In this exclusive audio interview Emmy Winner Charlotte Robinson host of OUTTAKE VOICES™ talks with Marlee Walchuk about the third annual RightOutTV Music and Video Awards for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex artists. The 2013 RightOutTV Music and Video Awards team is accepting submissions worldwide for songs and videos to be evaluated by a prestigious panel of 37 entertainment industry judges. Openly queer singer/songwriters from around the globe may submit songs and music videos in a variety of Indie-friendly categories. New this year for the competition include a “Best Non-English Video” category in an effort to expand the global reach and “The Best Comedy Video” category is open to Drag Artists. Also added are submissions for episodes of web series from LGBT writers and creators as well as LIVE and produced music videos. We talked to Marlee about the evolving RightOutTV Music and Video Awards as well as her spin on our LGBT issues.
LISTEN HERE: http://voices.outtakeonline.com/
Sugarbeach's Marlee Walchuk and the National Women's Music Festival June 2012
When music and women get together and throw a festival, the National Women’s Music Festival is the result.
A four-day women-centric musical and cultural extravaganza, the National Women’s Music Festival features live concerts, comedy performances, workshops, new film and video releases, a marketplace with a live auction, and writer’s and spirituality series beginning June 28 near Madison, Wisconsin. This year’s Festival, (produced by Women in the Arts, a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation), will celebrate their 37th anniversary.
What makes an event like the National Women’s Music Festival so powerful is the safe and progressive festival environment that is created each year, reflecting a diversity of ideas and many different points of view, a place where philosophies and politics are discussed and explored openly and without judgment. Festival attendees come from wide and diverse backgrounds, featuring all genders and cultures, breaking through racial, sexual, age, and ability boundaries.
This year’s performers again include a host of A-list talent, including comedians Dana Goldberg and Julie Goldman, musicians Toshi Reagon, Ladies Must Swing, Melanie DeMore, and Sharon Katz and the Peace Train, among others. One of my favorite music groups will be performing at NWMF for the first time this June—Sugarbeach.
Marlee Walchuk and Nathalie Callender, the married duo who comprise Sugarbeach, will perform on June 29th at 10 p.m. and the couple will also present a workshop earlier in the day titled, “Relationships Are Everything: Discover How to Attract What You Want and Fix What You Have.” (Time for workshop to be determined.)
What makes Sugarbeach’s workshop so compelling? Walchuk and Callender have never had a fight in their nearly five-year marriage, with recognition going to Callender’s psychology degree and the spouses’ determination to be respectful and loving to one another at all times. Their workshop is based on their personal marital success secrets.
I recently interviewed the delightful Marlee Walchuk again and the Canadian chanteuse opened up about preparing for a large U.S. music festival, the new Sugarbeach Show, and the "cool and sexy" thing she and wife Tully do to start each morning.
This summer Sugarbeach will be performing at the National Women's Music Festival (NWMF). Congratulations! What are your thoughts as you prepare for this upcoming Festival?
Thank you. This is our first time at NWMF and we couldn’t be more excited! This festival has an amazing reputation and offers workshops, comedy, theatre, films, a live auction, a writer’s series, and concerts. There will no shortage of entertainment for those attending.
We will be running our own workshop on Friday, June 29th during the day called “Relationships Are Everything: Discover How to Attract What You Want and Fix What You Have.”
When trying to pick a topic to discuss, a good friend and team member said that she would like to know how we’ve sustained such a strong relationship. We’ve been married almost five years, working together, creating together, and all with joy and peace. You tend to take that for granted until someone tells you it’s unusual.
So we’ve gathered up our secrets and what we have learned through years of study, added it to (wife) Tully’s psychology degree, combined with some of our non-religious spiritual concepts.
How do you both prepare for large music festivals? Is there a certain creative process you go through?
Yes, there is and it’s quite extensive!
First of all, we get our respective caffeinated drinks and start brainstorming a vision we want to have for our show. We feel it’s important that our show reflects as much as possible of whom we are as artists and as people. We look at what messages we want to project, what moments we want to create, and then put the songs in an order that will give the audience the best and most memorable experience.
Parts of our show are quite high in energy, so we start building up some endurance by cranking up the tunes and dancing together every morning. It’s also a cool and sexy way to start your day.
Of course, there are hours of clothes shopping to be done. We’ve already started that, as well as rehearsing, memorizing, and working on some choreography.
There are many amazing musicians and comedians performing at the Festival alongside you, including Toshi Reagon, Dana Goldberg, and Summer Osborne. Whose shows are you most excited to see?
All of them!
We are very close to Summer and Lori Osborne, so we can’t wait to see them again.
We will try to catch every performance possible in the time we have there. These are artists we don’t usually get a chance to see, and hopefully we will sneak in some interviews for our new Sugarbeach Show and our LGBT music website, RightOutTV.com
What other upcoming performances does Sugarbeach have planned for summer 2012?
So far we have booked Surrey Pride, Royal City Pride, Vancouver Pride, and BOLDfest. The details for these dates are on our website: www.sugarbeachmusic.com.
We are taking our first non-performing vacation to France in June. It was hard to go to Europe and not book anything, but we could use the time to chill with family, drink some lovely French wine, and eat a lot of cheese!
Any other news or thoughts you'd like to share?
Our new single, “It All Led Me to You” will be released next week with a video to follow. It’s about that ‘soul mate’ kind of love and the mysterious power that leads us to finding it.
We also love our new web-based Sugarbeach Show, with guests from the LGBT entertainment community. This has been a great opportunity for us to give people who are interested in queer artists a more casual, in-depth view of them. What we really love though is the laughs we have hanging out with the artists. It’s all about grabbing the joy!
Last year we held our first global RightOutTV LGBT Music Video Awards contest. It was a huge success, with 21 professional judges from all areas of the music business making the decisions. Thirteen awards and a lot of press and exposure went to talented artists that get overlooked in the mainstream music industry.
One of our biggest thrills this year was to be included in your book, In Her Words: 25 Interviews with Kick-Ass Women in Arts and Entertainment. It was such an honor to be in the company of such prestigious and talented women making a difference in the world.
We are so grateful for the opportunities that present themselves and for the kind support we receive for what we are doing. It’s been an incredible ride so far and it certainly doesn’t seem to be slowing down. I guess we will need to keep up that dancing!
Pride: Making a difference through song
Kind of like a band that's "huge in Europe" but obscure in North America, North Vancouver music duo and married couple Marlee Walchuk and Tully Callender of Sugarbeach are celebrities in the gay community.
After playing eight shows in little over a week for the Vancouver's gay pride events and the 2011 Outgames, Sugarbeach is headlining the Royal City Pride Party in Tipperary Park on Saturday Aug. 13 from 1 to 5 p.m.
Unlike most pride events the two play at around the world, the smaller scale and close-tohome show provides Sugarbeach a chance to offer a lot more to fans and first-time listeners.
"We've got a 45 minute slot in which we can put in a good chunk of our originals - songs we hardly ever get to do unless we're doing a long show," Walchuk said.
The couple are also planning to do some crowd-pleasing covers, but which ones, they haven't nailed down yet.
Playing in the Lower Mainland also means the musicians can add more to their performances that long-distance travel prohibits.
"It's also fun to be able to add lots of different instruments as well instead of deciding which one we're going to put on the plane," Callender added.
Pinning down the band's sound isn't easy. It's largely upbeat and motivational, yet stirring.
"Somebody once described us as 'electroni-lesbi-pop.' We thought that was quite funny at the time," Walchuk said, though not entirely agreeing with the label. "Dance-pop-rock, if we can narrow it down a lot."
And like a lot of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender artists, it's almost as much about the message as it is about the music. Walchuk and Callender write songs directed at the gay community where their fans are but the message is meant to reach out to straight listeners as well.
"Almost everything we write certainly has a gay twist. If we write a love song, we try to make it clear that we're singing woman to woman. The purpose of what we do is also to get LGBT content out into the world," Walchuk said. "It's not just for us to sell some downloads. We want to make a bit of a difference in the gay community - just making it more 'normal' for lack of a better word.
"We wouldn't be making a difference if we did it the other way. We'd just be writing what everybody out writes. When straight people heard it, they wouldn't learn anything," she added.
Callender said the music should also resonate with the LGBT community's youngest members as well.
"We want to do it for young people, particularly, so young people who are gay and not able to relate to mainstream music can say, 'Wow, these people are the same as me,'" she said.
To hear Sugarbeach in studio and on stage, visit their website www.sugarbeachmusic.com or www.rightouttv.com, a site the two launched to show 24-hour, streaming music videos featuring gay artists from around the world.
And like the very catchy song they wrote for the 2011 Outgames says, "Come on out and play."
