence on your work?
Cory: I was born and raised in a very small town about an hour and a half outside of Toronto. As soon as I could —at 17 for the record — I moved to Toronto, where I’ve been exposed to so many different styles and types of music. One of my favourite things about Toronto is how diverse it is — from street entertainers to full scale shows, there’s new music everywhere.
Jxckson: I grew up near a military base in Texas. Which on the surface sounds like a recipe of wanting to get away as soon as possible… but looking back I really appreciate growing up there. Being bi-racial — Black and German for those curious — my parents wanted us to raise me and my siblings in a mixed community. This meant having friends and knowing people from different countries and backgrounds. This broaden my music taste and opened me up to listening to new music, even if I don’t necessarily understand the words.
Q. What is your dream collaboration?
Cory: There are so many I could list. Madonna seems obvious, so I’ll mention some songwriters I admire: Sarah Hudson, Bonnie McKee, MNEK, Justin Tranter — I could truly list people for paragraphs, but these are some of my personal faves.
Jxkson: There’s so many to choose from! But if I had to pick my top pick, I would have to go with K-Pop artist Sunmi. To me, she captures this perfect balance of a sort of awkwardness and commanding sexiness that I just find so alluring. It’s something I find myself trying to capture for myself.
Q. What is your favourite song you have created up until now?
Cory: Aside from Grab The Fire, I would have to say Do You — it’s ABBA meets Madonna meets Bette Midler — aka. a gay celebration!
Jxkson: Not to be a tease, but my favorite song that I ever created hasn’t been released just yet. It’ll be the intro track for my debut EP out early next year. It’s catchy, playful, and a great introduction to who I am as an artist. As for songs that have been released, I would have to say Grab the Fire is my favorite. It’s the first track that I really let go of my performance needing to be “perfect” and focused more on delivering the emotion behind what I’m saying. It especially comes through during my verse on the track and I feel a sense of pride every time I hear it.