Matt Alber is a singer-songwriter and self-described "choir-geek" who cut his teeth as a member of the Grammy-winning classical a capella group Chanticleer. He's also a compassionate gay man who has a special interest in LGBT rights. Alber performs tonight at Soda Bar, but it's not any old show: Proceeds go to the Sunburst Youth Housing Project, a program that provides affordable and free housing to at-risk LGBT youth in San Diego.
"Many of these kids were evicted or exiled by their families and communities because they are gay," Alber says. In a quick email interview, Alber tells CityBeat about why he's doing the benefit show, what he thinks of the It Gets Better Project, and more:
CityBeat: Why did you decide to do this benefit show?
Matt Alber: There are tens of thousands of queer youth—literally that many—living on America's streets every night because they were left behind or so badly abused they chose homelessness over what they had. For them, life just doesn't get better with time. I have the great privilege of living in a safe and comfortable home and with whom I choose to love. I go to bed with a full stomach every night and I get to sing songs for a living. I'm not a wealthy man but it dawned on me recently that as a gay man and as a human being I have a responsibility to care for these young ones first, before I spend a dollar on anything else. These kids are OURS, whether we know their names or not.
In a press release, you have a quote that says: "Everyone says the best songs are born out of tragedy. But for me they come from that last sliver of hope that things just might turn around." What do you mean by that?
Just a fancy way of saying I always feel more like singing when I feel hopeful than when I'm depressed. Channeling sadness is a lot harder than channeling joy.
That quote kind of reminds me of the It Gets Better Project. What do you think about that project?
I'm so grateful to ["Savage Love" columnist Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller] for launching such an honest movement to reach out to our queer youth. I hope the momentum just keeps building. Dan said it right in the foreword to his new book—that we gay adults don't have to wait for permission from homophobic America to speak, or to listen to, our young ones. What a powerful revelation he gave us. Whew!
What can we expect at the show tonight?
Well, it's the first stop on the tour, so you can expect I'll have a clean shirt on and my guitar in hand singing acoustic arrangements of my songs. Also, I'm hoping lots of boyfriends come and make out during the show—I'll know I'm doing my job right.
Matt Alber performs with Drew Andrews and Roll Film at Soda Bar tonight (Monday, May 16). facebook.com/mattalber.