When four boys assaulted an openly gay Chatham teen back in May it stirred up many emotions in London singer/songwriter Paul Luftenegger.
Luftenegger was also assaulted years ago while living in Bermuda for no reason other than his sexual preference. So the 36-year-old knew he wanted to do something in honour of a young man he was overwhelmingly impressed by.
“I know what it is like to be in Grade 8, dealing with these emotions and the world is much faster than when I was a child,” Luftenegger said. “The fact this boy was openly gay in Grade 8 is incredible to me. It also reminds me that we have a responsibility to protect our children. That ultimately comes from parents having a discussion with their children about the importance of accepting people for who they are.”
With that in mind, Luftenegger dedicated one of the songs on his upcoming third album Diamond Light to the Chatham teen. It’s Only Love is what he called his “different spin” on being gay.
The song is a reflection, Luftenegger said, on his own experiences of growing up Catholic in a world that didn’t seem to understand him. He had originally written when he was 19, but decided to scrap it because it was written from a place of anger.
Luftenegger said this version of the song was written from a much different place in his life, one that focuses on love and positivity rather than anger and negativity.
“I can’t say what someone else will feel about being gay, but this is me judging myself. And after years of wanting to take a pill to not be gay, I wouldn’t change myself for the world,” Luftenegger said. “That is what comes at the end of being in my 30s as opposed to being in my 20s. Back then I was very confused, I had a hard time being OK with who I was at that time.”
Luftenegger finished work on Diamond Light back in April with producer Arun Chaturvedi and has released five singles so far. He plans of releasing the album on Jan 14, 2014, which is also his birthday.
However, the singer says he had never intended to make It’s Only Love his first release.
“I don’t want people to think I am using this child in an opportunistic way; this is exactly why we have to have the discussion,” Luftenegger said. “At the end of the day, you have to accept who you are. We can send people to the moon, but we can’t understand love is harmless. I mean it really is only love, what is everyone so afraid of?”
Fear is something Luftenegger said is the root of so much negativity around the globe. However, he also feels the gay community can go a long way towards teaching tolerance in the world.
“I think gay people have a lot to teach the world. The older I have gotten, I think there are a lot of things not recognized by the straight community, what tolerance really is,” Luftenegger said. “It goes into racial lines. I am married to someone who is black. So I have seen racism. I like what a lot of black people say; white people don’t know they are white until they are in a room full of black people.”
It really comes down to just treating people as “human beings,” Luftenegger said, adding that such a position really “seems so basic” to him.
Luftenegger said he didn’t have a lot of gay role models growing up, but today is a big fan of television personalities Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O'Donnell. However, for anyone who is looking to his music, Luftenegger said he hopes they will find some inspiration as well.
“If you are gay, I hope you know you can follow your dreams, be open with who you are, and succeed. I think every single person is a teacher to every other person. If someone is straight, I would hope they feel the same thing,” Luftenegger said. “When you know better, you do better. That is Oprah’s line from Maya Angelou and it is so true.”
Those words also apply to Luftenegger himself, who said the work he has done on Diamond Light has proven inspiring in its own way.
While praising the efforts of Chaturvedi in helping the project together as he envisioned it, the singer said he had originally written 20 songs that were soon split into two albums. The second album is yet to be recorded.
The music of Diamond Light, Luftenegger said, is really something that anyone, gay or straight, young or old can relate to. As he calls it, G-rated music.
However, that family friendly description doesn’t mean he has shied away from touching on very personal subject matter — or becoming involved in particular emotional projects.
After his father’s death, Luftenegger said he did a lot of work on suicide awareness, even serving as a guest speaker at a Canadian Mental Health Association event. He has also worked with a charity in Kelowna, B.C. that is using his song Beautiful World, from the 2011 album of the same name, in a video being prepared for world suicide awareness day this fall.
The music that became Diamond Light “just felt out of me,” Luftenegger said, adding that the past year has truly brought him to a better place.
“I tried to do this when I was 18 to 22 and there was nothing. I didn’t have enough life experience. I really stopped for about 12 years and then this thing with my dad happened and there was nothing else that could have saved me like music,” Luftenegger said. “I feel now this has been a path that was always destined for me. I can’t explain it, just everything has fallen into place fairly fast, and it is pretty cool.”
For more information on Paul Luftenegger or to purchase his music, visit www.paulluftenegger.com.