Olly Alexander: “We’re seeing a lot more visible queer artists and visible gay people”

The Years and Years frontman says more diversity can finally be seen in the music industry

Olly Alexander has said that the change in the number of openly LGBTQ+ artists being open about their sexuality is “astonishing.”

In an interview with The Times, Alexander said he felt more confident in a musical landscape where artists such as Janelle Monae, Christine and the Queens, Frank Ocean and Perfume Genius are open about their sexuality.

“We’re seeing a lot more visible queer artists and visible gay people,” the Years and Years frontman added, the day before the release of new album, Palo Santo – the follow up to 2015’s Communion.

In 2016, Alexander became known as an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights after his band’s Glastonbury performance in which he told the audience to “shove a rainbow in fear’s face” as part of a rousing Pride speech.

A year later, he also made an acclaimed BBC Documentary, Growing Up Gayin which he described the homophobia he experienced as a young gay man, and how he sought support for mental health issues.

In the interview with The Times, Alexander says that continuing to discuss his sexuality has empowered both him and his fans. He also revealed he was initially advised by an industry person to not speak about his sexuality before the release of the band’s first album.

“She was, like, ‘Why do people need to know your sexuality?” She was trying to protect me.”

When asked if the attention he now receives is a burden, Alexander disagreed. “It doesn’t feel like a burden. I think it would be more of a burden to not acknowledge any of that. But I’ve had to learn the ways to cope with my own mental health along the way, and I feel like I’m in a good position now.”

“If you’re having a bad day and you’re suddenly having to talk about things that you experienced when you were 13 years old, it can feel a bit challenging.”

Alexander, who originally began life as an actor, added that he felt more able to express his identity openly in the music industry.

“It just feels like people can express their identity easier as artists in the music industry,” he said, before adding that he felt nervous about revealing his sexuality when working on God Help the Girl, a film directed by Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch.

“It gave me a lot of anxiety,” Alexander says of the role, where he played a straight musician. “It was one of the reasons I wanted to stop acting.”

“I definitely felt at the time it was something you had to be quiet about, because otherwise directors wouldn’t believe you could pull off the part.”

“I got on with Stuart [Murdoch] really well, and I felt guilty because I never told him I was gay. I kind of tried to play up to the fact that I could actually be straight still, based on lies, even though everyone else knew I was gay.”

The singer added that Hollywood had much more to do. “Hollywood is the worst culprit…it’s just so far behind the times, it’s disgusting.”

Years and Years announced a UK tour earlier this year, the dates of which you can see below.

Years and Years latest album has been inspired by the 90’s pop and R&B artists Alexander grew up listening to, including Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears as well as Prince and Michael Jackson.

Palo Santo is out tomorrow (July 6).