Come on Out is a track everyone should listen to regardless of sexual orientation. The pure positivity and energy oozing out of the song is a vitamin shot against social isolation. It is also an invitation to life and love. Sugarbeach´s songs are infectious, Come on Out which is the anthem for the World Outgames this year held in Vancouver is equally upbeat and joyous.
Sugarbeach is a Canadian pop/rock group who I hope will come on over to Copenhagen and give us a show at one of our pride´s. Judging by their performances on You Tube, shot at the annual pride fest´s across Canada, these ladies know how to kick ass. All songs are written and performed by Marlee Walchuk and Nat "Tully" Callender.
Marlee contacted me last month about sourcing footage from my recordings of the Copenhagen World Outgames. But I´m glad she ditched that idea and went ahead with this new video which I think is absolutely wonderful, simpel and too the point!! Seriously Vancouver, BC you should be paying Sugarbeach for this video!!! It had me searching for availeble seats to YVR!!!
Anyway suffice to say, I´ll be following these super duper power lesbians from now on. I´m hooked!
Check out their website to see what they are up to here
The lesbian pop duo Sugarbeach has a new new single, Come on Out, that the couple penned for the Vancouver 2011 Outgames.
"We wanted to write a song that would capture the energy, spirit and importance being an active participator in the Vancouver Outgames/Human Rights Conference and in one's own life," says Marlee Walchuk, who formed Sugarbeach with her professional and life partner Tully Callender four years ago.
"We are ecstatic about the tune that Sugarbeach has created for the games," says Bar Snelgrove, Media Director of the games. It truly represents the spirit of the Outgames and we are honored that they are part of this very special event."
Sugarbeach has been nominated for nine Pride in Arts Awards and has won three, including Favorite Group and Pride Song of the Year. They are the creators and producers of RightOutTV, the web's first LGBTQ music video channel streaming 24/7 and promoting out artists from around the world.
The Human Rights Conference offers workshops on diversity and features keynote speakers Blake Skjellerup (Olympic short track speed skater), Sara Davis Buechner (professor of music UBC and concert pianist.
In a world where girl-loves-boy lyrics permeate pop, Sugarbeach is an exciting discovery for the lesbian pop-loving community. Based in Vancouver, Canada, Sugarbeach consists of Marlee Walchuk and Tully Callender, two out artists who bring queer issues into the limelight through ear-catching tracks.
Musical partners and a real-life couple, Walchuk and Callender have carved an impressive niche for themselves: Their album I Just Love Girls claimed the No. 1 spot for three months on the OutVoice top 40
chart and they wrote a track featured in the lesbian film The 6 Month Rule.
How do Pride audiences respond to you?
Callender: Quite inspired, not only by the queer nature of our music, but by our relationship, as well. The first time we did a Pride event, a young girl came up to us and said, “Because of that song, I came out to my ather.” That was the moment we knew that w were doing exactly the right thing.
Tell us about some of your songs and the inspiration bhind them.
Walchuk: Songs like “Give Me Your Body” re about our life. Other songs—like “Not eserted,” which is about the story of Carl Joseph Hoover, the young black boy who committed suicide last year as a result of
anti-gay bullying—are things we see in the news. Often things touch us really deeply, and we feel like we have to get out there and either blog about them or write about them. Music is a great vehicle for that.
How did you two meet, and go from dating to making music together?
Walchuk: We were with other people when we met in Australia about nine years ago, and there was an immediate connection between us. It was quite disconcerting, as neither of us were really prepared for it or knew what to do with it. So, we were just friends for five years, basically until our relationships broke down to a point where we just weren’t happy in them. We began to hang out a little bit more and realized there was something much deeper there.
Callender: We were planning on doing music together, but we’d never planned on it being as big as it is now.
What do you ultimately hope to achieve through your music?
Walchuk: We’re passionate about improving the lives of the LGBT community. I would say that that’s right at the top. We want to do that through positivity and promoting joy and love [as much as that sounds like a ’60s mantra]. And I think that our connection with each other is really important. We have been absolutely blessed to find the person in this world that is right for us.
Do you hope to cross over to a mainstream audience?
Callender: We’d certainly love to see one day very soon that it be absolutely normal for gay themes and LGBT themes to be on mainstream radio. Girl singing to girl, boy singing to boy.
Walchuk: The crossover to mainstream is a big thing to us because if it happens for us it will happen for other queer artists. Real change needs to happen in the minds of straight people—otherwise we’re just
preaching to the choir. (sugarbeachmusic.com)
Memories of a dark choir practice room, singing Indigo Girls Closer To Fine a cappella, rush at me as I delve into the globally accessible web TV channel RightOut TV. Music videos of solely LGBT artists?!
I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if RightOut TV had been there for me as a teen, with Ani DiFranco’s In or Out to break my fast instead of Michael Jackson’s Thriller scaring me silly, before I had to walk in the dark to my early morning school bus. Would I have pierced my nose? Shaved my head? Or would I have dared to ask that girl to the dance?
Probably not, but I do know I would have been a lot more comfortable with myself if I had been humming Sugarbeach’s I Just Love Girls instead of looking for zombies at every corner as I headed off to that wonderland we call high school.
Today we are lucky to have the sweet tunes of the Sugarbeach duo, Tully Callender and Marlee Walchuk at the click of a mouse. Creators, producers and hosts of web TV channel RightOut TV give us the choice to watch global live streaming music video or any of the saved videos, interviews and performances from LGBT artists throughout the community.
True to the nature of a new and emerging community, many of the artists are as yet unknown. With the music video Love by Nhojj climbing to the #1 spot on the MTV Music Top 100 chart on March 9th 2010 and Sugarbeach nominated for “Outstanding International Song Of the Year” by Outmusic Awards 2009 NYC, RightOut TV is sure to be the place to go for LGBT performances wherever you are located.
Hook your large speakers up to the computer or better yet play them right from your TV if you can, the bigger the screen the better, and go check it out! I’ve already placed a few new songs on my to-download list.
After hearing that Marlee Walchuk and Nathalie Callender, the ladies of pop duo Sugarbeach, had been nominated for five PITA awards, I had to interview the busy musicians and business women again about their breakthrough success. The three of us recently discussed their multiple nominations, RightOutTV and why the Internet and social networking is the new road to success.
Congratulations on Sugarbeach being nominated for five Pride in the Arts awards. For those who may not know, what is Pride in the Arts and what does it means to receive FIVE nominations?
Marlee: In 2002 Len Rogers of the Stonewall Society opened the PITA Awards in response to a request from its members for an awards program for LGBT arts, specifically music. Originally the awards were a part of an Online Pride Celebration in order to provide a Pride experience for those living in remote areas who had no access to local Pride events. Currently an average of 2,000 people participate in the nomination process to determination the winners.
Nathalie: Considering there are only 15 categories and we were only eligible for 10 of them…being nominated for 5 was mind blowing! We feel particularly honored by the nomination for the MOJO award for the creation of RightOutTV. We really want to be of service to the LGBT community and help facilitate change so the nomination means that we are on the right track.
When will the Pride in the Arts award-winners be announced? Will there be a live event where fans can watch or listen in to see if Sugarbeach wins all five of their nominations?
Marlee: You are so kind! Len Rogers creates a fabulous internet awards show in the form of a radio broadcast and gets artists from the previous year to be presenters. I believe we will be presenters this year. It’s so cool! We huddle around the computer and wait, hoping to hear our names called. Last year we won 2 awards and you should have seen us screaming and dancing around our living room!
Nathalie: The winners will be announced on December 28th 2010 on the following websites: www.rainbowworldradio.com and then on www.prideinthearts.com.
You also recently launched RightOutTV, the first LGBT 24/7 Music Video Livestream TV Channel featuring videos from openly OUT artists, in late October. What has the response been thus far—both in the LGBT community and the international music community?
Marlee: The response has been wonderful so far. People are super supportive and the general feeling is that this is a much needed platform for LGBT artists and programming. The best part is that artists are being “discovered” by LGBT and straight audiences alike and, at last, our global community can watch constant streaming of music videos with lyrics and storylines they can relate to. The “likes” on our RightOutTV facebook page are increasing daily and the comments cover excited to grateful.
There is no one as independent as an OUT indie artist and we are starting to see that RightOutTV is contributing to an atmosphere of mutual support which is crucial to helping all of the artists get better known. One thing we really love is that some artists are producing videos for the first time knowing that they will now have a home on RightOutTV.
We’ve also had a large amount of support from LGBT music organizations, radio shows plus bloggers and press, which has really helped.
How many artists are currently on RightOutTV? Who are some of your favorite artists?
Marlee: There are 47 artists in the playlist this month. I’m a bit like a mother with her children…I love them all. I strongly believe that every artist has an audience and it is a pleasure to provide another place where their potential fans can find them.
