Interview: Isley Reust on being trans and a musician

Isley Reust is a Los Angeles-based transgender actress and musician and the main songwriter for her band Spectacular Spectacular, an all-female dream pop/rock band. Her other work includes appearances on TV shows such as the Dr. Drew Show, Glee, Chasing Life and the GLAAD Media Award-nominated and Emmy-nominated web series True Trans with Laura Jane Grace, an AOL Originals Series. Isley Reust also stars in an upcoming 2016 film called Isley, in which she plays the role of a transgender woman who is on a journey of self-discovery. She has also reached the hearts of millions across the world as she detailed her transition on her YouTube Channel.

Her band Spectacular Spectacular just put out a new album titled Blur on June 30, 2015 and just completed a U.S & International tour. The album can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon, Target Music, or on the band's online store. In our interview with Isley, we asked about her transition, her new album, and the interconnectedness of the two in her art.

GLAAD:  Is music more of a way for you to express yourself or is your goal to help others? Or is it a combination of both?

Isley:    For me writing music has always been a form of self-expression. When I write it's usually about what I'm currently feeling or going through at that very moment or period in my life. I like to think of every note as a choreographed move and feeling. The times I write the best are when I'm usually struggling, sad or uncertain about my future.

I do write the music for myself in the early stages as a form of therapy then as the song grows and progresses I start thinking how this song could help, inspire or even put a smile on someone’s face. I like to transcribe my emotions and what I'm going through into music but I also like to leave it up to the listener to interpret the songs in their own way.

GLAAD: Does music open up a future that previously may have felt closed to you?

Isley: I've been playing music since I was 8 or 9 years old. It's something I've always wanted to do for a living. My first band I ever played in, I played bass and did backup vocals and that was at age 13. Over the years I ran into a few rough patches in my life where I felt that achieving my goal in music was so far out of reach. There were a couple times I pretty much just gave up. At one point I did give up for a couple years. Even in the last year I've had days I'll wake up and think, "What am doing with my life, I'll never be where I want to be in music". Usually about after 5 minutes I snap out of it and tell myself to never to give up, because you can and will achieve all your dreams and goals.

I'm not rich and I barely get by. I just look at it this way, I'm putting in my time and I'll continue to do so for as long as it takes.

I will say this, in the last 6 months I've noticed a huge change in my career. I can finally see all the long years of sacrifice, tears and hard work starting to pay off. One of my goals is to be the first transgender woman to sign a major label contract. To my knowledge it hasn't been done yet

GLAAD: Do you feel your new album has a message that you wanted to convey?

Isley: I moved to San Francisco in early 2012 to start writing and working on this album. During the course of the 3 years of writing and recording it a lot was going on in my life and the other girls’ lives. So the way we like to put it is, the album is basically a storybook and each song is a different chapter in the book. The album is so incredibly diverse it feels like a rollercoaster that takes you on an eerie adventure or what some might say a fairytale.

GLAAD: Do you feel your transition plays a role in your music and in your life as an artist?

Isley: Most certainly. Transition has definitely played a huge part in my life as an artist. If I never transitioned or went through all the life events that occurred, I wouldn't be creating the art and music that I was feeling at those very moments in time.

GLAAD: Which musicians do you admire? What is it about these artists that attracts you?

Isley: As a teenager my biggest inspiration and still to this day is Shirley Manson from the band Garbage. When I first saw her I thought she was the greatest thing to happen to me. I loved and admired her music, style and uniqueness. It's always been a goal of mine to be in a band that toured or opened up for Garbage. Another inspiration of mine was John Frusciante. He's a guitar prodigy and his guitar work has heavily influenced mine over the years. I can go on for days about other artists who have inspired me in my life.

GLAAD: Where can people find your album and information about your upcoming shows?

Isley: You can buy my band Spectacular Spectacular's album Blur on iTunes, Amazon, Target Music. Pretty much any digital platform. You can order physical copies through our online store on our website or while we're out on tour. All tour dates are on Spectacular Spectacular's website. We will be announcing new, exciting news, tours and music releases later this year.