Compared to other genres, many believe that country as a whole has stayed in a generally conservative stance in most political and social realms. However, in recent years that strong stance and social stereotype has started to crumble. Chely Wright‘s choice to go public with her sexual orientation in 2010 opened up a discussion about the topic in a way that had never been seen in the industry before. Since then, many other musicians have chosen to be open about their sexuality, which would likely not have happened without Wright’s decision to come out publicly.
Read on to find out more about which country artists are openly gay and how they’ve dealt with it while creating a career in country music.
In the late 1990’s, Chely Wright was on top of the country charts. Her career continued to blossom into the 2000’s, when she began a high-profile relationship with Brad Paisley. In 2010, Wright publicly came out in an interview with People Magazine. Later that year, she released a memoir, Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer, that shared in detail her experience of dealing with her sexuality while in the music industry.
In her book, Wright confessed to feeling regret about her relationship with Paisley, saying she had “no business” being with him romantically. Wright married her partner, LGBT advocate Lauren Blitzer, in 2011 and the couple gave birth to twin boys in 2013.
In 1995, Ty Herndon burst onto the country scene with his number one debut single, “What Mattered Most.” This was the start of a stream of hits over the latter half of the 1990’s for the artist whose dark and handsome good looks combined with blistering vocals made him a huge hit with female country fans.
Herndon chose People Magazine as his outlet to come out publicly as a gay man in 2014. In the revealing interview, Herndon described his difficulties with hiding his orientation while launching his career in country music.
At the age of only 11, Billy Gilman made his debut on the country charts with the heartfelt hit single, “One Voice.” His first album drew critical acclaim and accolades including a Grammy nomination.
Only five hours after Ty Herndon publicly revealed his sexuality, Gilman posted a video on his YouTube channel that revealed that he also was a gay man. The candid video drew in thousands of views in only a few hours and helped to drive more discussion on the impact of sexual orientations in country music.
Even if you don’t know him by name, you’ve definitely heard at least one of his songs. Shane McAnally is one of the most influential songwriters in Nashville currently and has co-written some of country’s biggest hits. He’s won multiple Grammy Awards and also recently won the coveted title of Songwriter of the Year at the 2014 Academy of Country Music Awards.
McAnally has been openly gay throughout his long career in the music industry, and has been married to his partner Michael Baum for three years. The couple are parents to a set of two-year-old twins named Dylan and Dash.
Brandy Clark is a multi-talented singer-songwriter who seems to be at the top of her game right now. Her latest album, 2013’s 12 Stories, has been celebrated by critics for its catchy hooks and superb lyrical storytelling. Clark is also close friends and co-writers with Shane McAnally, and the two have penned hit songs for Reba McEntire, LeAnn Rimes, Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves. When Musgraves’ modern anthem “Follow Your Arrow” won a CMA Award, many saw it as a big step forward in a positive relationship between the LGBT community and the country music industry.