Tituss Burgess isn’t afraid to get both intimate and political in his new music.
PEOPLE caught up with the Broadway star ahead of the release of his deeply personal EP Saint Tituss, which he describes as “a bit of an exorcism.”
From single “45” about standing up to President Donald Trump to “The Sun is Out Again,” about his personal struggles with depression, Burgess explores different layers of his identity and self-acceptance on the tracks he wrote, produced and performed on.
“If you air your dirty laundry, then there are no prisons and everywhere is your home,” he tells PEOPLE.
Through the ups and downs of the past couple of years, he created Saint Tituss, his third album after Here’s To You and Comfortable.
“Saints are just sinners who fell down and got back up,” the 40-year-old says about the album’s title, adding that he wanted to allow himself to “look up to me.”
“Let me try and be the me-ist me,” he explains, passionately.
After “45,” which he says he wrote after understanding that the United States is “in a state of emergency,” he sings about accepting his own imperfections on “Learn To Love.” Both tracks feature Hamilton‘s Daniel J. Watts.
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That track was born after a hookup. “The guy asked me about the stretch marks on my body, and kind of chuckled. It struck a nerve with me,” he says about the experience. “Ever since then, the lights have to be off when I’m being intimate.”
On it, he sings, “I gotta learn to stretch toward the mark of seeing me differently. I gotta learn to love me, I got to love. I’ve got to learn to love.”
And while he has become more comfortable in his own skin, he says doing so is still a daily struggle.
“I gotta shake this thing up and learn to be okay with myself, learn to embrace all of my imperfections,” he explains.
Openly gay, Burgess is a four-time Emmy nominee for his role as the lovable and flamboyantly gay Titus Andromeddon on Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
On his album, he also doesn’t shy away from talking about his sexuality.
He says he wrote “Open Letter” for the homophobic people within the black community who “vilify my nature without just cause and without even taking a moment to even have a conversation with me.”
“You turn your backs when we need you most. We kneel with you, but then you ghost. Am I not your brother from the same queen mother?” he sings on the track.
“The song is a letter to the black homophobic community of men who insist that I stand in solidarity with them, as we protest cops who kill black men, but then won’t march with us when it’s time for a gay pride parade,” he adds.
The album ends with the upbeat track “The Sun is Out Again.”
“It’s quite literally about the sun being out in my head. Serotonin,” he says. “It’s about moving through depression and seeing the world in living color, having your taste buds returned, feeling your body being a full human being.”
Along with his musical ventures, Burgess is set to star alongside Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes in Dolemite is My Name later this year.
Saint Tituss is out on Friday.
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