Nathalie: Ditto, we love them all.
What is your advice to aspiring musicians or performers? What has been the biggest lesson you've both learned in your professional careers?
Marlee: Throughout my career I have heard so many times that persistence is the key to success and yet I have only recently really understood what that looks like. I had thought it meant annoying people …continuing to get in their faces. This has always been difficult for me as I was raised to respect people's space and feelings.
Now I see that persistence also means just staying in the game, keep producing, creating, and giving value to the world. Yes you have to push and market your butt off at times, but if you stick with the rest, eventually people will notice you and step up to help you too. We often talk about that scene in The Secret where they show the plant shoot just about to pop out of the ground and then the person gives up and back down it goes. You will never know when your opportunities are just about to blossom and even explode, so just keep watering that plant.
Above all…get real. If you are GLBT, you can choose a path of lying and hiding but you will always be afraid and feel like a fake. I’ve tried it, it did not help me; in fact it held me back both personally and in my career.
Nathalie: Don’t be afraid of the Internet, embrace social networking with everything you’ve got, and really truly connect with people. The days of staying aloof from your fans are over. To win and keep real fans, they need to know you, like you and trust you – in that order. It took me a long time to start to share on Facebook because I thought I’d sound silly, but I eventually just edged in bit by bit letting people really get to know me. Remember it takes a long time to form lasting connections, so be patient.
I’ve also learned that this journey of life, music, career etc.. is one of constant learning and growth. I love the expression “If you’re not growing, you're dying.” So get really good at what you do. Watch every webinar, read every book on the stuff you love and learn from the successes and challenges of others. To reference Matthew David’s video: “Keep Walking”!
What are some of Sugarbeach’s current and upcoming projects?
Marlee: Growing and expanding the programming of RightoutTV, planning the first annual RightOutTV Awards Show, helping to find funding for a 24 hour Canadian LGBTQ “youth in crisis” hotline and creating a teaching video for High Schools including some RightOutTV artists for “Jer’s vision” (a youth diversity initiative).
We currently have several videos on the go, a couple of new singles we are writing, plus Pride tours in summer.
Nathalie: Losing ten kilos before Pride season so I can get into my corsets.
As Sugarbeach, Vancouver's lesbian pop/dance duo, began creating their own music videos they soon discovered that there was something missing: a globally accessible online video channel where openly queer artists could easily share their music and videos. So rather than lament the lack of such a video channel they did something about it and launched Right Out TV.
Created, produced and hosted by Vancouver lesbian duo Marlee Walchuk & Tully Callender of Sugarbeach, Right Out TV is what they are referring to as "a place where the global LGBTQ community can view a constant stream of music videos from 'out' artists telling their stories."
"Now, maybe more than ever, queer youth need mentors and role models from our community," explained Walchuk and Callender. "Here they will see pioneers like Tret Fure from the United States to newcomers like Australian Jungal and be exposed to artists they may not have otherwise come across".
Along with the videos, Right Out TV will also feature interviews with the artists, public service announcements and even live performances.
Sugarbeach are not only partners in music they are partners in real life having married recently after having met in Tully's native Australia. Forming Sugarbeach in 2007, the couple released their first album, "I Just Love Girls" in 2008 which stayed at #1 on the GLBT top 40 OutVoice chart for three months. The duo's second album, "Not Deserted" was released in July 2009 and were nominated for Outstanding International Song of the Year at the 2009 OutMusic Awards for their song "Mama I Love Her".
Lesbian pop duo Sugarbeach launches RightOutTV stream of LGBT musicians.
Marlee Walchuk and Tully Callender of the music duo Sugarbeach are two women after my own heart. As out musicians, Walchuk said that as Sugarbeach was releasing their own videos, there were few sites to put them on save for getting swallowed up on YouTube. “There was nothing on the ‘net I found where people could see videos of queer artists,” Walchuk said. “Plus, I would mention queer artists I knew of, but no one heard of them. We saw a need and decided to fill it.”
And RightOutTV was born. The streaming video site features only videos from out LGBT musicians. The ladies worked on compiling artists and getting the basic site up for the last two months, and on Oct. 31 it went live. As far as Walchuk has found, theirs might be the only site providing the service. “It’s been a great process and we could be the only ones, but I’d hate to say that in case there’s one in Budapest doing the same thing,” she joked.
Now she and Callendar can get people clued in on gay artists and help present them to the rest of the world. Right now, the site features five hours of streaming video from various artists. They are working on putting more up, but that costs money. Right now, the site is all out of pocket. “We wanted to get it rolling and didn’t want anything to stop us, so basically we went with LiveStream, a free channel. Five hours is all we can do right now for free but that’s still a lot,” she said. “We’re going to work on getting a sponsor or some funding and bring it to a totally different level. With advertisers or money coming in, we can have better streaming and more storage capacity.”
Which means right now, they have to put up with Google ads on the page and in the stream. “Yeah. Sometimes we get Billy Graham ads that pop up,” she said.
Yikes — someone get them cash quick!
RightOut TV Brings LGBT Music Videos to the Web.
Tully Callender and Marlee Walchuk of the lesbian dance/pop singing duo Sugarbeach launched their RightOut TV LGBT Music Video Web TV channel on Halloween. Created, produced and hosted by the personal and professional partners, the channel is streaming music videos, interviews and live performances around the clock.
Callender and Walchuk got the idea for RightOut TV when they were creating their own music videos but couldn’t find a globally accessible TV station where LGBT artists could share their videos.
So far 37 artists have signed on to the project. While some of the entertainers may not be known to LGBT audiences, Callender and Walchuk hope that RightOut TV will spread the word in the community. “That was the biggest excitement to us that we could actually get these people exposed to the gay world,” Walchuck says.
“We have YouTube and One More Lesbian and there is Logo in the U.S. but we cannot access it here in Canada... we really wanted something that would go to every country,” Walchuk says.
The women admit that getting the channel ready has been a full time job. “We want to make sure that the artists contact details are at the end of every video,” Callender explains. “I am creating another video that gives the contact details to show after the person’s video... We’ve got some ‘It Gets Better’ PSAs so they have to be in the right place...” The women also had to convince LiveStream, which hosts the channel, that they had the proper permissions to use the artists’ videos. Their attention to detail help them cross that hurdle.
The duo records intros and currently is using their living room as a studio. “We have big professional lights and a backdrop and the two of us got dressed up and had some fun,” Walchuk says.
“It is quite tricky,” Callender says. “We realized you can’t just read their bios because it is really boring... So we tried to find something particularly interesting or quirky about that person.”
RightOut TV begins streaming LGBT music videos.
RightOut TV debuted on the Internet today and has started its around the clock streaming of LGBT music videos, artist interviews, Public Service Announcements and live performances.
The channel is created, produced and hosted by the Tully Callender and Marlee Walchuk of the lesbi-pop singing duo Sugarbeach. Based in Vancouver, BC, the women wanted a globally accessible TV station where LGBT performers could share their talent.
To date 37 artists have shared their videos and while some may not be known to LGBT audiences, Calender and Walchuk hope RightOut TV was help spread the word about the talent that lives in the community.
Marlee Walchuk began public live performances at age 14 - no quiet start as she faced 16,000 fans at the Vancouver Coliseum as a teenager and was a regular on the Canadian TV shows. Her training at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in LA propelled her further into a music and acting career. She balanced her club performances with her studio singing for commercials and album projects.
Marlee’s hit single "God Bless the Woman" won 1st prize in the Canadian Song Festival and was on the Canadian A Playlist for 6 months. With pop/rock band Mistress she toured the US and Canada and was a massive favourite in the gay communities. Her 1st album “One More Chance” was released in the late 90's and she toured Canada and Germany with crowds of 10,000 people eager to hear her smooth, sexy and powerful voice. She was nominated for 5 BCCMA awards and won Best Vocalist in 1999.
Tully Callender left Sydney, Australia and joined Marlee to form Sugarbeach in early 2007. She has always had her hand in some musical project or another which often took her to performing at the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Town Hall. Having grown a successful accounting firm in Australia, Tully's business background has been a great asset to Sugarbeach.
Review & Interview
Dare I say it - the "gayest" mainstream pop music act around isn't another ex-boy-band member.. or another George Michael spinoff... it's not even another male American Idol contestant. No, my queer brethren - as so many LGBT music fans already know - it's the highly successful, lesbian pop duo known as SUGARBEACH!
The two SUGARBEACH bandmates - Marlee Walchuck & Tully Callender (who are also married to each other) are all over the LGBT music, media & video charts. Everywhere one looks they seem to be appearing live at LGBT fests, events, parades and games around the world all at once. They are taking over!
