Cary NoKey Dishes On Musical Transformation And Gaga

Producer and singer-songwriter Rob Fusari, aka Cary NoKey, will be hitting the stage of the Trocadero on March 7th as a part of RuPaul’s Drag Race: Battle of the Seasons. He’s produced for superstars like Lady Gaga and Destiny’s Child, and now he’s taking center stage to show us what he’s got. Rock On Philly had the chance to sneak in an interview before the big show!

Rock On Philly: How did you get your start in music? Did you have heavy childhood influences?
Carey NoKey: I Started with Classical Piano at the age of 8 years old. My mother had a very short career as a cabaret performer/singer. She was very glamorous and was always “on stage ” so to speak. She would often bring me to see artists like Connie Francis, Liberace and Frank Sinatra perform. Seeing these type of legendary performers in my early years really shaped and expanded my artistic horizons. I was entered into nationwide piano competitions by age 10 and performed at Carnegie Hall on several occasions as a young pianist who had an affinity to composers like Mozart, Debussy, and Rachmaninoff. I didn’t start writing songs until my early 20s. I had not found the pathway to my true creative soul until I started to write and produce my own music; but when I did, it was as if the flood gates opened.


ROP: How did the persona of Cary NoKey come about? What about the name?

CN: Early 2013, I was going out to a ton of Karaoke Bars with friends. I think it was a way for me to enjoy music as an outsider looking in. When I would go to these bars and hear the music that I grew up on it would remind me why I wanted to create music in the first place. Ironically enough it was artists like Gaga who pushed me into the direction of not wanting to create music for other artists. Although the project obtained enormous commercial success it also came with even more enormous greed. After Gaga’s “The Fame,” I decided I was going to pursue performing my own music. At that time a friends suggested I call myself Karaoke. I liked the direction/idea, but I felt the name had to be turned on its head, so I thought by twisting the name Karaoke to Cary NoKey it added the layers that I needed. Firstly it became a statement as opposed to a name …Go through life with No keys, no doors and of course no restrictions. Carry No Key. I have always felt part female and equal part male so I needed a name that was not one way or the other male or female. One of my high school sweethearts had a very similar name so it added that layer as well. It also suggested the musical element of not singing on key. I don’t consider myself a singer singer; I am more a stylist or a poet. So the name suggests that it is not about singing on key but singing more in the realm of Karaoke. For the love, the simplicity, for the music.


ROP: Which came first: music or drag?
CN: “It’s a good thing I was born a girl, otherwise I’d be a drag queen.”
                  –Dolly Parton
 That says it all in answer to the question. Drag was born a sister to the music. Regardless if you call your self a drag queen or not. To be a performer and let’s face it, most of us are performers, you have to be a drag queen. Just because some choose a stage for there “act” doesn’t mean the ones without the stages or cameras are not performing on a daily basis. Essentially we are all drag queens, its just the nature of mankind, or should I say womankind.


ROP: You’ve seen much success as a producer. What or how did you decide to become the performer?  Is there a difference in how you feel while performing in drag vs outside of drag?

CN: That’s a tough question because I don’t exist outside of my Cary NoKey persona; in fact I don’t exist outside of Cary NoKey. I often say that Cary NoKey not only changed my life but also saved my life. I needed to be saved from Rob Fusari. I needed to be saved by potentially having a legacy of “the man who named Lady Gaga” After all the work and music I had created since the late 90’s if I were to leave her with that stamp…”naming Lady Gaga”…well then Rob Fusari had to die. I live a new life as Cary NoKey. Sure I use more make up and wear less clothing on stage but it’s all just 50 shades as Nokey.


ROP: What or who influences you on the type of music you make?
CN: I am heavily influenced these days by regular people. Yes, I love artists like Liberace, Prince, and Bowie but it’s the everyday people who inspire new ideas and new directions inside my music. I listen to peoples stories. I looked in the eyes and can see their joy, their pain, the longing. I have touched people in some interesting ways through the early stages of this new chapter in my life but I have been touched and inspired in ways I never thought possible through Cary NoKey.


ROP: I noticed you have a collection of singles out. Do you have any plans for a full album in the future?
CN: We are releasing a full length album in two months. It was never something I really wanted to do but to date I have written and recorded over 60 songs for the project and everyone thought it was time. The record is called Journal 8 and it is based on 8 journal entries that were put into song over the course of the last several years.


ROP: Now that you’re performing, do you have time to help produce other artists or are you a full time performer?
CN: It’s not so much a question of having the time to produce other artists; it’s more about not having the energy or desire. And I don’t feel I would be doing another artist justice at this time. Every cell in me thinks Cary NoKey. Every ounce of energy and heart is carrying this project. It’s what it takes to develop and grow an artist. Much like Gaga who came to me with nothing. No style, no music, no direction. I had to put everything I had into it to make it work.


Cary NoKey’s latest music video “American Dream” is dramatic and emotional. To see his performance live along with a gaggle of fierce queens, get your tickets here!


Photo provided by Project Publicity

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