LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
As we near the end of the year, we're looking back at music we missed. Let's listen to one of New England's well-kept secrets.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "LUCID")
GREGORY DOUGLASS: (Singing) I can't go to sleep and very well dream in lucid time....
WERTHEIMER: His name is Gregory Douglass. He's a pianist and guitarist from a small town in Vermont who blends electronic pop with styles ranging from folk to rock. At the age of 31, he's already recorded eight albums, most released on a label he founded.
Douglass manages to create a textured sound that you'd think came from a big-budget studio, but he's on his own. His fans pre-order his albums before they're recorded. That helps pay the production costs. His latest album is called "Lucid."
DOUGLASS: Lucid is a dream-themed concept album and it's - it really is this constant evaluation of dreams versus reality. And sometimes the lines are really blurred, so I wanted to kind of set a lot of that to music.
WERTHEIMER: Douglass explains he was fascinated by the idea of dreams that he, himself, could control. And as an independent artist, he knows being in control has its ups and downs. He's avoided signing with major labels so that he can control his own sound - but at the cost of major exposure. And that struggle can be heard in his lyrics.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "SHOT DOWN")
DOUGLASS: (Singing) Well, I'm in my hometown, dreamin' of that rock n' roll, that rock n' roll. I'm still here in my hometown, just dreamin' of that rock n' roll, that rock n' roll. I'm steady on down this hallowed road.
I think every independent artist is, deep down, still dreaming of what it is to be a rock star. But I'm constantly trying to figure out how to measure my own success.
WERTHEIMER: At one time, Douglass was trying to figure out his image. He's been openly gay to friends and family for years, but he wasn't sure if he should promote himself as a gay musician.
DOUGLASS: I was sitting down, having a coffee date with one of Burlington, Vermont's premier drag queens, Yolanda, and she said to me, you know, I don't think you should come out as a gay artist quite yet. You're one of the few artists that I feel has a lot of mainstream potential. And I thought that that was interesting, you know. I figured if a drag queen is telling me this, I probably ought to take it seriously.
WERTHEIMER: He eventually did decide to come out to his fans. That's part of the reason he's been careful about letting anyone but himself define who he is as an artist.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "WHITE OUT")
DOUGLASS: (Singing) You're not allowed what's in your head. Before you're branded, boy, you'd better white out what they said....
That translates back to sexual identity, but it also rings true with being an artist. And the trade-off is, really, that I don't necessarily have that great of exposure yet, but I have my artistic integrity.
WERTHEIMER: Gregory Douglass - his album is called "Lucid." You can hear more songs from the album at nprmusic.org.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "WHITE OUT")
DOUGLASS: (Singing) Oh you better white out what they said; hell...
WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News.
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