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.

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TY HERNDON RETOOLS CAREER-LAUNCHING HIT, ‘WHAT MATTERED MOST,’ FOR NEW ALBUM

TY HERNDON RETOOLS CAREER-LAUNCHING HIT, ‘WHAT MATTERED MOST,’ FOR NEW ALBUM

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.

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Country music singer re-releasing love song using male pronouns for Pride Month

Country music singer re-releasing love song using male pronouns for Pride Month

A country music star is re-releasing a song updated with male pronouns to honor his identity as a gay man during Pride Month, NPR reports.

Country music singer Ty Herndon released the hit love song “What Mattered Most” in 1995. On the track, Herndon sings lyrics like “If she was sad, I couldn’t tell” and “I thought I knew the girl so well.” In the new release, Herndon swapped the female pronouns for male ones, singing “”His eyes are blue / His hair is long.”

Herndon, who came out as gay in 2014, said the new version is more reflective of his life and personal experiences. He said he used to perform the original song thinking of his mother and father’s “great love story,” according to NPR.

“I’ve sat down and listened to both of them carefully, and I can tell you: There was the kid singing the other song,” Herndon said. “There was the grown-up man that was a lot more emotional and living in his authentic skin singing this song.”

“That’s how I made it a living, breathing thing for me when I would perform it,” Herndon continued. “But at the time, I was also in a relationship with a beautiful boy. His hair was long and his eyes were blue. So, I did think about him quite a bit.”

Herndon said he feared that his sexuality would mean having to leave country music, but said he was surprised by the support from friends and family in Nashville.

“I was really prepared to walk away from it all, but I didn’t have to do that,” Herndon told NPR.

He added that this re-release is part of the responsibility he feels to show LGBT youth that they “don’t have to be afraid.”

“It starts with me,” he said. “It starts with artists that have been there.”

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Ty Herndon Releases New Version of His 1995 Breakthrough Country Hit — with New Pronouns

Ty Herndon Releases New Version of His 1995 Breakthrough Country Hit — with New Pronouns

After coming out as gay in 2014, country singer Ty Herndon is re-releasing his 1995 hit song “What Mattered Most”

It’s been 25 years since Ty Herndon released the song “What Mattered Most” about losing the love of his life — a blue-eyed girl from Baton Rouge. At the time, the country star was in a loving (but closeted) relationship with a man.

The 57-year-old, who came out as gay in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE in 2014, is in a much different place these days. On Tuesday, Herndon is re-releasing the hit single that launched his country music career. This time, the alternative version (premiering below with a new music video) features lyrics that accurately reflect who he is on the inside. It also marks the first single off his new album, Got It Covered, dropping Aug. 23.

“In the [original] I say the word “she” or “her” something like 36 times,” Herndon tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I’m doing this song 25 years later the way I wish I could’ve recorded it back then.”

The Nashville-based artist says he was a bit apprehensive about revisiting the now-classic song (which topped country charts in 1995) — if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? But after years of counseling LGBTQ youth, Herndon knows there are kids who desperately need to hear their sexuality represented in a country song.

“So many of them say, ‘We want to like country music but we’re afraid to like it because we feel like country music doesn’t like us,’” Herndon says. “I wanted to do something to show these kids that country is changing and that Nashville is a safe place for them.”

The “Living in a Moment” singer says he was full of mixed emotions while filming the new music video. “I kind of shoot from the hip and I write from where I’m at in my life. But this isn’t today,” he says. “This is going back 25 years. A lot of my story started with this song. We kept having to stop filming because I would get so emotional. I was having a day of reflection and celebration. There is some heartbreak in it but there’s also a lot of joy in the fact that I’m able to give that song new life for something way bigger than myself.”

Herndon feels at peace with whatever response may come from the re-release. As the first male country singer to come out as gay, he says he’s developed a thick skin when it comes to the public’s opinion.

In addition, Nashville isn’t the restricted scene it once was. Herndon says the country music genre is making great strides towards acceptance. The latest star to come out of Nashville, Kacey Musgraves, proved this when she won several CMA awards for her record “Follow Your Arrow,” which supports the LGBTQ community.

Still, there’s work to be done and Herndon knows he’s “in the middle of a tug of war with the community about LGBT issues.”