SUGARBEACH's ABBA-like battle-plan for conquering the known pop universe is a tried & true strategy. Reduce a variety of popular song styles down to their simplest, hookiest, most-direct, most-accessible appeal - and then add in irresistibly catchy vocals. On their most recent cd release - NOT DESERTED (2009), the magic formula is applied to R&B funk with the title track "Not Deserted"; country-rock with "Run with Me"; techno/disco with "Mama I Love Her" and "LIving Out Proud"; big-ballad rock with "Give Me Your Body" - and so on down the line.
"Living Out Proud" - arguably the big hit single from NOT DESERTED, is a super-peppy pride paean based on a venerable, old-school gay dance-club groove. It's production/arrangement blends confectionary pop elements such as disco-beats ala The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men" with techno synth-pads ala Limahl's "Never-Ending Story". No wonder "Living Out Proud" has been made theme-anthem for LGBT events all over the globe - from pride fests to gay games. This listener can't help but imagine L.O.P. blaring forth from drag-queen-topped-floats; or even accompanying leather-thonged, dancing-lad contingents; in gay pride parades all across the land.
Marlee's big, warm, welcoming (and, yes..."ballsy"!) singing voice provides an entertaining contrast against Tully's lighter, sweeter, more demure vocal approach. Together and in tandem the crooning duo covers a myriad of emotional bases and paints a wide range of vocal colors.
The icing upon the very sweet pop-tart-tunes of NOT DESERTED is the duo's strong, positive, openly-gay lyrics - especially as they are delivered by Marlee's big, self-assured, all-embracing voice. With pipes on par with greats like Ann Wilson/Alison Moyet/Dusty Springfield; and with her smiling, benevolent "Bette Midler" type onstage aura; - Marlee's a lesbi-gay pop-force to be reckoned with.
As part of media-saavy Sugarbeach's world-wide promotional onslaught, high-quality music videos have been released for several tracks from NOT DESERTED that have garnered even more popularity for the duo. These include "If I'd Known", "Nathalie", "Living Out Loud" and "Give Me Your Body". With their own "out & proud" brand of onscreen charm and romantic chemsitry - Marlee & Tully appear as camera-ready as they are already proven stage-ready.
- OK, first off, especially for our many members in the U.K. – Sugarbeach just got back from performing in England - tell us about your trip’s itinerary and your performance(s) there.
Our 10 days in the UK included: performing at Cornwall Pride, singing at Tully’s best friends’ wedding and touring the English countryside with no GPS (the only part of the trip we might rethink for next time). We played both the Picnic in the Park day event and the big evening Marque dance party in the middle of Truro.
It seriously blew our minds how warm and reactive the crowds were…there’s nothing like an audience going a bit crazy for you…we are still flying from it. Cornwall Pride is only in its 3rd year but it is growing rapidly. What people seemed most excited about was how openly gay we are in our music. I would have expected that to be even more commonplace over there but it doesn’t seem to be so. We would love to go back next year and tour more extensively, it is such a beautiful country.
- And for our many members in both Canada and Australia: Tell us how “Marlee met Tully”.
We met in Sydney Australia, where Tully is from, she was friends with my new partner at the time. I had come to Australia to pursue that relationship and Tully had been recently married to a lovely man. I sat across a table from her the first night I arrived and so began the suppression of many feelings I could not really admit to. Her warmth, her million dollar smile, her kindness were like sweet music to me. We were friends for 5 years before anything more evolved between us.
Eventually, it was clear that our real happiness would reside in our being together. About 8 months later, we moved back to Canada, mostly so I could be back with my family. We are extraordinarily happy, more so than I’ve ever dreamed of.
- How is the LGBT music-scene/presence in Vancouver, B.C.? Any LGBT bars, community centers, support groups, or pride fests/parades – that offer live music and thus an opportunity for LGBT musicians and music fans to come together?
Vancouver’s LGBT music scene is definitely growing thanks to some key, dedicated event organizers like Terry Costa who is also the entertainment director of Vancouver Pride. He is filling one high profile club with constant entertainment and is a driving force behind using LGBT headliners at our hugely popular Pride events.
Our Davie St Village is loaded with great gay bars from hang-out pubs and lounges to thumping dance clubs with some live entertainment. One of our passions is helping to encourage venues and events to hire more queer talent which is one of the reasons we are launching our LGBT internet music video station, RightOutTV. As far as support groups…yes, one of our biggest is Qmunity www.qmunity.ca which is also located in the Village and provides programs, support and activity groups for youth and adults plus a health clinic and counseling services. It was also the location for Pride House Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
- What similarities/differences did you notice between pride fests in England and those in Canada or the U.S.?
Just from our personal experience, we noticed that any Prides we’ve played outside of Canada with maybe the exception of New York, seemed to have more opposition surrounding them.
In Charlotte, North Carolina the police were everywhere keeping us safe and keeping an eye on the religious protestors with megaphones damning us all to hell. We didn’t feel unsafe as there were plenty of us and lots of help, it was just not something we had experienced before.
While walking through Truro before and after the shows we did hear some homophobic slurs from young guys wandering around but again, it was fairly mild and we know homophobia mixed with alcohol is a particularly bad combo. On the other side of it, the appreciation and support we’ve gotten from the UK and U.S. has floored us! We are looking forward to being back in both countries and are already making plans to do so for next year.
- We always love to hear about new LGBT music artists - Who were some of your favorite U.K. LGBT acts that you met and performed with while in England? Or on other recent Sugerbeach tours?
One of the best things for us when we travel is meeting new LGBT artists. To be honest, I can’t say for sure who was gay out of the groups we performed with as their music isn’t always a tell-tale sign but I will give you their names as they were all excellent! Simon J Bailey, Benji, Hollie Barrie, Lisa Scott -Lee, Melissa Totten (Madonna Tribute) Nothing For a Minute, Michael Hinch and Nicolette Street.
In Halifax this summer, we performed with Summer Osborne whom we loved! She is from St Louis, her velvet voice and intelligent songwriting made us instant fans and friends.
- OK – there are so many places around the world named “Sugar Beach”. Which was the inspiration for your duo’s name? Toronto’s Sugar Beach?
We came across a painting of Sugar Beach in Hawaii and it just clicked with us. The ‘sugar’ is sexy and playful and the ‘beach’ is so much of what we love about Australia. We have only recently realized that there are many places and resorts with the same name including Toronto…I guess they all liked it too.
- In many of your videos and pride fest performances, you both appear as vocalists. I enjoyed discovering your live video of Sugarbeach live at the Rhizome performing Pink’s “Dear Mr. President” – with Marlee on acoustic guitar. You are quite the confident, solid guitar strummer. Outside of your hometown area, Does Sugarbeach also perform in a “live” or “live band” “incarnation?
About once or twice a year we get to enjoy the addition of our live band members but only in Vancouver. They all have work and commitments that prevent them from travelling. When possible Tully and I fly our instruments with us so our show is mixed with us playing live with our tracks and some songs are played just acoustically on our own. (Tully plays keyboards and sax and I play guitar and keyboards) We love both but with budgets, borders and schedules to deal with it is so much easier for us to travel on our own.
- Who are your favorites and main influences? Which artists? Which bands? - What was your all-time favorite live concert-going experience?
I was the youngest in a musical family. My brother and sister were well known in Canada and the UK with several albums and their own TV series, The Judy and Jim Show on CBC. So I was influenced heavily by their music and what they listened to. Blood Sweat and Tears, the later Beatles albums, Gladys Knight were often playing.
As a little girl I would listen to Barbara Streisand and Bette Midler - loving their emotional and theatrical approaches to singing. For years I rarely missed a Jann Arden concert. She is such a beautiful writer,,,so haunting and often full of despair yet on stage she is nothing short of a stand up comic. The emotional rollercoaster she takes her audiences on was always a pleasure to experience.
- Tell us how you first came to have an interest in the guitar; any special thoughts on the guitar, and what it’s meant to you in your life.
Because I’ve always thought of myself as more of a singer, the guitar was interesting to me because I could accompany myself, move around and not be blocked by a piano. So even though I taught myself keyboards as well, I still much prefer to perform with a guitar.
The guitar takes on your personality, it is loaded with nuance possibilities and emotional expression that keys don’t allow quite as much. I’m sure most piano players would disagree. I have always worked in bands mostly as a lead singer that had amazing lead keys and guitar players and I was always supporting them with rhythm so I never really focused on being a player who solos.
However, I have recently picked up a Digitech RP255 processor pedal along with an electric guitar for the first time and have unleashed a monster within! That first time you strike a power chord with a great dirty distortion something in you changes forever. It was hysterical…it must have released some extra testosterone in me and I felt like I just wanted to jump in front of a band and live out all my Rock God dreams! Then it occurred to me…I need to learn how to play all over again. I could hear every ringing string, every badly bended note…it was shocking and my respect for the great electric guitarists has highly elevated.
