Ricky Rebel was once part of the boy band, No Authority, touring with popular acts like Britney Spears and 98 Degrees (Nick Lachey’s career pre-MTV’s Newlyweds, if you need help recalling it). But for us, it’s his choice to not hide in the closet that makes him both a rebel and a role model.
Of all the big early 2000’s teen pop musicians you toured with, which tour has the best stories? Can you share something really funny or strange that happened from those days?
The best tour was the Britney Spears tour. I had a lot of fun hanging out with Britney, and Justin Timberlake was never too far behind. I think one of the funniest stories (although terrifying at the time) was when one of the guys let a female fan come into my room while I was dead asleep. I turned over, and there was a complete stranger in my bed. It scared the crap out of me, but the guys thought it was hilarious.
What do you make of how Michael Jackson is perceived now after death? Do you think anyone in the media has reported an accurate depiction of his personality?
Being signed to Michael Jackson’s label allowed me the opportunity to get closer to knowing who MJ really was. After his death, people once again started to honor his genius. Before that, I believe that the media had judged him unfairly due to his eccentricities. During the times that I had the opportunity to hang out with Michael, I just remembered him as a being a kind, generous and fun-loving spirit, always extremely respectful with a quiet strength within. To the world, Michael Jackson was almost from another planet, but to me, he was my boss.
When your band broke up, what did you do after the first panicking feelings left?
When the band broke up, I no longer had the luxury of depending on other people like Rodney Jerkins, who did our first album, (who produced for Lady Gaga, Destiny’s Child, Michael Jackson, etc.) to write and produce my music. I quickly had to learn how to play the guitar, operate Protools (digital audio workstation), construct tracks, write songs, choreograph routines, hire musicians, film music videos, edit video using Final Cut Pro, learn Photoshop for flyers and create cover artwork for single/album releases. I had to become my own record label. I am grateful for those first tough years during that complicated transition because it taught me how to be a true artist. Now everything that I release, like my LP “The Blue Album,” is completely organic and authentic. I produced every track on the record, and I am proud of that.
What is different about selling your persona and music today? What remains the same from the late 90’s?
I think the days of the record label have shifted to the days of the independent artist. In the late 90s, labels collapsed and the whole music industry basically turned into a ghost town. At that time you either sank or swam. Now I see it as a blessing because I learned how to be a good swimmer. Being signed to Michael Jackson and Madonna’s record labels had its perks, but it didn’t teach me how to be my own boss. It wasn’t until I branched out on my own that I learned how to take charge. One thing will never change: If you want to reach the top, you’ve got to work hard and hustle.
Does anything remain of the type of artist you were from that time in your life?
I will always love pop music. I also love to sing and dance at the same time. I am a performer at heart. One thing is for sure. When you come to my shows, you are never going to see me standing still. I express myself by using my whole body not just my voice. If I had to just stand there and sing like Adele, I’d probably bore myself to tears. No offense to Adele. I am just not that type of artist. I am a physical person and a theatrical entertainer, and I have been since I started in the industry.
Pee Wee Herman has his film quote on Twitter: “I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.” I thought of your interview with a giggle when I read his updates recently. What’s the most rebellious thing you’ve ever done in your life or career? Or are you more a sweet, faux rebel like Mr. Herman?
I am a sensitive rebel, but I definitely have an edge. I have been a rebel my whole life. I have questioned authority and social norms since I was a kid. The most rebellious thing I have ever done is to just be honest and tell my story through my music. I was told growing up that I was never going to make it if people found out that I liked boys and girls. The day I started writing honestly about my sexuality was the day I became a true rebel. I knew that I was going to rub some people the wrong way but, honestly, I just realized that it’s more important to be authentic and share my story than to live a lie.
Mangers, agents, PR companies, etc., told me that I would never make it if I was honest about who I loved, so instead of following the path of hundreds of artists and actors in the industry who are too scared to come out of the closet and be open about their sexuality, I decided to be brave and write songs about it. I have two songs in particular, one off my album entitled Manipulator called “Straight Jacket” and another track from my new LP, The Blue Album, called “Rebel The Darkness” where I speak openly about gay rights and equality. In the latter track I ask the listener to “Rebel the darkness, shine your light,” and that’s ultimately what my message is to my fans.
Since you danced in the first Austin Powers opening sequence, what funny antics would it take to get me as a Powers girl? Hey, I’ve done parody interviews for Funny Or Die, and…I could look the spy girl part. I’m willing to get ugly, yellow teeth temporarily capped on. Anything. 😉
We would need to go shopping first, girl! The fashion in that movie is on point. The next thing you will need to do is take some dance classes from me. I still remember the whole dance that we did for the opening sequence of the movie by heart and I can teach you every move perfectly, if you dare. I’ve always wanted to go to Spain by the way. My mother’s family is from Spain. So, let’s do it! Vamos a bailar!