Tim McGraw, Daughtry, Rita Wilson, Mickey Guyton and more demonstrated their passion for the LGBTQ community at the 5th annual Ty Herndon Concert For Love and Acceptance at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville on Thursday (June 6).

Each artist that participates finds meaning in the cause. For Guyton, it stands for action. As a second time participant, Guyton shared how she feels a kinship with the LGBTQ community, calling the conversation surrounding the event “so important.” “Being an African American woman in country music, I know what it’s like to be different. I know what it’s like to not feel accepted and that’s why I’m here, to show solidarity and show everyone that I’m with you and I love you and I see you,” she expressed to Sounds Like Nashville on the red carpet.

Country music has a long history regarding lack of LGBTQ representation. While artists like Kacey Musgraves, Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and more have been vocal about their support for inclusion, Guyton admits that “a lot of work” needs to done to better incorporate the LGBTQ community into the genre. “I’d be lying if I said that everything is perfect, it’s not. But in order for change to happen there has to be action from across the board…and throwing an event like this is making this a normal thing,” she says.

Billy Gilman echoes this sentiment, adding that country music has a “long way to go” when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion, believing that fans would embrace LGBTQ artists on the radio. “I think the audiences aren’t as abrasive as the men writing the documents,” he observes. “I think if they would let their guard down and try to infiltrate a little of an LGBT artist on radio, I think you’d be surprised at the lack of clapback.”

Gilman came out as gay in 2014 and has made it his mission to be a voice for those who feel suppressed. He’s met and received letters from people who share their stories of abuse and homelessness as a result of coming out. The singer says the Concert For Love and Acceptance gives a voice to those living in remote areas who aren’t always embraced with acceptance. “We need more love, and by coming here, it fuels us all to go out for the rest of the year and push through to all our kids and adults,” he says, describing the event’s mission as “creating a better world.” “Hopefully one day, we realize that we don’t need a Love and Acceptance concert, it’s all equal now. I only pray for that day.”

For Rita Wilson, the event symbolizes support. Wilson had heard about Herndon, whom she calls an “incredible artist,” and the event through a mutual friend and songwriting partner. Wilson has been an advocate for the LGBTQ community through her work with Aid for AIDS, a nonprofit that provides education and access to treatment for individuals who have HIV. “I think in my world of supporting AIDs research and finding a cure for AIDs, that’s been a big part of our involvement in the LGBTQ community. Also, I just feel like we have to do more work and accepting and just realizing that it’s not a choice…You were born that way,” she relates. “I’m a Christian and I still believe that.”

The concert also shone a spotlight on emerging artists Zolita and Jada Cato, the recipients of GLAAD’s Rising Stars Grants. Zolita is a singer-songwriter who’s music and videos highlight femme-on-femme lesbian representation, while Cato is a Birmingham-based singer and theatre actress. Growing up in Alabama, Cato was a fan of 90s country music, introduced to the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain through her sisters. She says it’s a “dream come true” to be a involved in an event that celebrates people she didn’t see represented in country music during her youth.

“When I was 14 waking up every day for high school watching CMT, I would never even dare to see a queer person or hear a queer person, or really even a person of color for that matter, and barely any women. So, it’s been nice to see the progression and be able to be a part of that because it’s hard to go against the grain and do something different but ultimately it’s worth it. It doesn’t really serve you to change your art in a way that isn’t authentic to you,” Cato explains. “I’m so grateful to be a part of something like this, in hopes that someone that is growing up watching CMT now knows that the door’s been opened.”

Similarly, Brandon Stansell grew up in a southern town where he didn’t see himself represented in the genre he admired. A native of Chattanooga, Tenn., Stansell has since moved to Los Angeles to launch his country music career, releasing such songs as “Hometown” that capture the feeling of isolation, but also appreciation for the rural town he was raised in, along with a cover of Musgraves’ “Space Cowboy.” “I’ve loved country music my whole life, but I’ve never seen myself reflected in it. So I think it’s really important that queer people, just like straight people, have the opportunities to write about their experiences in an honest way and be able to put those out and have people hear them,” Stansell shares.

He cites the Concert For Love and Acceptance as an agent of change that provides a platform to tell these stories, uniting LGBTQ artists with their allies in country music. “It’s that one night where we get to shine the big spotlight on the LGBTQ community in a space where not many people see us or know that we even exist, so this is kind of the start of it,” he says. “This is that thing that changes everything.”


See Chely Wright’s ‘Shut Up and Drive’ at Concert for Love and Acceptance

See Chely Wright’s ‘Shut Up and Drive’ at Concert for Love and Acceptance

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.




Country singer, gay rights activist and philanthropist Ty Herndon re-cut earlier hits for forthcoming album Got It Covered, as evidenced by his new music video for “What Mattered Most.”

The 2019 version of Herndon’s chart-topping mainstream arrival from 1995 honors Pride Month by swapping female pronouns for male ones. The singer came out of the closet on Nov. 20, 2014, making him the first openly gay man in mainstream country. Another former OpryLand employee turned ’90s hit-maker, Chely Wright, led the charge by sharing her truth through her 2010 autobiography Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer. In the music video, Wright and other friends watch on as Herndon pours his all into a re-recording that reflects his truth.

Shortly after coming out of the closet, Herndon partnered with GLAAD to debut The Concert for Love and Acceptance. The annual event, held tonight (June 6) at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon, supports at-risk youth.

