What kind of a name is Namoli? An idiosyncratic one for sure. Perhaps it's better to call it a queer one. And like most good, queer names, Namoli Brennet came up with it almost by accident.
"Someone asked me, 'How do you describe yourself?'" recalls Brennet, "And I said, 'I don't really know -- I guess I see myself as an anomaly.'" A few spelling twists later, Namoli was born. That was less than three years ago, though she legally changed her name only two months ago.
Brennet is an anomaly in more than just her name, however -- and in more than just her gender. She identifies more as a woman and dresses the part. But for now, she's still officially and legally a biological male. She's too much of a "starving artist" at the moment to think much about expensive gender-reassignment surgery.
She's also a folk-oriented singer-songwriter, but don't expect her to shun pop or electronic instruments, or to stick to one genre.
"I was told I couldn't do that," she says, referring to her inclusion of everything from electro-pop to Mississippi Delta blues to Cajun sounds into her acoustic-guitar-folk music base, "but I think that's what people appreciate about my music. You can hear my influences -- I loved '80s pop and the Beatles growing up, and in music school I got into classical music and then later into jazz.
"I think who I am as a performer is a statement in itself," continues the 34-year-old singer. She doesn't usually write songs that are blatantly political or activist in tone. Instead, she writes lyrics that alternate between romance with a girl ("Emma Lynn") and kissing a boy ("Green Light"), often in an insightful, playful fashion that strays from the norm.
Childhood for Brennet wasn't much more difficult than for most, though she moved around a lot, first in Connecticut and later Toronto. She has a loving, supportive family, and notes that "high school is hard for everyone, especially if you're small, sensitive and smart." She remembers first sensing that she was different from her peers at the age of 10. "Maybe it was the Girl Scout costume at Halloween," she says. About the same time, she read about someone who was transgendered. "It was like a big light bulb went off," she says. "And then I was like, uh-oh. I tried to turn it off." Which she did for nearly twenty years.
Now she uses female pronouns, though she describes herself more than just as an anomaly -- she's "gender variant." She finds the term more appropriate for her than merely transgender (though she uses that, as well). As for her attractions, says Brennet, "I'm primarily attracted to women, but I wouldn't rule out men.
"It's interesting, because I'm a man who identifies as a woman, and [currently] I'm dating a woman who has always considered herself straight but now is involved in what is basically a lesbian relationship."
Brennet, who lives in Tucson, Arizona, is starting to tour regularly, after spending the past three years building her song repertoire. A third album is due out in September. "I'm really excited to be at Pride," she says. "It's really an important year to be in D.C. to support the GLBT community."
Namoli Brennet is scheduled to perform Sunday, June 13, at approximately 4:57 p.m. at the Capital Pride Street Festival Mainstage located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 3rd Street NW. Schedule is subject to change. For more information visit www.capitalpride.org. For more information about Namoli Brennet, visit www.namolibrennet.com.