Almost a decade has passed since singer-songwriter Phylle [fil•ee] first offered up his fresh, debonair approach to romance with debut single, Making Love. Two albums and a Grammy nod later, the Philadelphia native is still proving it’s more boss to be the good guy on upcoming release, “Mr. Carter.” But unexpectedly, it has been more than melody and verse to propel the R&B crooner into leading status. His recent union to husband Antoine Nolan has quickly turned the self-proclaimed ‘urban gentlemen’ into an inspiration and blazing proponent for marriage equality.
“We realize that we’re blessed, and to whom much is given, much is required,” Phylle says about his advocacy work with Freedom to Marry and Georgia Equality. “It was important that we step up.”
And stepping up is just what the outspoken entertainer has been doing. Since joining forces with the two LGBT rights organizations, Phylle and his husband have
gone on to speak at various events and lobby on behalf of same-sex couples nationwide. Thankfully, the pair's efforts may soon pay off.
Last month the Supreme Court revealed it would hear a series of cases this term that could potentially decide the fate of marriage equality across states. Many supporters are optimistic for a ruling that would annul remaining provisions that currently define marriage as only between a man and woman. For Phylle this would be a huge victory.
“I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen,” he says. “I’m hopeful that they’re on the right side of history. It’s our constitutional right.”
At present, gay and lesbian Americans can wed in 36 states along with Washington, D.C. which is where Phylle and Nolan decided to make their commitment official after their ceremony in Atlanta.
Phylle was fortunate to have the support of his family and friends during his November 2013 nuptials. However for some, the idea of two men getting married did not sit well at first.
“The funny thing is, even when we told our friends who are gay that we were getting married they were like, ‘Why? What’s the point of marriage?” he says. “We pushed forward anyway, just to show people that this is important. We want to have kids, and we want to be able to buy our home [together], to file joint taxes, and to receive all the other government benefits that every other couple gets. It’s not about trying to be like a straight couple. I live in this country, I pay taxes, and I should get the same protections. My relationship holds just as much value.”
Despite initial resistance, tying the knot has proven worthwhile in more ways than Phylle could have imagined. It was after seeing the songster’s wedding video (which has garnered over 224,000 views on YouTube to date) that a producer reached out wanting to film he and his husband for a reality show. The idea eventually developed into the series, The Boyz Next Door.
The Signal 23 TV production follows Phylle and his two best friends, KJ and Moe, as they navigate the complexities of everyday life: marriage, dating, friendship, work/school. “It’s just showing African-American men who happen to be gay, and are doing things with their lives,” he says about the series. “We wanted to dispel some of the myths and show that there is no one type of African-American gay man. We come in all shapes, colors and personalities.”
The overall feedback from viewers has been positive.
In one of the show’s earlier episodes, Phylle discusses his struggle to venture out from his long-established formula for making music which took on a more heterosexual slant. Although comfortable with his sexuality, he had not felt the need to address or sing about it in the past. “I don’t have a problem singing to a guy, but I don't feel like I should have to,” he says in episode five. “I have life experiences that are outside of just being gay.”
But just as with many other aspects of his life, it was Phylle’s marriage that once again led him to uncharted territory.
His latest single, I Love Him, delivers a direct account of his feelings toward Nolan. “That song was my way of saying [he’s] my priority, [he’s] what matters to me, and I’ll tell the world because that’s how much [he] means to me,” he says.
This was not the first time Phylle had written about his husband, but he had never presented his emotions in such plain and clear manner.
The song has become an anthem of sorts for other couples within the black gay community. One couple even decided to use it in their wedding. “I was really honored that somebody would feel that strongly about my message,” he says. “[That] was amazing to me.”
The response Phylle has received from the single has pushed him to take even more musical risks.
His third album, “Mr. Carter,” will showcase a more provocative sound as evidenced by the hip-hop tinged track Bull. The song will be the first single lifted from the repackaged collection featuring five new songs and re-workings of cuts from his previous LP, “The Coming”.
The record will also include collaborations with rap duo The Freaky Boiz and a few other LGBT artists.
This will mark the first time Phylle has worked with other artists on an album.
“I feel like as a community we have to work together,” he says. “We pay all of this money for straight artists to entertain us, as opposed to paying for LGBT artists who are grinding to represent and close the gap between our worlds. If we work together we can build a network where we are supporting our own.”
“Mr. Carter” is due at the end of March.
While Phylle is excited about his current and forthcoming projects, more than anything he wants to continue helping people in a positive way.
He recently earned his master’s degree and urges his younger fans to focus on their education as well. “You have the rest of your life to find a mate,” he says. “Now is the time to focus on school and set a foundation so when you meet that right person you have something to bring to the table.”
For his older fans who are past that point and still searching for love, he encourages them to be patient. "Everybody peaks at different times," he says. "Just because you're not in a relationship now doesn't mean that it's not coming or it won't happen. Maybe you're not ready, or the person you're going to be with is not ready. And evaluate your expectations. Sometimes what you want is not always what you need. So make sure you're looking for what you need, not necessarily what you want."
No matter what stage of life one may find themselves in, Phylle believes self-love is most essential. "Just love yourself," he says. "Loving you will change your life, and your perception on life and how people see you. Your perspective is what controls how people see you, so love yourself."