So now I sit practicing every day that I can, going back to basics with scales and techniques from the internet. It’s a funny time to be starting all of this but I am determined to be soloing by next summer.
- Do you play guitar and/or piano or any other instruments on the Sugarbeach releases?
I play some piano on If I’d Known but as my strengths lie in writing and singing the songs, I prefer to use great players who’s whole life have been about mastering these instruments when it comes to recording time. My brother, Jim Walchuk does most of the keyboard work and programming drums as well as some of the bass and guitar and we have brought in top notch players like David Sinclair (from Sarah McLaughlin’s band) and Andreas Schuld who has played with practically every major Canadian recording artist. It’s such a treat and an honor to hear what great musicians bring to your songs.
- I’m a huge Heart fan. After seeing the live Rhizome video, I can’t help but fantasize Marlee and Tully covering some Ann and Nancy Wilson songs (or even covering some songs Ann and Nancy cover!) In addition to above-mentioned Pink - do you enjoy covering songs by any particular bands/singers?
When we play with our band we are often doing events where people are there to dance so we do cover quite a few artists. For me, there is no one that can cover Heart better than Heart so I too sit in awe of them but have yet to cover them.
We do several from Pink, Melissa Etheridge, Amanda Marshall and Tully sounds great on Katy Perry and Sheryl Crow tunes. We even have fun with some old disco tunes like I will Survive and Don’t Leave me this Way…one of our most popular covers is 4 Non Blondes, ‘What’s Up.’
- Can you relate some special feelings or experiences about being a lesbian and/or woman in the mainstream music world... especially regarding your struggles and formative/learning years as singers/performers/instrumentalists? Has acceptance for LGBT performers come so far that it’s now pretty much a non-issue?
I wish I could say that it is a non-issue. Perhaps more so for artists who don’t intentionally write openly gay lyrics. One of the purposes of Sugarbeach is to push boundaries in order to create change. Whether we perform to a gay or straight crowd we talk about our relationship and the issues that effect us that made us write these lyrics.
There have been times when the crowd energy was a bit stunned or a few people have left but it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that people who might not necessarily have had any LGBTQ people in their lives walk away from our shows with a sense of us as a solid loving couple. For me that is where the change comes. If you are homophobic and you find yourself laughing at the jokes and enjoying the music of a gay/lesbian performer, you will feel more connected to them and much more likely to support them and their community.
I spent so many years writing nebulous lyrics so as not to offend anyone or commit career suicide, that we now make it clear we are singing woman to woman and about gay issues. This approach does eliminate us from most opportunities open to straight musicians but we don’t sweat it…we’re in for the long haul and we truly believe that we will, along with our fellow “out” artists see the changes.
As women in the mainstream music business, I learned early on that in or order to make it easier for myself, I needed to learn about everything! Altering programs on my keyboard, which frequencies are feeding back, how to hook up and run the PA, how to deal with agents, tour routing, writing harmonies, sitting in without charts and above all how not to be a princess and always help carry the damn gear. I always felt treated well by fellow musicians.
There was a period of time when I was leading an all-female band called Mistress that some male audience members refused to believe we were playing our instruments and accused us of air playing to some prerecording and I did think…hmmm would this even cross your mind if I was a guy?
- On an indie-level, lesbian/women’s music has a venerable history of mutual support and networking amongst women musical artists. Tell us how the women’s indie music scene was of help to you as you began your musical journey of recording, performing, touring; and of opportunities you feel it offers to lesbians and/or women musicians.
You’re right there is a lot of support now for indie /women’s music and I am so happy to see it. It certainly wasn’t always as strong as it is now but between organizations, co-op radio, web based sites and just the opportunities afforded by the internet in general, there is no excuse for not being able to build a decent career.
We frequently search for new sites that promote women’s/lesbian music and they are always happy to hear from us and super helpful. Although, it is more common now to see great female musicians, it wasn’t that long ago that even a decent female musician would have a crowd going crazy because it was unusual and a fabulous form of feminism.
- Beyond their award-winning popularity in the LGBT world, have your openly-gay pop anthems such as “Living Out Proud”, “Mama I Love Her” and “I Just Love Girls” garnered notoriety/airplay in the “straight” mainstream media?
Certainly not that we know of… we haven’t seen the royalty cheques yet if they have. I think we are still some time away from hearing openly gay lyrics by “out” artists on a regular basis on mainstream radio but it seems that the public is becoming somewhat comfortable to listen to innuendos from straight or bi artists going out on a limb. My feeling is…whatever it takes to get us there…bring it!
- Among the many pop styles that comprise Sugarbeach’s sound – the dancy electro-pop aspect of your music no doubt attracts a large gay male following. How does it feel to be a lesbian music act so popular with gay male audiences? Do you love your gays? :-)
Both Tully and I grew up unashamedly loving pop music. I also can’t suppress my energy for any length of time onstage…I gotta move. So it was natural for us to head in the dance-pop direction. What we love about it all is that we are liked by the guys in our community and that makes our crowds mixed and inclusive…that was our dream. So yes we are thrilled…and we definitely love our gays!
- What are your current and future musical projects? Including any new cds, touring and other promotions.
Our biggest new project is an LGBTQ music video channel that we are producing and launching on Livestream called RightOutTV. It is internet based so it can be viewed globally and it will feature only openly “out” artists that have good quality live or produced music videos. We wanted it to run like TV so that audiences are exposed to artists they don’t know as well as the ones they do. Our plan is to rotate and update the videos so it is always fresh.
Sugarbeach will host it giving bio and new career info on the artists every few songs and filming interviews when possible. We will launch it in October and are already doing press on it and have set up a facebook page as well. We will also promote the artists to Gay Prides and LGBTQ events worldwide in hopes that we will see these brave and dedicated musicians filling the Mainstages.
Once this is up and running, we will be editing a few more of our own videos and have plans to release new Sugarbeach singles. We are still planning our summer schedule for next year, but we will definitely include the U.S. and possibly Britain. We will also be involved with the Outgames in Vancouver in 2011.
SugarBeach: Pop duo Marlee Walchuk & Nathalie Callender talk making music, falling in love--Part 1
Marlee Walchuk and Nathalie Callender are passionate about two things: making music and their love for each other.
The couple, who perform as the pop music group, SugarBeach, have a unique tale to tell...about both music and love.
SugarBeach's Facebook page describes it perfectly:
"In just 3 years Marlee Walchuk & Tully Callender (have) moved from Australia to Canada, have released 2 albums, spent 3 months at number one on the OutVoice Top 40 chart in the U.S., won 2 PITA (Pride in the Arts U.S.) awards including "Favorite Group of the Year", been nominated for an Outmusic Award ….and got married…to each other."
I couldn't have said it better myself...
Part One of my three-part series with the duo takes a look at creating music together, collaborating with film director Linda Andersson and, oh yeah...the hot women dancers at Truckstop in Los Angeles!
How and when did you first become interested in music?
Tully: My family (have) all played an instrument and my dad is an amazing piano player so I was inspired to be as good as him. I always loved singing and spent more time in high school doing that than anything else... actually I only seem to remember the music. I felt back then that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I veered off the path and built my own accounting firm in Australia for 6 years before heading to Canada to pursue my passions: Marlee & music.
Marlee: My brother and sister were already quite well known in Canada and the UK when I was a kid (from The Judy and Jim Show). My sister was a big band singer with 2 albums out and my brother a leading jazz bass player on TV when they joined forces and began writing. I joined their band when I was 14 and performed in show lounges across Canada. After each set I had to be taken to the kitchen so as not to be in the drinking area of the club. That may have lead more to my love of food…but that’s a different interview.
So I’d take my homework on the road and sang most weekends through high school…I loved it. The weirdest part was that we were opening for some big acts at that time so I had played the Vancouver Coliseum to thousands of people several times before turning 16. You don’t think much about it at that age…it’s just your life. My brother and sister were by far my biggest inspiration to get into music and to write.
Describe your unique sound and how it evolved.
Tully: Being natural pop writers we started our first EP “I Just Love Girls” with very catchy hooks and we wanted the music to uplift people, make them think a little and hopefully get them dancing as well.
Nancy Ford from OutSmart Magazine described us as "Electroni-Lesbi-pop" and we loved that. Over the course of the following year we wrote another cd’s worth of songs including “Living Out Proud” for Vancouver Pride’s 30th Anniversary. They used it for 2 years and 14 other major cities around the world also took it for their Pride celebrations.
Then I think Len Rogers from the Outvoice charts described our second album Not Deserted best when he said it was the “meat & potatoes with just enough gravy to make it go down easy”. This album has more genre variation and more live instruments and less electronic programming.
How did you meet and begin working with movie director/screenwriter, Linda Andersson?
