Brett Gray – This is all your FAULT

Full look: Christ Cabalona
Shoes: Giuseppe Zanotti 

Fashion stylist / Creative director: Mickey Freeman 

Photographer: Lanscine Janneh

Words: Miles Holder

Much revered and often misunderstood, whether you know Brett Gray from his lead role in Netflix’s ‘On My Block’ or for his musical endeavours, you’ll understand that he is an artist who throws himself headfirst into every creative opportunity.

Brett’s EP ‘Blue’ proved that he was more than we see on screen, and provided a better glimpse at who Brett is as an artist. We caught up with the star to discover more about his creative process and of course, his FAULTs.

Your EP Blue doesn’t stick one musical genre, was that by design or chance?

Brett Gray: It happened by chance. The project was very different at the beginning. I started the project in January of last year, and I didn’t plan on releasing a four-song EP. I went to Korea and, the hard drive with my songs crashed, and we lost everything. When I came back from Korea, I was in a very different place, and I just wanted to contemporize the songs. So it wasn’t intentional, but I thought it was cool so I just kind of ran with it.

Suit: Custom
Rings: Ericsson Beamon

Are you conscious of the risks involved in releasing something so eclectic – that you might not truly be able to grab and own any one genre?

Brett Gray: Absolutely. I think about it all the time, but it’s cool to go with your gut, take a risk and try something new. I’m in a weird position where people know my acting work, but I’m still a new musical artist. I get to experiment and try things and see what works. I’m still building and learning my sound – there is harmony in being misunderstood, I’m used to it.

Suit: Custom
Rings: Ericsson Beamon

What was creating music in isolation like for you?

Brett Gray: When the quarantine started in America, I had just left to go to Korea, and they handled the Coronavirus very well. So I had the opportunity to come back home and isolate with all of this new inspiration in my back pocket. I have really talented friends who helped me write, record and come up with ideas and mixes, so it was a pretty straightforward process.

Because you’re so busy outside of music, do you think not being able to allocate enough time to the fast-paced music career is harming your ability to breakthrough?

Brett Gray: Yeah, there’s harm in all of it, but I’m still experimenting with my sound and finding out what I have to say and how I want to say it. I don’t feel that much pressure to grow as a musical artist. I am still learning about the music industry and making those connections. I’m not concerned with the music industry; my real focus is on building a relationship with my fans with my band members and the people that helped me make the music.

How would you say that your upbringing and Philadelphia impacted your creative journey so far?

Brett Gray: Philadelphia is dope because it’s a real city -you can go to art class and then get in a fight on your way home on the subway – it’s unpredictable. There’s so much history there that we walk past every day without knowing it. So there’s so much to be inspired by – Philly has such a rich culture and art history so it’s easy to be inspired. I used to do spoken word when I was in high school; everything now is a coalescence of all the different things I had around me growing up.

What would you say is your biggest fear as it pertains to your art?

Brett Gray: My biggest fear is myself. I am super confident, but I do get nervous. I always think I have no idea what I’m doing and that everything I do sucks. That’s the journey of an artist; you put stuff out there and throw yourself against the wall. Not only are you up against something crazy, but everyone’s going to see and talk and judge it. My biggest fear is ƒmyself because I don’t want the fear to stop me from jumping in the room.

Jacket: Teddy Vonranson
Trousers and Jacket: Diesel 
Trainers: Giuseppe Zanotti 

Do you feel understood by the media?

Brett Gray: Journalists never ask me who I am. What is Brett Gray? Where are you from? What do you do? What was it like growing up? How did you come to be here? They normally ask about my current personality but not how I got here.

Where do you think this gap in understanding comes from?

Brett Gray: I think it comes down to how fast things move. Speed is the killer of understanding. People take you at face value. I’m on a show on Netflix, and I play somebody that’s pretty different from myself, but also very similar. For me, misunderstanding comes from not listening, and you can’t listen if there’s so much being thrown at you.

What’s something you wish journalists would stop asking you?

Brett Gray: I wish they would stop asking me how similar I am to Jamal because the answer is, “I am the character”. When you look at the screen, you see my face, and I’m saying lines that other people wrote. I’m not similar or different from my character. I am Brett Gray playing the character. So there’s not really anything I could tell you that you don’t see. If you are watching me in an interview and you’ve watched me perform, then you can see the similarities yourself. What we should be looking for is the differences and the intricate nuances.

When you look back on all the work you’ve done, what do you want your portfolio to have said about you?

Brett Gray: I’m looking specifically for quality. There’s a lot of things that I can’t control. I love acting so much because it is there’s nothing you can do. You get scripts, and you can really love the part, but you have no idea whether you’re going actually to get it. And then once you do, you have no idea how you’ll perform. I love the unpredictability in it. I hope that each endeavour that I do feels good for the people who support me.

Trench coat: Scarlet Sage
Gloves, hat, shirt: Burberry
Sneakers: Philip Plein
Trousers: Saint Laurent

Is it hard to be yourself when what you’re longing for or to do is as odds with what others are expecting from you?

Brett Gray: Absolutely. It’s very difficult. I find myself trying to edit myself, removing the things that I feel are not expected of me and adding to the things are. I hide things that I don’t think people will like. At the same time that that’s happening, I cannot help being myself. I find myself editing and then ten minutes later; I’m back to Brett. I can’t quite get it to stick for too long.

What would you say has been the biggest creative hurdle you’ve had to overcome to take your art to the next level?

Brett Gray: Hollywood, I had no idea what I was in for when I started. I had these, misconceptions based on the industry. I thought I could take a role and do whatever I needed to while also making music and performing, but Hollywood has taught me that it’s about balancing your endeavours.

What is your FAULT?

Brett Gray: Myself. I have perfectionist syndrome sometimes to the point where I won’t even put things out because I want them to be, something great. My strive for greatness is my biggest personal FAULT because it has a lot to do with expectation. It has a lot to do with acceptance. I find comfort in the fact that I want to be great. It shows that I care about what I do, but it can also be debilitating sometimes to care so much.