BWW Review: TY HERNDON Gives Life at Joe’s Pub

BWW Review: TY HERNDON Gives Life at Joe’s Pub

The stage at Joe’s Pub was bare, except for three mic stands. As the lights dimmed, a nearly full house adjusted their seats to prepare for something special: 90 minutes of country music. Wait. Country music… in New York City? At Joe’s Pub nightclub? This isn’t something that happens every day of the week. Is there a market for country music in New York’s nightclub and cabaret scene? Judging by the crowd at Joe’s Pub on August 31st, there is. Or maybe there is just a market for Ty Herndon because this writer has been anxiously awaiting the chance to see the country star live, for several weeks, and apparently so have a lot of other people. Finally, happily, the announcer came over the loudspeaker with a warm welcome for Grammy award nominee Ty Herndon.

An unassuming and handsome man stepped through the curtain and up onto the stage. Dressed simply in blue jeans and a henley, he walked to the center mic stand and stood. He looked at the mic stand. He looked at us. He looked at the mic stand. He looked at us. He pointed to the mic stand. There was no microphone. He looked at the other two mic stands onstage. There were no microphones. Bemusedly, he said “We’ll do that all over again!” and darted offstage, at which point a tech sheepishly ran out with three mics and set them up while a laughing crowd applauded. The Joe’s Pub announcer, again, gave a warm welcome to Grammy award nominee Ty Hendon.

And the show was on.

In a gutsy move some singers would avoid, Herndon started the evening acapella, his two guitarists joining him after a couple of minutes, filling Joe’s Pubwith a classic country singing voice, bold, resonant, the kind of voice that makes you smile, but you really want to cry, such is the emotional trip it takes you on. Out of the gate, he had his audience right where they wanted to be: gazing lovingly at this man who has, for years, moved them with his acts of musical marvel. Looking around the room, all night long, a club full of urban cowboys, middle-aged good-old-boys, Ladies both Southern and Northern, gay men and new fans could be seen either beaming at the charmer or singing along (not mouthing away, singing right out loud), happy, content, satisfied. It was a sight to behold, one that bears witness to the fact that Ty Herndon has still got it.

Mr. Herndon is a funny dude. Laidback and unpretentious, he has nothing to hide, so he opted for humble honesty throughout the night, confessing he had, for days, been in bed with a high fever but, desperate to not miss his Joe’s Pubgig, he chose to perform anyway – and that high fever touched not a note in his head, for Herndon was in prime voice, even stopping once or twice to say he could do that better, and then he DID do it better (once, after three glorious tries). The man’s range is astonishing and the power with which he howls high notes for periods of time that would make a wolf nervous is positively eye-popping. Whether singing the songs that made him famous (and always thanking the fans for making it number one, two or five on the charts), tunes from his new cd “Got it Covered”, or the ones that paid off (“This song bought me a barn”) Mr. Herndon gave his all to the appreciative crowd that had no qualms about getting their phones out to record this special moment in time.

When not engaged in the acts of singing or wrestling with his mic stand, the seemingly shy but contrarily playful Herndon talked lovingly about his Grandmother (“If Jesus ain’t in it, don’t do it”), about being on Star Search with (SS winner) Sam Harris, about the time his mother chimed in from the other room about a song he passed on singing (“You’re an idiot!”) and about the experience of finally coming out of the closet five years ago. Very at home with the crowd, this true troubadour showed genuine appreciation for the audience, confessing he had always wanted to play Joe’s Pub, admitting “I was just hoping people would show up”. Owning up to being a “silly man” who loves to have fun, Herndon poked fun of his fame by referring to himself using the names of other country stars and joking about which of his friends’ hit records kept his singles from reaching number one on the charts.

And he dances, too – wow, the moves on this guy.

Ty Herndon is so free with his physicality, dancing about the stage with pure joy that makes you feel joyful too, that this writer wondered if he were this buoyant before coming out, or if this freedom of movement is something that showed up after he had broken free of the chains, to live in the light. Whatever the cause of this terpsichorean bliss, every bit of Ty Herndon‘s happiness spilled off of the stage and into the arena where fans willingly succumbed to his charms, and those of his special surprise guest, Kristin Chenoweth, who gifted us with a stunning version of “Desperado” as an adoring Herndon stood by, watching, pride and love gleaming from his eyes. It turns out, Herndon shared with us, that Ms. Chenoweth is going with his phenomenal guitarist, Josh Bryant, (his other brilliant guitarist, it turns out, is his cd producer Erik Halbig) — proving that which show business people have, long, known: making art with family is where the good stuff comes from.

Among the songs Herndon sang were “Loved Too Much”, “A Man Holding On”, “I Have to Surrender”, “Living in a Moment” and “Hands of a Working Man” but the biggest two highlights (in an evening of many) were when he hilariously applied “I Want My Goodbye Back” to his coming out and his subsequent divorce, and when he sang his hit song “What Mattered Most” using pronouns he was not able to use when he first released it in 1995. It was, surely, difficult to become the first major male country singer to be openly gay, but the experience has obviously informed Mr. Herndon’s work because the person we saw at Joe’s Pub is living his best life, as an artist, as a role model, as a man; and that man who has wanted to play Joe’s Pub for a long time but was worried people might not show up should consider coming back to NYC and Joe’s Pub, and often, because it is very clear that people will show up again and again, their hearts filled with love and devotion for an artist who not only earned it but deserves it.


10 Best Country, Americana Songs to Hear Now

10 Best Country, Americana Songs to Hear Now

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.



10 Best Country, Americana Songs to Hear Now

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.


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.


Review: Ty Herndon – House On Fire

Review: Ty Herndon – House On Fire

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