Another way Herndon makes a difference is through GLAAD’s Ty Herndon Rising Stars Grant, which rewards $2,500 to young people committed to LGBTQ inclusion and representation through music. In addition, Herndon donates his time to such worthy organizations as the Trevor Project, Make A Wish, St. Jude, GLAAD, HRC and Feed the Children.

Got It Covered, a collection of re-recordings from Herndon’s career and covers of his favorite songs, arrives Aug. 23 through BFE/The Orchard.


CMA Music Festival 2018: 30 Best Things We Saw

CMA Music Festival 2018: 30 Best Things We Saw

Best Inclusivity: Concert for Love and Acceptance
Out country star Ty Herndon and openly gay CMT host Cody Alan presided over the GLAAD-sponsored Love & Acceptance Concert at the Wildhorse Saloon, now in its third year. Yet, while the event had its share of LGBT representation – including British pop-soul singer Calum Scott, country-blues belter Shelly Fairchild and country newcomers Brandon Stansell and Parson James – there were also profound messages of solidarity and inclusiveness in performances from Cam, Thompson Square, Cale Dodds, Cassadee Pope and Michael Ray, as well as country veterans Tanya Tucker, Terri Clark and Billy Dean. As surprise guest Vince Gill – a country-music statesman if ever there was one – told the crowd, “As a young child I heard the words that we were all created equal. I believed that as a little boy and I believe that as a grown man.” S.B.

Best Welcome Presence: GLAAD
There are always plenty of non-profit organizations with footprints at CMA Fest, but seeing such a widespread presence from GLAAD was especially heartening, particularly at the beginning of Pride Month. GLAAD, which stands for Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, had volunteers offering information, registering voters, and collecting donations throughout the festival grounds, with strong support from social media. The organization’s third Concert for Love and Acceptance, put on in conjunction with Ty Herndon and held at Wildhorse Saloon, was a sold-out event and featured a surprise appearance from Vince Gill. B.M. 


Cam, Vince Gill & More Perform at Concert for Love & Acceptance

Cam, Vince Gill & More Perform at Concert for Love & Acceptance

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.


GLAAD and country star Ty Herndon set to bring third Concert for Love & Acceptance to Nashville this June in partnership with CMT

GLAAD and country star Ty Herndon set to bring third Concert for Love & Acceptance to Nashville this June in partnership with CMT

Music legends and newcomers from across genres will take the stage at LGBTQ-affirming concert taking place during CMA Fest

New York, Tuesday March 27, 2018 – GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, today announced the 2018 Concert for Love and Acceptance set for June 7 at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville. The show, taking place the night after the “2018 CMT Music Awards,” and on the opening night of CMA Fest, will feature a coalition of artists and celebrities appearing and performing to accelerate acceptance for the LGBTQ community. Ty Herndon and CMT’s Cody Alan will host, and the event will feature performances by Herndon, as well as Terri Clark, Cassadee Pope, Michael Ray, Calum Scott, Brandon Stansell, and more. Additional appearances and performances to be announced. CMT will return as the event’s media sponsor and will amplify the event and line-up across its radio and social platforms. Additional support for the event is provided by Nissan.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit:

“Music has the power to uplift, empower, and change hearts and minds across the country,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO. “GLAAD is honored to present the third Concert for Love and Acceptance to help drive forward acceptance with an amazing lineup of talent and messages of support for the LGBTQ community.”

“We’re proud to once again lock arms with our friends at GLAAD to lend our voice and support to an event that champions love and acceptance through the power of music,” said Frank Tanki, General Manager of CMT and TV Land.

The inaugural Concert for Love and Acceptance was held in 2015 to kick off GLAAD’s Southern Stories Tour and the second iteration was held in 2017. The event has been supported by artists like Reba McEntire, with a lineup of performances has included Chris Carmack, Crystal Gayle, Billy Gilman, Dana Goldberg, Kree Harrison, Mickey Guyton, Levi Hummon, Runaway June, Ryan Kinder, Meghan Lindsey, Street Corner Symphony, Thompson Square, and Trent Harmon. GLAAD’s Southern Stories initiative tells the stories of LGBTQ people and their allies in the South to create a cultural shift towards LGBTQ acceptance and understanding in the region.

“I’m thrilled to partner with GLAAD once again for this show that has broken so much new ground and started so many important conversations over the past three years ,” said Herndon. “Letting our LGBTQ friends, family, and neighbors know they are accepted and loved just as they are isn’t just making the world a better place – it’s literally saving lives – and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

In recent years, country music has become a more affirming environment for the LGBTQ community with chart toppers like Luke Bryan and “Most People are Good” following in the footsteps of Garth Brooks, Kasey Mugraves, and The Dixie Chicks sharing inclusive messages through their lyrics. Furthermore, CMT host Cody Alan came out publicly in late 2016 in People Magazine with the help of GLAAD and received an outpouring of support and love from the country music community and his fans. Stars like Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith, and Dierks Bentley all voiced their support on social media. Ty Herndon, a Grammy nominated and Dove Award winning artist with album sales of more than 4 million, was the first major male country music star to come out, when he shared his story with the world in 2014.

“As we fight attempts to roll back equality and compromise the ground we have gained for acceptance, it is important for our community to continue to tell our stories and for allies to stand up and be counted,” said Ellis.

The 2018 Concert for Love and Acceptance occurs during the legendary CMA Music Festival, running from June 7-10 in Nashville.

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