Marlee & Tully: We received an email from Linda Andersson in 2008 requesting the use of two songs from our first album. “I Just Love Girls” and “She’s With Me” for her new lesbian short film, The 6 Month Rule starring Michelle Wolff.
We were very happy to give the music to her and loved that she was out there as an independent writer and director putting glorious GLBTQ content in the world. As it was our first film to be included in, we decided to fly to LA for the red carpet and the premiere.
It was a great time - we hung out with Linda and some of her friends who also flew in for the event and even got a chance to take in the GLAAD awards while we were there. The whole weekend was inspiring and exciting. We also got to take in our first LA “Truckstop” event which included hot women dancers on the bar feeding alcohol mouth to mouth to the rather enthusiastic patrons below. You gotta love L.A.!
We have kept in touch with her since and sent her our next album “Not Deserted” which she used several songs from for her new web series “Insight…The Rise Of The Seer” starring Deborah Stewart.
Last fall I asked her if she would be interested in combining some of her sexier footage from the series with ours to create a music video for our song “Give Me Your Body.” She was totally up for it so we released it in April 2010 and it is currently racking up the views.
Linda is a powerful force. She is highly committed to her work and the community and a very generous promoter of other artists. We are very grateful for the attention she has brought to SugarBeach.
What are your current and future projects?
Marlee: Currently we are story booking two new music videos for our songs “Mama I Love Her” and “Not Deserted”, preparing for some touring this summer- Halifax, Texas and the UK and we are in the process of creating a GLBT music video channel called RightOut TV. The purpose of it is to give fans greater exposure to Out artists through music and interviews.
As the music business quickly evolves so do our plans. It can take about a year to write for an album and record it and although we had originally thought we would release a third CD in 2011, we would like to get new music out more often so we are looking at releasing singles over the next year instead.
One of our favorite projects is always the filming and editing of our music videos. Honestly, we have both spent much of our time deferring to others to handle the technical aspects of creations whether it is in work or music and have recently discovered an untapped love and ability to do these ourselves. We can sit for days looking for the “gold” in tapes full of takes and connecting them with lyrics and the feelings we want to convey. This process makes us feel very alive.
We would love to tour the U.S. for an entire summer and are putting some wheels in motion to try and make that happen - hopefully for next year.
SugarBeach: Pop duo Marlee Walchuk & Nathalie Callender talk getting married, living Out--Part 2
In Part Two of my interview with Marlee Walchuck and Nathalie Callender of SugarBeach, we discuss love at first sight, what it's like being married and discovering and owning one's "inner butch."
How did you meet and fall in love with (each other)?
Marlee: My first night in Australia my new partner and I had dinner with Nathalie and her husband. We became instant friends and remained so for many years. If I could have dared to admit to love at first sight, I would have. (But) neither of us was free and she was straight so I never even considered the possibility of being with her and those feelings were instantly suppressed. It’s only in retrospect that I can see it clearly and be honest.
Tully: I met Marlee through friends just before she arrived in Australia. We had a strong connection from the moment we met but I really didn’t have a sense of how strong my feelings were for her until about 5 years later. The four of us spent a lot of time over the years hanging out together but it wasn’t till we spent time alone together (years later) that we knew we had a bond that was stronger than anything else we’d experienced before.
Tell me about SugarBeach....How and when did you discover you’d like to become a music group and start performing together?
Marlee: We’d planned to perform together after leaving Australia and returning to Vancouver but we hadn’t decided on what that would look like for us. We’d been in Vancouver for about 6 months (May 2007) when the idea behind “I Just Love Girls” came to us after coming home from a club one night.
I had never really lived as an “out” lesbian in Vancouver and Tully was married to a man before we got together so we were trying to find our way around the GLBT community and were watching what was acceptable in terms of behaviour, dress, etc.
Someone told us we were “femmes” and “lipstick lesbians” - which was funny to me as I was in the process of discovering and owning my “inner butch” and that sounded a bit too girly for me.
Frankly we just dress how we feel best. It changes all of the time and we didn’t want to have to fit into anyone’s mold now that we had gone through the coming out process to be authentic. We just kept thinking “why do we need to be labeled”? – We just love girls!
Tully: After we completed the song we had a very strong feeling that we needed to record it, and within 2 months we recorded another 3 songs (with the intent to release our first EP in time for the Vancouver Pride season).
We realized we needed a band name that fit how we felt and who we were. We searched on the net for 3 days for the right name… and came across a painting of “Sugar Beach” in Hawaii. We made it one word and it just felt right… a bit of sexy with laid back and Australia is just miles and miles of perfect beaches so it felt like home.
What’s it like being married?
Marlee: I am someone who used to fear change…now I embrace it. I thrive on it. I need the security and steadiness in my home life, but with personal growth and the work I want to do in the world. I need to be constantly evolving and growing. I try to be forgiving but can’t say that I always achieve that. I like things to be fair which is often impossible so I am always challenged by learning to let go of “record keeping.”
It’s hard for me to receive…I am more comfortable giving more and getting less. I love to laugh and love making my wife laugh. She’s such a great audience that she convincingly humours me even if my joke is lame.
Nathalie is the reason my life is perfect. She is grounded, calm, strong, positive, smart and playful. Patient…oh so very patient.
I was recently talking to a friend about why my relationship is so good as she complained that she fights with her partner all of the time. Nathalie and I have not had a fight…ever. Not because we bury everything but because when even a hint of something that could become a problem creeps up, she is one to nip it in the bud and calmly look at it and discuss it until both of us feels heard and understood.
We don’t ever go down the slippery slope of treating each other with any disrespect or name-calling…not even in jest. It is her level of maturity that makes this all possible. Her psychology degree comes in handy too. I am very blessed.
Tully: The first time I saw Marlee it was in a photo and I was instantly struck by the warmth in her smile. When I met her in person I realized everything about her is warm. She is silly, like a 5-year-old. She seems to have not allowed the struggle of life to take away her childhood joy. Her energy is contagious and she has enough for both of us.
Of course she is funny and I like how she laughs at her own jokes. Passionate – what can I say – she’s really a teenage boy!
To meet me you’d never know I’m an introvert. But introverts aren’t necessarily hiding in a corner, not speaking to anyone – it’s all about where we get our energy from. We often need quiet time to regenerate our energy. Marlee, although more of an extrovert, seems to understand exactly how much downtime I need and will often hand me a book and say “go read and I won’t talk to you for an hour”.
My life and work with Marlee is always fun. She’s alongside me, constantly excited about what we are doing next – our next song, changing our website, what country we can go to for our next gig. Everything is exciting.
Kindness is what our relationship really hinges on. I’d say that’s our core value – everything else just flows smoothly from that.
Did both of you have wonderfully supportive parents and family members when you came out (of the closet)?
Tully: Yes, my parents were totally great. They had a lot to deal with because I was telling them I was leaving my husband at the same time. So that was pretty big news for them but they were used to me making very big decisions and it all working out for the best. We had no problem...
Marlee: And they came to the wedding...
Tully: Yeah, we had 14 people come from Australia to Canada for (our) wedding (in 2007). It was very, very cool...
Marlee: And her dad spoke and he gave a beautiful speech. He brought old photos of (Tully) as a kid, throughout her life, and we did sort of a dedication...I'd written a song for her that she didn't realize I'd done. So we surprised her with a photo show and I sang live...We had a great time. We (also) had about 12 performers, people from everywhere...We held (our wedding) at a big theatre, so it was very cool. (Just) a typical entertainer wedding...
Our third anniversary is coming up on September 1st. We're going to be in the U.K. for it, and that will be a really lovely place to be.
(Marlee on coming out to her family) I only have a brother and sister left but I was able to come out to my dad before he died (in his 80's). It took him a little bit, but he was incredible right off the bat. It was a shock, an absolute shock, which is amazing to me because I thought by that point in time surely someone would have caught on...and I didn't have the guts to come out before that.
So when I did, it was great. (With) my brother, I woke him up in the middle of the night and said, "I'm doing a drive-by 'outing' and...I just want you to know this is how I've been," and he goes, "Great. Can I now go back to bed?"
My sister was amazing too. I'm very, very close to my brother and sister...They're all the family I have left now. My brother produces our albums. My sister constantly helps with costumes...and is there for us all the time.
SugarBeach: Pop duo Marlee Walchuk & Nathalie Callender talk being Out in a straight world, Part 3
Part Three of my interview concludes with Marlee Walchuk and Nathalie Callender of SugarBeach discussing inspiration, their new music video channel and why "coming out" on a regular basis is a good thing.
Who are your inspirations—both musically and personally?
