On Sunday, The Guardian published an interview with Shania Twain in which the country icon expressed support for U.S. President Donald Trump. Twain even went as far as saying she would have voted for him if she could.
The admission stunned many members of the LGBTQ community. In addition to praising Trump despite his administration’s consistent rollback of queer and transgender rights, Twain had served as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Racea seeming acknowledgement of her large queer fanbasejust days before. Though she walked back her statement a few hours later on Twitter (and has expressed some support for LGBTQ people in the past), the damage was done for many fans.
As a number of queer fans delete Twain’s discography from their music libraries, some may be wondering what country artists are explicitly LGBTQ-affirminggiven country music’s often hostile and unwelcoming atmosphere. We’re all familiar with icons like Dolly Parton, but if you’re looking for more musicians to fill the Shania-shaped hole in your heart, here are nine suggestions.
1) Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves recently released one of the best-reviewed records of the year in Golden Hour, a magnificent modern classic which includes the shimmering country-disco bop “High Horse” (which deserves to be Song of the Summer) and the empowering ballad “Rainbow.” She’s perhaps country music’s most visible and outspoken LGBTQ ally, refusing to conform to the genre’s frequently conservative norms. And her support isn’t new; Musgraves’s stunning debut album Same Trailer Different Park won the Grammy for Best Country Album in 2014 and featured the single “Follow Your Arrow.” Written with two queer songwriters, it was the first explicitly LGBTQ-affirming song to win Song of the Year at the Country Music Awards.
2) Sturgill Simpson
Another Nashville non-conformist, Sturgill Simpson released one of the best country albums in recent memory with 2016’s A Strangers Guide to Earth, which included the devastatingly haunting “Breakers Roar.” He, too, has spoken out in support of gay rights and other progressive causes.
In fact, last year he performed on the sidewalk outside of the Country Music Awards, where he gave this mock acceptance speech:
“Nobody needs a machine guncoming from a guy who owns quite a few guns. Gay people should have the right to be happy and live their life any way they want to, and get married if they want to, without fearing getting drug down the road on a pickup truck. Black people are probably tired of getting shot in the streets and getting enslaved by the industrial prison complex, and hegemony and racism is alive and well in Nashville, Tenn. Thank you very much.”
3) Maren Morris
You may only know Maren Morris as the voice of the Zedd-helmed pop smash “The Middle,” but she’s actually a rising country star and a vocal queer ally. Her impressively wide-ranging 2016 releaseHEROis in turns wistful and joyous, with highlights like the nostalgic and clever “80s Mercedes” and the heartfelt “I Could Use a Love Song.” The album earned her both a Grammy for the anthemic “My Church” and a Country Music Award for Best New Artist.
4) Brandy Clark
While country music has a comparative dearth of high profile openly LGBTQ artists, Brandy Clark joins Chely Wright as one of the more visible queer artists paving the way. An accomplished songwriter, Clark not only co-wrote Musgraves’s “Follow Your Arrow,” but has released two celebrated albums of her own. Her lovely 2014 album 12 Stories includes the revenge anthem “Stripes” and 2016’s excellent and Grammy-nominated Big Day in a Small Town is required listening. Clark may not be as widely known as some other country artists working today, but her talent has earned her near-universal critical acclaim and a fiercely loyal following.
5) Lavender Country
Though more country musicians are coming out today, there have long been queer country artists, even if they weren’t embraced by the genre’s gatekeepers. Performing under the name Lavender Country, Patrick Haggerty released a self-titled album in 1973. Featuring songs like “Back in the Closet Again” and the breathtakingly-titled “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears,” Lavender Country is now seen as perhaps the first overtly gay-themed country album. At the time of its release it barely registered, selling just around 1,000 copies. But in the years since it has become a cult classic, and it was reissued in 2014. If you’re lucky, you can still catch Haggerty on tour.
6) Jennifer Nettles
Half of the country duo Sugarland, outspoken queer ally Jennifer Nettles has also achieved success as a solo artisther Rick Rubin-produced 2014 solo album, That Girl, proved that she was a force to be reckoned with on her own. “Sugar,” the lead single off her 2016 album, Playing With Fire, features a ridiculously campy and colorful music video; it was also co-written by Clark, with whom Nettles has toured. When rumors swirled that Nettles (who is married to a man) is a lesbian, she responded by affirming her love for her LGBTQ fans and saying her sexual orientation shouldn’t matter anyway.
7) Valerie June
Mixing elements of country, blues, folk, and gospel, Valerie June brings a unique and much-needed perspective to the genre. New listeners should start with her beautiful, heady 2017 record,The Order of Time, which includes the warm, reverb-soaked “Astral Plane” and the stomping “Shakedown.” Most recently June appeared alongside Kesha, St. Vincent, and others on Universal Love: Wedding Songs Reimangeda compilation EP of classic love song covers with pronouns changed so that same-sex couples can use themreleased earlier this month.
8) Dixie Chicks
The Dixie Chicks have long been country rebels, rejecting the conservative ethos of Nashville. Most infamously, lead singer Natalie Maines inadvertently set off an international controversy in 2003 after saying the band was “ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas” during a London concert. They’ve never recovered from that incident on country radio, but they persevered and released one of the best albums of their career in 2006’s five-time Grammy-winning Taking The Long Way, which included the shiver-inducing “Not Ready To Make Nice.” Their defiance, coupled with their explicit support of LGBTQ people, has long endeared them to queer fans.
9) Trixie Mattel
If I didn’t include Trixie Mattel on this list, I’m certain his stans would attack me on Twitter, so here he is. But Mattel is also on this list because he deserves to be. While some drag queens have made campy country parodies in the past, the RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 winner’s two country albums,Two Birds (2017) and One Stone (2018), aren’t just sincere submissions to the genrethey’re sincerely good.
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