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When I went to my first Fan Fair, I planned my day around standing in line to meet Ty Herndon. “A Man Holdin’ On (To A Woman Letting Go) is purely one of the greatest circle of life country songs ever. We recently chatted about his Concert for Love and Acceptance and the impact he hopes to make with this foundation.
There are so many fantastic artists on this lineup! You have Tanya Tucker, who is the ultimate legend, to artists like Chely Wright and Terri Clark whose hits were on the charts the same time as yours, and newer acts like Michael Ray and Brett Young. What does it mean to you to have so many people from the country music community support you and this organization?
During this time, when there are so many issues, we are trying to find some love, acceptance, and hope to hold onto. We need that. Without that, we can’t survive. Because life gets confusing, even before COVID-19. I represent that 14-year-old kid that I was growing up that was confused. To have someone affirming, someone in the LGBTQ, someone that may walk a different path than you. But there’s always someone who is on that same path. Being able to put those people in front of these kids, it may be an 80-year-old man or woman, who needs to feel loved. I know it’s not just about the kids, but I represent those the most.
What it all means to me is just hope, love, and understanding. I work a lot in the south, and sometimes we may not have families that understand why these kids live under bridges. I’m gonna take it pretty deep here. Families have kicked them out. Churches have kicked them out. Maybe for not even LBGTQ reasons but because they are a little different. Our main goal is to let these people know that you can create your own path. There will be people that will love you. Blood’s important, sometimes not.
This year, something new to the event is that you’ve announced three artists as your Rising Star performers: Shelly Fairchild, Brandon Stansell, and Harper Grae. Can you share why you are excited to add this element to the event?
I tell these kids all the time, “Come to Nashville, don’t worry about your sexuality. What’s different about you makes you amazing. Study hard. Go to school. Be the best that you can be. If you want to be a producer, a writer, a television anchor, be the best you can be at it. And the rest will fall in place because confidence will carry you. That’s the thing that I wish somebody would’ve told me when I was that 14-year-old kid, but I’ve tried to carry that torch.
You released your “Got It Covered Album” last year, which featured reimagined versions of your hits and some outstanding takes on other artists’ songs. Do you have any plans for new music anytime soon?
Yes, I am! We had the biggest tour of my life, probably since the 90s, that got canceled this year. And a documentary that got delayed. I’m only human. And immediately, I curled up in the corner and felt like a victim. I was like, “I worked so hard for this.” And I realized pretty quickly that I was not alone. I had to practice what I preach, and I had to get out of the corner.
It’s not about what we lost. You can take everything you’ve lost in life, and it can devastate you. Some of the biggest losses are some of the biggest wins. I’m being totally open right now, but we can take everything we’ve lost and educate ourselves on what matters. I know that we all are, and we’re capable of love and acceptance. But here’s the lesson. I think we’re all superhumans, we all have it in us, we gotta pay attention.
Not only are you an icon in country music, but you’re leaving an even greater legacy with all the work you’ve done with this event and its mission. What do you hope to accomplish in the future with this event?
It takes a long time to launch a foundation. And the timing is perfect for this. We’re saving lives, lifting people up, and that’s what makes it worthwhile for me. I can’t believe we are rolling out over 50 artists. What I’m asking people to do is to have some really cool social distancing watching parties. Judge the size of your house and make sure it’s appropriate, and you can’t come through the front door unless you bring your donate button!
The Concert for Love & Acceptance live streams on Tuesday, June 30, at 7:00 pm ET, exclusively on CMT’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Catch a special red-carpet countdown starting at 5:30 pm. For more information, including how to donate, visit the Foundation for Love & Acceptance website here.