‘Last Man Dancing’: Jake Shears wants you to boogie until bedtime

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

“I love to host a party. That's why I love performing. I love playing shows. I love showing people a good time,” says Jake Shears. Photo by Damon Baker.

Jake Shears rose to prominence in the early 2000s as the co-lead vocalist of the band Scissor Sisters. The band’s big song, “Take Your Mama,” was inspired by his experience coming out as gay to his mother. Scissor Sisters took an indefinite hiatus in 2012, but Shears continues to release music. He made his stage debut in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” in 2018. 

Shears’ second solo album, “Last Man Dancing,” came out in June. It features disco-heavy tracks and big-name artists like Kylie Minogue, Big Freedia, Iggy Pop, and Jane Fonda. 

Shears tells KCRW that the album’s title comes from his own experiences as the last one standing at parties.

“I love to host a party. That's why I love performing. I love playing shows. I love showing people a good time. I love having a good time. So sometimes they want to go to bed. … That's what that [title] song is about — those people that do love to take it as late as you possibly can until you have to go to bed.”

Shears says “Really Big Deal,” the fifth song on “Last Man Dancing,” wasn’t supposed to be on the album because it’s part of a forthcoming musical he’s working on. It follows three teenagers in Clearwater, Florida, who take a road trip to New York City to participate in a teenage drag pageant. 

“It's written in character. It's interesting how sometimes my theatrical side and my pop music sides cross-pollinate with one another,” Shears says. “I feel like there's a lot of different people in me, and a lot of these songs on this record — I counted 10 different characters on my album — they're not all me, even though I'm singing.”

The production marks the second musical Shears has written. The first, written in collaboration with Elton John, is called “Tammy Faye” and is based on the life of American evangelist and TV personality Tammy Faye Messner. The show recently premiered at the Almeida Theatre in London.

“So yes, we've made a musical together, which I still have to pinch myself about,” Shears says. “I'm very proud of it.”

The story behind “Take Your Mama”

Shears came out when he was 17 in Las Vegas during spring break with his parents. 

“I was just irritated. There was nothing really for me to do there as a 17-year-old, and I just wanted to stir the pot a little bit. So I basically came out to my mom while we were doing our hair in the bathroom, getting ready to go see Michael Crawford.”

Then when visiting his parents in Bristol, Virginia, the music and lyrics came to Shears while he was in the shower. 

“Sometimes my best writing actually comes out in the shower because you've got no sort of input. There's nothing there to distract you. And I'll just start singing. And I just started singing. That chorus just came out of my mouth and I jumped out. I had a little tape recorder and I grabbed it and I sang it.”