Ty Herndon, “What Mattered Most”
An updated version of a 24-year-old song, Ty Herndon’s reimagined “What Matters Most” changes the pronouns from the singer’s career-launching 1995 hit. The result is an open-minded ballad that makes no attempt to hide Herndon’s sexual orientation. “His eyes are blue, his hair is long,” sings the crooner, who came out publicly in 2014.
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Singer-songwriter and activist makes her first appearance at growing and diverse annual event hosted by Ty Herndon.
Singer-songwriter and activist Chely Wright made her first appearance at the Concert for Love and Acceptance on Thursday night, performing a pair of her hits as the event celebrated its fifth year.
One of those was “Shut Up and Drive,” a 1997 hit for Wright that got a huge cheer from the crowd. Leaving the original pronouns intact, Wright gave a soulful, emotive performance of the tune, which was written by Rivers Rutherford, Sam Tate and Annie Tate and included on Wright’s album Let Me In.
But Wright’s presence at the event was significant for a second reason. Host Ty Herndon, who helped organize the event with GLAAD a few years ago, remarked on how Wright had smashed through all the barriers when she came out of the closet nine years ago. Herndon, who recently re-recorded his song “What Mattered Most” with pronouns updated to reflect his experiences as a gay man, referred to Wright as a “coach” when he made the decision to publicly come out.
So it was a full-circle moment for the event, which has offered an affirming and inclusive environment in the middle of downtown Nashville during CMA Fest for the past five years. People visiting Nashville for the weekend (and the Fest) even attend this event specifically, enjoying the music alongside members of Nashville’s LGBTQ community.
Wright’s appearance at the Concert for Love and Acceptance is also indicative of its growth and diversification over that five-year stretch. This year’s lineup included Billy Gillman, Brandon Stansell, Daughtry, Harper Grae, Lee Brice, Mickey Guyton, Tayla Lynn, Tyler Rich, Brody Ray and a surprise appearance by Gavin DeGraw. Men and women, Queer performers and allies, established and rising performers, all present to offer support — it’s a small glimpse of the diversity of country fans, along with the potential it has to be a welcoming place for all.
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Love filled the room Thursday (June 7) at GLAAD and Ty Herndon’s Concert for Love & Acceptance.
CMT’s Cody Alan hosted the event, which saw performances by Ty, Tanya Tucker, Terri Clark, Billy Dean, Michael Ray, Cam, Cale Dodds and Britain’s Got Talent 2015 contestant Calum Scott at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon.
Vince Gill also surprised the sold-out crowd and revealed why it was important for him to attend.
“As a young child I always heard the words that we are all created equal,” Vince said. “I believed that as a little boy and I believe that as a grown man.”
Also on the lineup were Anita Cochran, Temecula Road, Thompson Square, Shelly Fairchild, Cassadee Pope, Brandon Stansell, newcomer Parson James and WWE Superstars Lana and Sonya.
During the concert, GLAAD announced a $2500 grant for young LGBTQ musicians called the Ty Herndon Rising Stars Grant, which is eligible to LGBTQ young people who are working to accelerate acceptance in the music industry.
Partners at the 2018 Concert for Love Acceptance included CMT, Ketel One Vodka, Nissan Mary Frances Rudy from Rudy Title & Escrow and Wade Weissmann Architecture.
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House on Fire is Ty Herndon’s eighth career studio album. As I listened to the album for the first time, it was like meeting up with an old friend and listening as he told me about his life experiences. He always was able to convey a lot of feeling with his compelling lyrics and charismatic voice. As I listened to his new album, I was reminded of another time, in another place.
It was during an interview back in 2004, I asked him if he could change anything in the music business, what would it be? His instantaneous reply was, “That everyone would be heard.” The compassion in his voice, and the determination on his face as he responded, lead me to believe he wasn’t only talking about music. He was a man on a mission, one soulful voice, hoping to make a difference in the world and considering his previous tenacity and resolve, I predicted he would succeed. Judging by the things we know about him now, and after listening to his newest album, I’m thinking I may have missed my calling as a pschyic.
