Photography by Doug McMillan


IG : @theotamsmusic | FB : @theotams

Theo Tams, a singer-songwriter and the winner of the Canadian Idol in 2008, took a break from his singing career after having been through a toxic relationship that broke him into pieces. During his break, he found a new voice, a new confidence, and a man who loves him and helped him grow into a stronger person. Like a phoenix rises from the ashes, Theo is back with his latest single “The Last Song.” A song about recognising self-worth, the new beginning of something great, and the final word on his dreaded past.

Where do you live and work? What’s it like living and working there?

I currently live and work in Toronto, Canada. It’s an incredible city, and I’ve been here for nearly twelve years. I’m looking forward to the next chapter, though, trying to find some land in the country and build a home there. I want a garden, and some chickens, and a root cellar. A more sustainable way of living, and I look forward to the quiet.

Do you remember at what age you became interested in music and singing?

Writing has always been an outlet for me since a young age. I was never the kid on the football field; I was the one sitting on the sideline with my journal writing poems and short stories. When I was around 11 or 12, I remember sitting at the piano downstairs in my parents’ house and trying to put some of my poems to music; that’s how it all started. It was always about the release and sharing stories.

How does it feel when you sing?

I never feel more understood, or truly seen, than when I am singing or performing. You grew up in a strict and reformed Christian Dutch family.

Was it difficult to come out to them? How did they react? And what changed, in terms of the family relationship, after you came out to them?

To this day, coming out to my parents was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I remember every single detail. I think the hardest part was knowing just how much it was going to hurt them. I was raised believing that if you were gay, you were going to go to hell, so I think that played a huge part in my mind. I didn’t want them to think that of me, but I also accepted the fact that they would. I definitely had to get to the point that I was okay losing the relationship completely- at least for a while – while I gave them time to process and come to terms with this new reality. It took a lot of time, but once the dust settled, I was still left with two very supportive, loving parents; we just have to agree to disagree on a few things.

What is it like being an LGBTQ artist in Canada?

Canada, for the most part, is very liberal and progressive, so in terms of public acceptance, it’s never been an issue. I was one of the first openly gay contestants to win an Idol franchisetype show, and that speaks volumes of Canada as a country. I think the more difficult part has been since the show and dealing with a bit of a “boys club” within the industry… there is a lot of toxic masculinity there, and that has often been a challenge. I hate hearing from someone high up in the industry, “we don’t care that you’re gay; we care about your music.” I don’t know if I like the sentiment behind that, I want you to care that I’m gay. It is a huge part of me, and it should be a huge part of my music and the story that I want to tell.

Photography by Doug McMillan

You have not always been comfortable using certain pronouns in your songs. Do you still feel the same way?

I think it was really about finding a creative team that understood my vision and was willing to take those types of risks with me. For the last nine years or so, I’ve been working with Slaight Music here in Canada. They’ve not only allowed for the space for artistic and personal growth but really encouraged it as well. I think I’ve grown up a lot through this industry, and with each project and album, I’m revealing new parts of me as a person and as an artist. In large part, that is because Slaight Music has created the space and the resources for that to happen.

What have you been up to for the last nine years?

It was really important for me to connect with who I was before I was on Canadian Idol. The couple of years after were such a whirlwind. I found myself in that really shitty relationship, so I definitely needed some time to connect with myself and get to know myself again. I went back to work as a bartender, and I was a butcher for a while, I taught music as well. I literally tried my hand at everything I could get my hands on that WASN’T music. I knew if I went back to it again, it was going to be on my own terms.

I released an EP in 2014 and then a follow up in 2018. So I’ve still been releasing music, just at a pace that allows for artistic growth and balance. But since my 2018 EP “Call the Doctor” came out, I’ve been doing music full time. Writing in the studio, playing shows, and building content. It’s been twelve years since you won Canadian Idol.

Looking back now, was it a good decision to enter the competition? What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned from that experience which has had the most significant impact on your decision making nowadays?

