Q&A: YouTube Icon and Gay Pop Star Sam Tsui
The YouTube sensation discusses his marriage to fellow crooner Casey Breves and their joyful musical wedding video that’s been watched by millions.
One of the first singers catapulted into worldwide fame by YouTube, Sam Tsui enjoys a staggering following on the web—his 2010 cover duet with Christina Grimmie of Nelly’s “Just a Dream” has been viewed more than 139 million times, and nearly 2.8 million subscribers are part of his devoted “Samily.” In April last year, the openly gay pop star married fellow YouTube crooner (and college sweetheart) Casey Breves. Fittingly, they wrote a song about their union and created a video featuring footage from their beautiful ceremony. The result, “This Promise,” has received some 2.4 million views.
LWC How did you two meet?
ST Singing together in college. As a freshman at Yale, I rushed and got into the Duke’s Men [the university’s famed a cappella group], of which Casey, a junior, was the star soloist. I had a big crush on him.
LWC How long did you date before one of you proposed?
ST About six years. We spent the first several years of our relationship finishing school and starting our music careers. Casey moved to San Francisco to sing with the group Chanticleer, and I moved to LA to focus on creating digital content. We’d always planned on getting married, but we knew it wouldn’t be right away.
LWC Can you tell us how the proposal happened?
ST Casey proposed to me in New Haven, in the apartment where we had our first kiss. He managed to borrow the keys from the current tenants and set up an elaborate ruse to get me there. It was magical!
LWC Why did you decide to marry in Los Angeles?
ST It’s where we both now live. Much of our family is on the East Coast, and I also have family in Hong Kong, so it also made sense as a middle point. Our venue, Carondelet House, is gorgeous and perfectly fit our industrial-chic aesthetic, with just the right amount of character and quirk.
LWC Did the idea for “This Promise” come before the wedding?
ST We always had the idea in the back of our minds, but as anyone who’s planned a wedding knows, there was way too much going on in the days leading up to think much about it. Once all the dust settled, we wrote “This Promise,” incorporating a lot of the ideas from our vows—which we’d each written privately and shared on the day itself.
LWC The ceremony appeared to have a Chinese element. can you describe that?
ST A lot of my relatives made the long trip across the Pacific to attend. We incorporated a traditional tea ceremony into the day, in which the new couple pours tea for elder family members. In accepting the tea, the recipients symbolically welcome the new member—in this case, Casey—into the family.
LWC Were you already out when you posted “This Promise”?
ST I’d come out to my online followers in a video just before the wedding. I’d never actively hidden my personal life and relationship—it just never seemed super relevant. But it felt great finally to share that part of my life with fans, and their response was pretty overwhelmingly positive.
LWC you were one of the first YouTube singers to strike it big. When did that start?
ST In college, around 2009. I started posting cover and mashup music videos with my friend Kurt Schneider. It’s been an incredible journey, and it’s felt so special to bring the fans with me along the way. One of the greatest things about my relationship with Casey is that we’ve been a part of so much of each other’s growth. It’s really special!
LWC What are you working on now?
ST We’re always creating new videos for my channel, but I’m most excited about an EP I’ll be releasing this summer with original material I’ve been working on with some very talented producers. I’ll be touring in the fall. And Casey’s currently writing songs for an upcoming album.
Also be sure to read our interview with marriage rights activist and Prop 8 co-defeater Kris Perry, which appeared in our previous issue of Love Wins California.
Featured image and all additional photographs courtesy of Sam Tsui