Marlee: I have always been drawn to pop and R&B. I love great classic singers like Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight. Steve Perry’s voice still does something to me. Some of the singers/songwriters who have influenced me in the last few years have been Gavin Degraw, Sara Bareilles and Pink.I love songwriters that make me feel something. I don’t really see the purpose of any art form unless it evokes an emotional reaction of some kind. Other favorite songwriters--Jann Arden, Gary Burr and Jimmy Webb.
Personal inspiration: My mom. She didn’t stay on this planet anywhere near long enough but her commitment to positive thinking and empowerment of people helped build the core of who I am today.
I am very inspired by Bishop Gene Robinson. He is the first openly gay man to be ordained as bishop in the Anglican Church. He is a wonderful, realistic speaker who stays committed to his beliefs no matter what odds he’s faced and I guarantee you they have been plenty.
Tully: As I teenager I was always inspired by writers and singers who made me feel that someone else was feeling the same way I was – this helped me feel safe – like the Indigo Girls, Amy Grant and Sarah McLachlan. More recently Pink and Missy Higgins hold the top spots.
Personal inspiration: Louise Hay has been teaching us for a long time that it’s just all about love. I’d also have to agree with Marlee, Gene Robinson is a brave committed man. My grandfather was also an Anglican bishop and had a very similar nature (and look – so weird) to Gene. To see such gentleness, patience but firmness in a world leader is just so beautiful and fills me with hope.
What are your passions outside of music?
Marlee: We feel very strongly about several issues that are constantly in the news. One is the amount of GLBT youth we are losing as a result of suicide from anti-gay bullying or murder. We need to be the voice for many of these kids who rarely speak out or if they do their cries seem to fall on deaf ears. We feel that more needs to be done directly in the schools and we are looking for ways to help with that.
The issue of forced sex changes in Iran to avoid persecution and the decriminalization of Homosexuality that needs to take place in 80 countries are also important issues that we are trying to get involved in.
There is so much work to do to help our brothers and sisters. As we sit safe and legally married in Canada we are grateful for what we have and feel that we’ve only just begun to spread the freedom.
On a lighter side. I love to paint.
My grandfather was an amazing artist and I still have fond memories of going to his apartment as a little girl and seeing his latest masterpiece starting to take form and smelling the oil paints and thinners. I think one of his political figure portraits still hangs in a parliament building in Manitoba.
It’s similar to writing for me - hours go by without me noticing - I wish I had more time to do it. Nathalie, in an effort to encourage me to make the time has set my easel right in the middle of our living room. We live in a forest on a river so the outlook is highly inspiring.
Tully: I love to be outdoors in the mountains or walking along the beach – I walk other people’s dogs as we can’t have one in our condo. I’m a computer nerd and love to play with new software.
I have a passion for helping women, particularly older women, see their own physical beauty. I so often hear wonderful women comment negatively about their bodies and their age. I’d like to do whatever I can to help women love themselves – that’s my form of feminism.
Why is it important for yourself and others to help improve the lives/rights of the LGBT community?
Marlee: It’s simply not enough to just make music when we are a part of a community that is still struggling for basic human rights. It would be a much easier road to release music that is non gender-specific and to not bother with any gay issues, but then what change would we be contributing to?
One day and we hope in our lifetime, GLBT artists will sing man to man and woman to woman without it being any big deal - some places that already happens but not much. Activism is not for everyone so those that feel called to it need to follow that calling.
Sometimes we get a bit tired of pushing the cart uphill and I’ll say to Tully, “Should we stop, buy a little farm, make some cheese and raise a heap of dogs?” She looks me dead in the eye and says “Nope” and I say “me neither.” Not yet anyway.
Tell me more about your music video channel, RightOut TV.
Marlee: We're putting it on the net. We've taken a live stream channel and we're just in the process now of approaching other artists, getting them to send us links to their videos, so that we can put them on. It will run 24/7...and maybe some live videos of performances.
It's just really about trying to promote all of us out there in the LGBTQ community because there just isn't enough...places to put up your videos. We just want an Internet station that just goes everywhere...
We're hoping to launch it the end of September, maybe the latest mid-October...We're really looking forward to it. It's a great project for us.
If someone reading this interview wanted to send you their video, where could they send it to?
Marlee: Our email which is Pink Productions@Shaw.ca. If someone is interested, they can send us a little "hello" and "we're interested and here's our link."
Tully: They can just send us a YouTube link as well. We don't have to have the actual video. They can just send us the link.
Marlee: It's really easy. We're making it really simple. We know entertainers are busy.
Where do you see things going for the LGBT community, especially in the U.S. where we’re fighting state-by-state to get equal marriage rights for everyone?
Tully: I think you’ll get it. The fight is where it starts, isn’t’ it? Things are moving and they have to get shaken up before things improve and change. Even though it seems like a hard time, I think it’s the beginning of some really great stuff.
Marlee: We saw the Rev. Gene Robinson at the GLAAD awards last year in L.A….and one of the things he said which really hit home for me….is that basically, we know how this is going to end. We’ve already had the Civil Rights movement; we’ve already had the feminist movement’ we know how it’s going to happen in the end. We’ve just got to stick in it for the long haul.
That’s how we see it. Of course it’s going to end with gay marriage, human rights for everybody across the states, but it’s going to take a lot of time. One of the things he also said is that even though you’re going to get it, doesn’t mean that homophobia will be (eradicated)…But we know it’s going to end with everything being okay….We’re just part of the fight…and we hope in our lifetime that we’re going to see it just come to a beautiful ending…
We literally come out every day; I do it constantly and I do it on purpose…It’s the whole Harvey Milk thing: “If they know us, it’s harder to hate us.” I always introduce Tully as my wife, everywhere we go, and in the beginning I could tell it was making (some) people uncomfortable. It was (also) a little uncomfortable for me when we first got married because I wasn’t used to it either.
From trios to duos, Sugarbeach (Marlee Walchuk and Nathalie Callender) gets listeners up and dancing on the first track of Not Deserted (sugarbeachmusic.com). "Mama I Love Her" is a dance track with a powerful queer message, and "Living Out Proud" has dance anthem written all over it.
Sugarbeach - Marlee Walchuk and Tully Callender, the Vancouver-based, lesbian Aussie/Canadian duo that rocks the world with their “electroni-lesbi-pop" music, has released a hot new music video, "Give Me Your Body."
Los Angeles based writer and director, Linda Andersson's new web series "Insight... the Rise of the Seer," is featured in the video along with footage of Sugarbeach.
Marlee Walchuk and Tully Callender have a very simple goal – to write and perform music that touches people. And that is just what they have been doing since they formed Sugarbeach in 2007.
The women have comfortably combined their personal and professional lives and approach the future with laughter and genuine affection for both each other and their craft.
Read all about Sugarbeach in the April issue of Bound, the new international magazine for lesbians and women connected to the gay and lesbian community
Music review - Dance, have fun and celebrate love with Sugarbeach and I Just Love Girls EP
November 3rd, 2010 12:33 pm PT.
"I Just Love Girls" by Sugarbeach.
If you love dancing and want great dance music, I Just Love Girls by Sugarbeach is exactly what you’re looking for.
Marlee Walchuk and Nathalie Callender, the happily married duo of pop group Sugarbeach, created a dance album that not only features some fantastic dance music, but their lyrics also have a message: Be the change you wish to see in the world and live your life “out and proud.”
Sugarbeach has a very unique sound that’s been described as “electronic lesbi-pop” and I agree; every song on this album could be played on any dance floor in America and the floor would be packed in seconds.
But I also think their music has more depth and significance than just the average dance song. Their songs about issues that are important to them: being in love and newly married, celebrating gay and lesbian love, living life outside of the closet and bringing attention to social issues including domestic violence and teen suicide.
The I Just Love Girls EP features six songs: four original songs, plus two extended dance versions of the first two tracks.
The title track, “I Just Love Girls” is a fun, upbeat song celebrating “just loving girls.” It could easily be a lesbian theme song for the dance clubs and Pride events and is one of the first songs Marlee and Nathalie wrote together. Hip, introspective and tons of fun, “I Just Love Girls” is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
“Haven’t You Had Enough” is a another great dance song with this one has an important message—if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, you need to answer the question, “Haven’t You Had Enough?” “Haven’t you had enough of lyin/Haven’t you had enough of cryin/Isn’t it time you said goodbye?”
“She’s With Me” is my favorite song from the album. The song interweaves beautiful Spanish guitar with Marlee’s passionate lead vocals and is by turns flirtatious, sassy, and adamant. “You can fake who you are, Wish on a star, It won’t get you far, She’s with me.”
“Baby, Welcome Home” is the album’s power ballad, fueled by Walchuk’s strong, smooth vocals. The song is powerful, emotional and is the perfect wedding or engagement song.
I Just Love Girls is for all music lovers across the board--it doesn't matter if you're gay, straight or indifferent. This is just good dance album with a very good message.
