Ty Herndon risked his career to come out, but he's a fighter

KRISTIN M. HALL
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Two years after coming out publicly as a gay man, country singer Ty Herndon is revealing much more about his lifelong struggle for acceptance in a new album that he hopes everyone can relate to.

"House on Fire," released last week, features love songs that are gender neutral, a moving title track about feeling shamed inside the church and hopeful anthems for love.

"I wanted music that would go out into the world and that anyone from any walk of life could hear their story in my music," Herndon said in a recent interview. "Because I have a lot of die-hard country fans who have been with me a long time and are still right there. And I have a legion of brand new fans, within the young country listeners, within the LGBT community."

In 2014, the Grammy-nominated Herndon announced he was gay and almost immediately afterward, platinum-selling singer Billy Gillman was inspired to publicly announce he was gay as well, making them among the few openly gay male country singers.

Herndon credited country singer Chely Wright, who came out in 2010, as paving the way for him and many others. Days after making the announcement, he was got a standing ovation from the crowd at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I knew there was a risk that I couldn't be in country music, and I had to be OK with that," Herndon said. "But by the grace of God, I didn't have to do that. The fans were amazing and the industry was amazing. And here two years later, it still feels like it was yesterday."

Unlike on previous albums, such as "Lies I Told Myself," where he was still being ambiguous about his struggles, on his new record his lyrics are clear and honest, especially when it comes to his spirituality. Herndon, who had hits with songs like "What Mattered Most," ''Living in a Moment" and "It Must Be Love," grew up singing gospel music in church and tent revivals and was embraced as a Christian artist, even winning a Dove Award in 2010.

"I was at a tent revival when I was 10 years old and a traveling evangelist was preaching on the sins of homosexuality," Herndon said. "I became this withdrawn, unhappy kid."

But while he has been supported by country music fans, he said the Christian community that once embraced him still has a long way to go.

"My foundation is not cracked," he said. "My faith in God is real."

Two years after coming out, Herndon has used his celebrity to bring focus to the needs of LGBT youth and has been volunteering with the Trevor Project, which is an anti-suicide hotline for LGBT youth. Proceeds from the download of his new song, "Fighter," will be donated to the Trevor Project.

The work he does mentoring children has sparked an interest in expanding his family with his longtime partner Matt Collum.

"It's so funny, 'cause I am 54 years old and just now getting the baby bug," Herndon said. "I've always wanted kids. But there are so many of my friends right now that are having babies right now, straight, gay or whatever. It's like we're the baby boomers booming."

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Online:

http://tyherndon.com/

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Follow Kristin M. Hall at twitter.com/kmhall