In June 2020, Country Music had not signed any open LGBTQ + artists to the major Nashville record labels. By June 2021, country music had three openly LGBTQ + that doted the list of major record labels. Brooke Eden went public on social media with longtime partner Hilary Hoover in late 2020, and Lily Rose signed a joint deal with Big Loud Records in January 2021 in a joint deal with Back Blocks Music and Republic, in part due to her fast-paced love song “Green Light,” which directly was sung to another woman. Then the CMA award winner TJ Osborne from the country duo Brothers Osborne came out as gay in a feature in February 2021 in time.
As a result of that modest but groundbreaking surge in queer music, this year’s Pride month was arguably the most queer in country music history. How the moderator of Proud Radio, an LGBTQ + focused show about Apple Music Land, I’ve had a front row seat in all of this advances, but Pride Month also highlighted the work that still needs to be done when it comes to country music and the queer community.
First, let’s look at the progress.
Opry member Trisha Yearwood teamed up with country artist Brooke Eden on the Grand Ole Opry, country music’s longest-running radio show to Yearwood’s signature hit “She’s in Love With the Boy,“As” She is in love with the girl “.
The pronoun change was a nod to Brooke’s long-term relationship with her now fiancé Hilary Hoover, who starred in the romantic videos for her latest singles alongside Eden. “Sunroof” and “Don’t have a choice.” The couple engaged in May 2020, and Eden emerged as a strong LGBTQ + voice in 2021.
Country pop newcomer Lily Rose continued her hot streak in June, releasing a queer version of the song written by Sam Hunt “Reminds me of you,” which followed her viral hits “Villain” and “Overnight Sensation”. Rose has a gritty voice that adds to the bragging rights in her musical style. As a guest Proud radio in June, Rose told me that she often hears from aspiring queer artists who find hope in their early success.
you said“I have musicians and artists from all over the country who slide into my DMs and say, ‘We want to move to Nashville to pursue the dream, but we’re scared.’ I say, ‘Come on.’ You will feel the warmth. Yes, we still have a lot to do, we are all trying to change this game. ‘”
And then you have the TJ Osborne from Brothers Osborne. An established headliner with several No. 1 hits under his belt, Osborne is the most prominent country artist to date to reveal his queerness, and his journey of self-acceptance was an inspiration to watch. Originally, Osborne only wanted to talk about being gay once a year time items and then go on living normally, but the author of this article urged him not to belittle his weirdness. After hearing about other queer people who had been ostracized from country music for decades, Osborne began to lose the reflex of controlling his words and actions in order to remove telltale signs of his sexuality. In June, he spoke openly about this development and even shared thoughts on gay sex in a profile in esquire.
“I have‘I don’t think I am‘I would love to talk about being gay, ”said Osborne. “And when I got out there was just that calling. I would not‘don’t even name an obligation. It just felt like an intention. Sometimes it is now‘it is difficult Not talk about.”
The queer conversation also found its way into a new track by the Osborne Brothers entitled “Younger Me”, a chronicle of the fear that Osborne felt as a child with his queerness.
The black and white video for the song made a bold and graceful statement as Osborne and his brother / duo partner John Osborne performed “Younger Me” on the steps of the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. The clip also includes footage of people affected by the anti-LGBTQ + and racist legislation passed by the Tennessee State Legislature in this building this year.
Osborne himself was rejected by that legislature when The legislature refused to pass a resolution recognizing his achievement as the first openly gay artist to sign with a major label in Nashville. It was attention Osborne never sought for himself, but the way Brothers Osborne reached the legislature who killed the resolution on Twitter and then did the “Younger Me” video are both fine examples of how we did In the LGBTQ + community, being able to stand up for ourselves with dignity and at the same time expand the chance for change for those who do not accept us straight away.
This Pride month also highlighted some things country music needs to work on, starting with the fact that every queer artist I’ve mentioned so far is cisgender and white. But judging the genre by the artists signed to major labels alone means missing out on a bigger story that happens at the intersection of queerness, race and country music. There you will find the groundbreaking work of the black, queer artist Amythyst Kiah, who just made their Grand Ole Opry debut on June 29th. Inspired by her work with Black female collective Our Native Daughters, Kiah leans on her story like never before with her soul-baring new album, Careful + strange. The standout track “Black Myself,” in which Kiah courageously addresses her race and sexuality, even received a Grammy nomination.
in the her last interview on PROUD radio, Kiah admits that she was initially afraid of alienating certain sections of the country / Americana audience with songs like “Black Myself”. These fears turned out to be unfounded.
She says, “Over time, every time I’ve opened up about myself, be it my sexuality or even the way I present myself – whatever I’m losing, I don’t even notice it – because more and more people are feeling like Americana and the country really speaks to them. You will be able to overcome the stereotype and divide that the commercial music industry has created … queer and POC [are now] Seeing Country and Americana as legitimate forms of expression. ”
Amythyst Kiah is not alone in this area. D’orjay The singing shaman, Allison Russell, Delila Black, and Luisa Lopez are just a few of the other black, queer artists moving outside the major label system in country and Americana music, along with major trans and non-binary artists Izzy Heltai, Ryan Cassata, Mya Byrne, Brody Ray, Rae Spoon, Adeem the Artist and Semler. And that’s nowhere near an exhaustive list of this vibrant, eclectic, and talented musical community.
As my friend and another Apple Music radio host and artist Rissi Palmer recently tweeted“If you get to the bottom of some of our beliefs, you will find that SO much has been brought in to keep us in our respective places …”
Community is the antidote to the fear that artists will lose everything if they say something and upset anyone in the country fan base. Faced with this fear, we should continue to wonder why we were content to see our stories not featured in country music for so long, and then continue to take steps to challenge those outdated narratives that have separated and silenced us .
There‘s real power to team up with all marginalized voices working for change in country music. You see that with Mickey Guyton joining in the line-up for Miley Cyrus’ Pride Month concert special “Stand By You” together with Little Big Town, Maren Morris, Orville Peck and of course Brothers Osborne.
When I look at all of this on social media, I know that we are fighting for a common cause. The voices that tell Mickey Guyton and Kane Brown to minimize their blackness, to blend in with country music, the same voices tell queer artists like TJ Osborne and Brooke Eden not to lead with their queerness.
I’ve also seen how the struggles for racial and LGBTQ + equality in country music have inspired one another. Eventually, Brooke Eden got a big boost to come out and live authentically after seeing her friend Mickey Guyton own her story with “Black Like Me” and “What Are You Going to Tell Her”. While her appearance on PROUD radio, Eden remembered the night Guyton first came to her house and played these songs for her before they were made available to the public.
“I‘I’m just sitting there speechless, ”Eden says. “To like, ‘Mickey you‘you’re finally saying all the things that you‘I’ve felt for so long. ‘ Mickey‘s like, ‘As a black woman I have to raise my voice and you as a queer woman have to raise your voice. ‘”
As we move forward, the country music fans who are pushing against acceptance will either change or not. But when they see queer artists performing at country award shows, on their streaming playlists, on the Grand Ole Opry stage, and on their festival lineups, country fans will get the message that the world is changing. You may wonder why they are among the few who are not on board. And if they don’t come by, they were never our audience anyway. It’s time to let go of them and focus on the audience ready to hear LGBTQ + voices.