“I really hope that a 14-year-old kid who looks just like me, sitting in front of his TV watching the CMT Awards or the CMA Awards, who wants to come to Nashville but is scared to death, sees this video,” he says. “I know I can drive 50 miles south and there are kids on the street who are trying to work their way to Nashville because they’ve been kicked out of their homes and churches.”

Herndon adds, “I’m in the business of saving lives. I can say that because I certainly almost took mine a few times.”

In a 2017 episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now? the singer opened up about his troubled past, including multiple divorces and drug and alcohol dependency.

“I look back on everything now, and the drugs, I consider them to have been my medicine,” Herndon said in the OWN special. “At the time, it was the only thing that would numb me out, that I wouldn’t have to feel the hell that I was feeling in my spirit. The bottom for me, during that time, was not wanting to live anymore. I’d lost my faith. Every relationship I touched crumbled.”

In the early 2000s, Herndon divorced his second wife and began to spiral before finally entering rehab for the second time. Today, he’s sober and happy with longtime partner Matthew Collum.

“Matt and I just celebrated our ninth anniversary,” Herndon says. “I told my agent, ‘When you stop booking me for so many shows a year, maybe I’ll have time to get married!’ It’s definitely going to happen.”

In addition to releasing his song, Herndon will present and co-host the Concert for Love and Acceptance with CMT’s Cody Alan in partnership with GLAAD on Thursday evening in Nashville.

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Country’s Ty Herndon Rerecords One Of His Biggest Hits To Reflect His Truth As A Gay Man

Country’s Ty Herndon Rerecords One Of His Biggest Hits To Reflect His Truth As A Gay Man

The singer-songwriter, who came out in 2014, wants fans to hear “What Mattered Most” the way he wishes he could’ve recorded it originally.

Country singer-songwriter Ty Herndon is kicking off LGBTQ Pride Month by giving one of his most beloved hits a fresh, forward-thinking shine.

HuffPost got an exclusive first look at the music video for “What Mattered Most,” viewed above. The new version boasts a contemporary arrangement of the haunting melody introduced in Herndon’s original. This time, however, he’s replaced all of the female pronouns with their male equivalent, in an effort to reflect his life as a gay man.

The Alabama-raised artist, 57, told HuffPost he wanted to show LGBTQ youth that “Nashville and the country community have come a long way” by revamping the ballad, which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s country songs chart in February 1995.

“I can’t tell you how many times I hear them say, ‘We want to like country music ― we just don’t think it likes us,’” he said. “I was diffidently looking for a way to celebrate the song’s birthday. So this seemed like the perfect idea.”

For fans, the new version of “What Mattered Most” is the first taste of Herndon’s forthcoming album, “Got It Covered.” Slated for an Aug. 23 release, the album is the singer-songwriter’s first since 2016’s “House On Fire,” and his second since publicly opening up about his sexuality in 2014.

Though Herndon acknowledges that “there is still a lot of truth” to the perception of country music as traditionally conservative, his influence can be felt across a growing number of performers and personalities within the genre. In 2017, Country Music Television (CMT) personality Cody Alan came out as gay on his social media channels, telling fans he felt “happier and healthier than I’ve ever been.”

Last fall, singer-songwriter Brandon Stansell (with whom Herndon has performed in the past) recalled his own coming out experience in the video for “Hometown,” the first of his singles to receive CMT airplay. And in March, independent artist Cameron Hawthorn scored a viral hit with the video for his song, “Dancing in the Living Room,” in which he canoodled lovingly with a boyfriend.

Calling himself “somewhat of a counselor to the community,” Herndon credits stars like Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris, as well as legends like Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire ― all of whom court sizable LGBTQ fan bases ― with “helping to change things pretty rapidly.”

As for the new version of “What Mattered Most,” he hopes it will appeal to both fans who have been following his work since the original as well as new audiences who may not have heard the song before. The song will be a part of his set Thursday when he takes the stage at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon for the Concert for Love and Acceptance, an annual event he’s co-hosted with GLAAD since 2015.

Whether listeners approach the song as a newbie or with knowledge of the 25-year journey that inspired the redux, Herndon is just happy it will now be heard “with the emotion and story that I intended.”

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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: http://www.glaad.org/nashville

“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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