The album, co-produced by Herndon and Erik Halbig, with Drew Davis as co-producer on six of the songs, gives a voice to Herndon’s wish that “everyone would be heard”. He takes full advantage of his powerful and marvelous voice to deliver lyrics that are destined to be meaningful to everyone who hears them. How is he able to deliver so much reality and passion via a song? The answer is simple, “If I haven’t lived it, I haven’t sung it,” he says.
Herndon addresses that feeling of brokenness on the title track, House on Fire, his first release since publicly coming out in late 2014. “I still replay those words / Only ten years old and hate is what I heard from that loving church / and there’s no salvation on the road you’re taking / and a kid like you ain’t worth saving,” he sings. “It took me two days to write that song because I kept getting so emotional that I had to walk out of the room,” he recalls. “Halfway through the process, my co-writers were feeling it too. I knew at that moment that I was not only writing my story, but I was writing a lot of people’s stories with these songs. All the pressure I’d felt just flew out the window at that point because I knew that my truth was a lot of people’s’ truth.”
“Stick With What I Know” is a stand out track for me. His voice on this track is the one that first caught my attention all those years ago and this song is one of those melodious tunes with simple lyrics that encourages you to sing along. Yep! I’ll “Stick With What I Know”.
Another stand out track for me is “Fighter”.
Between 1995 and 2002, Herndon charted seventeen singles, including his three No.1s and numerous top ten hits. He topped the charts again in 1996 with the single “Living in a Moment” and again in 1998 with “It Must Be Love.” In 2010, Herndon released the album, Journey On. It was his first venture into songwriting and not only did he receive a lot of critical acclaim, he earned a Grammy nomination and his first Dove award.
Longtime fans will love the new album. His dramatic vocals and heartfelt lyrics are what took his debut single, “What Mattered Most,” to number one and that same genuine passion for life and love is discernible on each of the twelve tracks. He told Rolling Stone, “I’m a country artist. And I’m a country artist who happens to be gay and some days I feel like I’m walking very thin line with it,” he says. “But I’m just trying to stay true to who I am and the music I’m making.”
Well Mr. Herndon, I was smitten by your incredible voice back in 1996 and I still am. I think I’m like the majority of your fans. We get it. We get you. And we are comforted by your voice, your lyrics, your music, your songs, because you are singing our lives.
“I want anybody, from any walk of life, to hear this record and put their own stories into it while still hearing mine.” Ty Herndon
REVIEW BY: NutsAboutCountry.com
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It’s been a memorable two years for country singer Ty Herndon. He has joined only a handful of country artists who have been brave enough to publicly come out as gay — a secret he hid through the height of his career in the early and mid-1990s. He also hit No. 1 with his debut single, “What Mattered Most,” and charted over a dozen songs during that decade. Eventually, he disappeared from the airwaves and battled with some personal issues that landed him in drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Now, with his past behind him and his own personal truth in the open, Herndon has crafted an album that truly signals his return to country music.
House on Fire is Herndon’s eighth career studio album, which reclaims the magic that was sprinkled throughout his first three records. Overall, the project has a more polished and obvious Top 40 production behind it. That isn’t a complaint, though. Herndon’s pure yet twangy voice has always been the main element that has infused the country sound into every song.
From the first note of opening track “That Kind of Night,” listeners are taken through an uplifting and purely joyful mix of love songs, biting anthems and unapologetic goodbyes. It’s one of his strongest collections of records since 1998’s Big Hopes, which produced three Top 5 tracks.
Of course, country music has changed a lot since 1998 — and so has Herndon. But the themes ingrained in these songs are likely to connect just as strongly with country fans as his earlier works. That’s likely in part a result of Herndon’s efforts to shy away from specifically referencing males or females in the songs. Although he happens to be a gay man, Herndon’s music is for everyone.
“What’s different about this record is that it’s gender-free,” Herndon told Wide Open Country earlier this year. “If you’re a diehard country fan who’s married woman with nine kids in Des Moines, or if you’re an LGBT person in Chicago, you’re going to hear your life in this record.”
Instead of focusing on gender, Herndon chooses to dial into the situations we’ve all been in. From the rush and fear of taking the next step in “Just Friends,” to the satisfaction of telling off an awful ex in “If You,” Herndon becomes the narrator of our lives.
It’s hard to pinpoint a handful of standout tracks, because like any great album, this one is meant to be heard all the way through.
by Lorie Liebig for Wide Open Country
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