Vancouver's Lesbian Pop Duo, Marlee Walchuk and Tully Callender, are winning music awards for living out proud.
How's this for a resume?
In just three years, they released two albums, owned the number one spot on the OutVoice Top 40 chart in the US and, more recently, snapped up two US Pride in the Arts Awards: Favourite Group of the Year 2009 and Camp Pride Song of the Year 2009 for "I Just Love Girls".
Local Pride paraders might be familiar with the couple's "Living Out Proud" track, which was the 30th anniversary theme song for Vancouver Pride in 2008.
Whether it's queer love and rights, homelessness or homophobia-induced teen suicide, Marlee and Tully wrap these issues in accessible pop packaging.
That's sweet, Sugarbeach!
Sugarbeach, the duo of Marlee Walchuk and Tully Calendar, won two prizes last week at the Pride In the Arts U.S. Awards. The pair were named group of the year and their LP, I Just Love Girls, won Camp Pride Song for the title track.
Working as the CEO of her own accounting firm in Sydney, Australia and married to a wonderful
man, Tully Callender likely would not have guessed
that a year later she'd be living in Vancouver, married to a woman and fulfilling her musical aspirations as one half of the lesbian
pop band Sugarbeach.
Enter Marlee Walchuk, the catalyst and other half of Sugarbeach, a long-time Vancouver musician (once a part of the local '80s phenomenon, Mistress) who had relocated to Sydney.
The two clicked immediately, developing a friendship that became an
attraction and a mutual artistic admiration, culminating in Callender
and Walchuk's decision to cross the globe together to Vancouver. Relationships ended, careers halted and a new momentum was
found in their union.
They are now married, working on an album to be released in July 2008 and planning to tour the Pride
circuit this summer. The combination of their powerful union has
already resulted in one catchy, collection, I Just Love Girls. And that was just 2007. When asked about the challenges of performing as an out lesbian couple with overtly queer lyrics, they both scrunch their foreheads, scratch their heads an
simultaneously blurt, "Challenges?"
in disbelief. The challenges seem lifted since they decided to consciously forefront their creative
aspirations. Now, they claim the biggest obstacle is time and wanting to do everything immediately.
Such is the gift of inspiration.
"It's much bigger than music," Walchuk explains. "It's bigger
One of Sugarbeach's goals is to make it easier for other queer musicians to be open and honest in their lyrics. The opportunity to have a hand in anyone coming out
is a great motivating factor.
The even bigger motivation is authenticity, says Walchuk. Their lyrics, while clearly lesbian, are
universal and resonate with
straight and queer audiences alike.
As Callender and Walchuk
grew closer, expressing themselves creatively emerged as the natural outcome. They formed Sugarbeach on a whim, released the single "I Just Love Girls" in record time and haven't looked back. They were immediately booked to perform at eight venues during last year's Pride and the gigs kept coming.
"When it's right, it's right" Callender says. The synthesis of coming out, moving the Vancouver and pursuing her singing career has granted Callender an enormous freedom, allowing her to focus on projects that matter to her and feed her creatively. In addition to singing in Sugarbeach, she also co-hosts The Lesbian Show on Co-op Radio, every Thursday night.
The Momentum they gained from being honest with themselves and their art - and sharing that authenticity with their listeners - has had a profound impact. Callender and Walchuk are so intent on being themselves now that they proudly announce at every show that they are married to each other.
Crowds tend to respond well. Walchuk smiles as she describes the momentary silence that steals over the average predominantly straight audience as they piece together the queer marriage thing, then let out an overwhelming cheer of support. That support never
ceases to delight the duo and continually
strengthens their resolve to
create more "alternative content with a mainstream sound."
Walchuk, who spent six years in Sydney, was surprised to find that Vancouver's music scene had changed so drastically in her time away. While there are live-act
venues like the Oasis and the Majestic, there are many clubs and
lounges that simply can't afford to support live musicians or have
opted for DJs instead. Rather than feeling dismayed by this, Walchuk and Callender simply took another route.
They self-produced their debut single and developed a following through networking sites like MySpace and Facebook and are trilled to find that they have fans in the unlikeliest of places, like the UK and Spain, where they've never toured.
While the move might seem like a huge stretch for Callender, the former accouting firm owner, she clearly enjoys the adventure of it all. Her old life might be far away but the tools she used to create that life are still with her and very much at the forefront of Sugarbeach. "We've got the creative and musical talent to do what we want
to do but we've also got the business model," says Callender, whose
past success includes building a one-woman company into a 200 people-
strong business. Walchuk
credits Callender's determination
and goal-setting ability as the driving force behind the duo.
As all musicians and creative
people can attest to, it takes extraordinary
courage to venture
beyond the safety of guaranteed income and stable careers. The
reward, for Sugarbeach, and their fans, is watching a new and brilliant
I Just Love Girls, Sugarbeach (selfreleased):
Conquering the airwaves
and the dance floor is the goal of this
lesbian dance-pop duo (and couple)
based in Vancouver, B.C., who offer
up their ridiculously catchy “I Just
Love Girls,” along with three other
beat-friendly cuts on this debut EP.
The Vancouver Sun
Marlee Walchuk's Vancouver band, Sugarbeach, has been around for only a year, but her songs already play as far as Denmark and Australia - and are band in several Pennsylvania High Schools.
"We had a woman come up to us (in North Carolina) two days ago). She said her son got suspended in school for listening to our music," Walchuk said in an interview.
"I don't know if you've heard our stuff. It's not like we swear or talk dirty. There are rap songs about beating up women and killing people and we've got this lovely positive 'We just love girls', and they are freaking out on us".
The lesbian singer and songwriter will be among the headliners at the Vancouver Pride celebrations this weekend. Her song, Living Out Proud, is the events theme song.
Walchuk and her wife singing songwriting partner, Tully Callender, attribute the band's speedy audience acceptance to internet and niche marketing.
"We recorded a CD within a month of getting together and sent it out around the world. We've got it on gay radio stations in tons of countries. Alot of these are internet-based radio stations, because we don't have alot of mainstream gay radio stations out there.
There arn't alot of out singer-songwriters doing the dance pop music that we do. Most are doing folk or rock. We have a very serious dance beat to most of our stuff."
Most openly gay music is playing on co-op stations and on the internet, Walchuk said. "Everyone is still abit underground. It's very difficult to have a woman clearly singing to a woman in a song on mainstream radio."
Walchuk and Callender wrote Living Out Proud as a gift to Vancouver Pride.
Metro Weekend Vancouver
Sugarbeach are working to introduce a new style of music to Vancouver's mainstream: gay love songs.
Marlee walchuk explained she and partner Tully Callender want to use music to raise awareness of gay love. Unlike conventional ballads, their lyrics are sung between two women.
"What makes us different is that what we are doing is full-on lesbian-themed dance music that is still quite mainstream sounding" she said. "Sometimes listeners can't tell the gender (in a song), but we're purposely trying to write to our own gender".
This goal is the culmination of decades of performance. Walchuk first appeared on stage at age eight, when she toured the U.S. and Canada with her brother and sister (Judy Ginn and Jim Walchuk). She sang to 14,000-seat coliseums, appeared on TV and stayed at the continent's swankiest hotels.
"It wasn't a big deal at the time, at least I didn't think it was," she said.
"At the end of the day, it's all about connection and intimacy with the audience. If they're not feeling anything, it's time to go home."
Later, along with singing country, rock and R&B, Walchuk studied method acting, which helps her express emotions on stage. Six years in Australia also tempered her songwriting and united her with Callender, who joined her when she returned to Canada.
The singer-songwriters have since recorded a dance EP in preparation for this year's Pride Festival, where the pair will sing over disco house beats. While she's played Australia's Pride festival (the biggest in the world) and performed at Vancouver's with Mistress, Walchuk said this year holds special meaning.
"This will be the first time I've played in Vancouver as an out gay person," she said. "I only came out six years ago, and so it'll be a totally different performance, singing to a gay crowd as a gay person."
Baltimore Outloud, Bay Area Reporter, Chiago Free Press
What are the lesbians dancing to these days? If they’re smart (and you know they are!), The Gossip and Lesbians On Ecstasy are probably at the top of the playlist. With luck, there’s also room for Canadian duo Sugarbeach, and their EP "I Just Love Girls" (myspace.com/sugarbeach). Straightforward, so to speak, electro cuts such as the titular tune and Haven’t You Had Enough are destined for the dance floor, and the extended mixes of both only serve to drive the point home. She’s With Me adds a Latin influence to the definite dance energy.
Out lesbians Marlee Walchuk and Tully Callendar, favorites of the Canadian Pride fest circuit, pack a number of styles into this EP. Let's call this collection of original gay love songs “electroni-lesbi-pop,” with “She's With Me” adding a salsa-rific Latin flare.