Twelve years, it’s insane. In some ways, it feels even longer than that, but in other ways, it feels like only a few months ago. I have no regrets about going on the show, but it definitely is a double-edged sword. Once again, not from the public but the industry. I have spent the better part of my career trying to convince people in the industry just to listen instead of dismissing me as a “contest winner.” I was writing and performing music long before I entered that show, and I was working on my craft long before that show. I’m thankful for the platform, but I still, to this day, have to kick down doors when I feel like I’m not being heard. I have no problem with that. I’m not going anywhere.

Your latest single “The Last Song” is about recognizing self-worth and not try to be someone you are not for everyone. There is so much emotion involved, and we can literally hear your pain. Is this song inspired by your own experience?

Everything I write is from personal experience, and “The Last Song” is no different. Nearly ten years ago, I found myself in a really toxic relationship, the one that really chips away at your identity and self-esteem. It’s taken a long time to move past it, even though I’ve been with my current partner for almost nine years (and he has helped a LOT!). I really didn’t realize how abusive things were until I was out of it. The manipulation was so clever and so disguised – that’s when you know they’re really good at it. It just became apparent throughout that relationship, that no matter what I did, and no matter what I tried, I would NEVER be enough or measure up. That’s really devastating when you’re young, and you have been convinced that you’re worthless. That lack of self-worth has followed me ever since, and it’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve been able to step outside of that cycle and really break free from that way of thinking. In the official video for “The Last Song,” there were many versions of you, including drag.

Was it your first time being in drag? Was it fun? And what would your drag name be if you are a drag queen?

[Laugh] Yessss! I was so nervous about that look, mostly because I would have to go clean-shaven. I had grown out my beard for over a year for this video because I knew I wanted to have as many looks with as many variations as possible, ending with being clean-shaven. The drag look was the final look we shot that day, after about twelve hours of filming. My face was literally raw from so many makeup looks, and then makeup remover, and then more makeup, etc. It was also a really emotional process filming with the bruises and blood, so I was really looking forward to the drag look to end the video shoot with a bit of cheekiness and something people wouldn’t expect from me. I had done drag before once, years ago, but never quite like this. I have so much respect for the art form of drag, but not sure I have the swagger to pull it off [laugh]. It was a lot of fun though for sure, I think my drag name would be Bambee (with two E’s of course), all ass no class.

Photography by Doug McMillan

Can you tell us about “Strangers on Strangers” on your YouTube channel?

Strangers on Strangers was a lot of fun, and we released those episodes as some supporting content for my single Strangers, which was the first single off the album “Call The Doctor.” It was an eye-opening experience, and I think it just goes to show that as people, we have a lot more in common than we think we do. Sometimes, I think we forget what connects us is human experience and human emotions. No matter who you are or what your background is (race, orientation, religion, socio-economic status, etc.), we all have experienced loneliness, loss, excitement, ervousness, anger, hurt, and joy. We need to start connecting based on these emotions rather than those other things which often become things that separate us. It begins with one conversation to turn a stranger into an acquaintance, and a few more to turn an acquaintance into a neighbour, and then a neighbour into a friend. Start talking, start connecting; that’s why we are all here.

Do you have plans to produce more “Strangers on Strangers” episodes?

I think we will definitely be doing more. I’m thinking more of a faster-paced 20 questions kind of thing, I wasn’t expecting them to turn into 45 minute sit down conversations [laugh], but there was magic and something special in that too. I’d like to take it online on Instagram live or Facebook live and do it that way too!

What are we expecting from you in 2020/2021? (assuming this pandemic ends soon)

I have spent the last nine months focused in the studio. I’ve been working with a couple of new producers, diving into some new subject matter, and some new sounds that definitely won’t be expected from me, so that’s always really exciting. It is still the plan to release the first single from the new project in the next couple of months. I’m hoping that pandemic and all, we can still stay on track with the timeline. Even, things happen, and especially now, flexibility is key. Regardless of specific dates, new music and content are on the way, and I’m really proud of the new material; I can’t wait for the response from the audience.


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