Jax Anderson is no stranger to throwing emotional punches.
Anderson, whose stage name is Flint Eastwood, wrote her most recent song in a frenzy. This should come as no surprise, as her long-standing reputation for writing openly about deeply personal experiences is evidenced by her nearly five years spent working under the moniker. On 2015's Small Victories EP, Anderson braved the devastating waters of her mother's death. With last year's Broke Royalty, the artist took to the studio to reflect on the impact of her community, and more specifically that of Assemble Sound — an independent music collective based out of a historic church in Corktown that she helped create.
"Assemble is such a huge part of my life. It's my family outside of my actual family. It's such an important place to me and represents my values as a human. Looking out for the people around you and being scrappy as fuck," she laughs.
Her actual family, as it turns out, is very rooted in a different kind of church — the Christian kind. Many members of her immediate family were or are pastors, and her parents met through the church's traveling choir. In fact, it was the church where she developed her musical abilities. For Anderson though, discussing this part of her history is uncharted territory which she describes as being vulnerable and raw.
Her first song in over a year, "Real Love" was written under 30 minutes and just two weeks before its release. It started when Assemble Sound resident NYDGE forwarded a piano loop to Anderson's brother, producer, and SYBLYNG partner Seth. The timing, for Anderson, could not have been more inspiring as she had recently learned that a leader from her childhood church had won an award for his conversion therapy workshop aimed at young girls who were questioning their sexuality and gender identity. This, of course, was problematic considering Anderson herself is gay.
"That was my launching point," she says. "I realized that I had to talk about this. It's typically taught that you will not find happiness if you identify as an LGBTQ person and that's not true. I am living proof that you can find your way."
Instead of spitting out the proverbial sacrament, Anderson called upon familiar religious imagery of the Fruit of the Spirit — biblical attributes of someone living in accord with the Holy Spirit — to forge the structure for what is, arguably, her most personal song to date.
"If you are connected to God then you will produce these fruits — love, joy, peace, patience. So, I went through the fruits and explained where I achieved those things outside of the church," she explains.
Though writing "Real Love" was as terrifying as releasing it, Anderson wants us to know that the song is less about targeting the church or the Christian community and more about celebrating her identity as an artist and an openly gay woman, something she has known her entire life and is only now confronting through her music.
"Can I be honest for a minute?" Anderson asks in the opening line of "Real Love," which is every bit an ode to a '90s club jam, with a hint of choir hymnal for good measure. The track reads as an anxious list of possibilities, as if Anderson herself is pacing a pulpit, her congregation a glittering dance floor. "Found home in the arms of a woman/ joy without superstition/ stopped asking for their permission/ Found love, real love."
"I had my first crush when I was 6 years old. I never dated a guy, never wanted to. I'm a very gay human," Anderson laughs.
"I realized there are so many more ways to live life and it's so beautiful. Vulnerability is fucking terrifying," she says. "Think about the last time somebody cried in front of you and how uncomfortable it made you feel?"
Moments later, Anderson is holding back tears.
"Fuck," she says. Choking slightly, she realizes in real time that her mother never got to see her in a healthy relationship or watch her travel the world doing what she loves most. But this doesn't stop Anderson, and it certainly doesn't dissuade her from exploring her pain on paper and in front of the people who need to hear her message the most.
"For a long time, I viewed my sexuality as personal, something I didn't have to talk about, but I'm still having these conversations with kids at shows — they're terrified to come out to their families. If my story can help someone then it's worth talking about. I just want to help people, man. People don't deserve to be lonely."
Flint Eastwood will perform with Princess Nokia, Suzi Analogue, and Oshun on Friday, June 29 at 7 p.m. on the lawn of MOCAD's Homestead; 4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-6622; elclubdetroit.com; Tickets are $23-$25.
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