JAKE OWEN, EVERETTE, BRODY RAY JOIN CONCERT FOR LOVE & ACCEPTANCE LINEUP

JAKE OWEN, EVERETTE, BRODY RAY JOIN CONCERT FOR LOVE & ACCEPTANCE LINEUP

Concert will stream exclusively across CMT social channels

Shelly Fairchild, Harper Grae, and Brandon Stansell to be featured as LGBTQ country music rising stars

Online charity event hosted by Kristin Chenoweth, Ty Herndon, and CMT’s Cody Alan will benefit ACM Lifting Lives® and GLAAD

>LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE

(NASHVILLE, TN) The Academy of Country Music’s charitable arm ACM Lifting Lives®, CMT, GLAAD, and country music star and philanthropist Ty Herndon today announced new appearances and performances for the upcoming 2020 Concert for Love and Acceptance, set to take place as an online event amid the ongoing COVID19 crisis.  Jake Owen, Everette, and Brody Ray join the lineup that includes previously announced appearances and performances by Lauren Alaina, Matt Bomer, Lewis Brice, Terri Clark, Billy Gilman, Mickey Guyton, Dennis Quaid, Kalie Shorr, Tanya Tucker, and Rita Wilson.  Up-and-coming artists Shelly Fairchild, Harper Grae, and Brandon Stansell will be honored and featured as the Foundation For Love & Acceptance’s first-ever LGBTQ Country Music Rising Stars.

CMT will serve as exclusive streaming partner of the virtual event, which will air across CMT’s Facebook and YouTube channels on June 30 at 8 p.m. ET.

For the third consecutive year, CMT returns as Presenting Partner of the event, with Cody Alan serving as co-host, a role he’s held for the past four years. A well-known and respected veteran personality, producer and programmer in the broadcast industry, Alan is a past recipient of the ACM National On-Air Personality of the Year award, and host of  CMT Hot 20 Countdown, CMT’s flagship music TV show, delivered to over 90 million homes weekly,  as well as host and executive producer of CMT After MidNite and CMT Radio Live, heard on 220+ stations, with nearly 8 million monthly listeners.

“CMT is thrilled to amplify our support as the exclusive streaming partner of this year’s show! The caliber of talent coupled with the generosity and support from the country music community to shine a light on these vital issues makes this a truly can’t-miss event. We’re honored to continue our partnership with ACM Lifting Lives and GLAAD who continue to champion these important causes year after year,” said Alan.

Produced by Herndon’s newly formed charitable foundation, The Foundation for Love & Acceptance, the 2020 Concert For Love & Acceptance will be co-hosted by Emmy and Tony Award winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth and Alan, who has hosted the event alongside Herndon since 2017.  GLAAD and ACM Lifting Lives® are the beneficiaries of event proceeds.

“Nashville is rapidly changing, and country music is becoming an increasingly affirming place for LGBTQ artists and fans. Now in our fifth year, we thought it was more important than ever to shine a light on some of the amazing up-and-coming LGBTQ talent, and we’re so pleased to showcase the music of Shelly, Harper, and Brandon,” said Herndon.

ACM Lifting Lives® is a first-time event partner in 2020 and will be allocating proceeds to its initiatives.

“ACM Lifting Lives is honored to join forces with Ty and the Concert for Love and Acceptance,” said Lyndsay Cruz, Executive Director of ACM Lifting Lives. “We’re honored to support the message of creating a more accepting environment and jumped at the opportunity to help inspire awareness, and healing, through the power of music.”

GLAAD and Herndon created the first Concert for Love and Acceptance in 2015 shortly after Herndon became the first male country artist to come out as gay. Event appearances and performances have included Vince Gill, Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire, Lee Brice, Tyler Rich, Michael Ray, Rita Wilson, Chris Daughtry, Terri Clark, Chris Carmack, Gavin DeGraw, Crystal Gayle, Billy Gilman, Cassadee Pope, Calum Scott, Mickey Guyton, Levi Hummon, Cam, Cale Dodds, Tayla Lynn, Runaway June, Chely Wright, Billy Dean, Hunter Hayes, Brandon Stansell, Meghan Lindsey, Thompson Square, WWE Superstars, Meghan McCain, and more.

“GLAAD is proud to have been Ty Herndon’s partner in this groundbreaking endeavor since 2015, and as we press on through this very difficult moment in the health and safety of our nation, LGBTQ Americans are especially vulnerable – including LGBTQ youth who may be isolating in homes that are not accepting of them. Many of them – and their families – are country music fans, and this event will send affirming messages of support and encouragement around the globe,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO of GLAAD.

Herndon will also serve as executive producer of the 2020 Concert for Love & Acceptance, alongside returning executive producer Zeke Stokes, who has been in that role since the Concert began in 2015. Stokes is President of the newly formed ZS STRATEGIES and a former Vice President of GLAAD.

For more information and ongoing updates, as well as to RSVP for the live online event, visit the Foundation for Love and Acceptance at www.F4LA.org.

About ACM Lifting Lives®: ACM Lifting Lives® is the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music dedicated to IMPROVING LIVES THROUGH THE POWER OF MUSIC™. Through partnerships with artists and strong ties in the music industry, ACM Lifting Lives® funds music health programs while also serving members of the music community who face unexpected hardships through its Diane Holcomb Emergency Relief Fund. With generous donations and the support of artists and fans, ACM Lifting Lives® has funded national music therapy programs serving various mental and physical health organizations. Some of the recipients have included patients at children’s hospitals and other healthcare facilities, recovering veterans, people with Williams syndrome, and individuals suffering with mental illness. For more information, please visit www.ACMLiftingLives.org.

About CMT: CMT is the leading authority on country music and lifestyle, offering a mix of original series, music events and specials. CMT is everywhere its fans are including two cable channels (CMT and the 24-hour music channel, CMT Music), radio (CMT Radio), digital (‪CMT.com) and social (CMT on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube). CMT is a unit of ViacomCBS Inc. (Nasdaq: VIACA, VIAC) (“ViacomCBS”). For more information, please visit cmtpress.com.

About The Foundation for Love & Acceptance: Founded by Grammy nominated and Dove Award winning country music artist and philanthropist Ty Herndon, the Foundation for Love & Acceptance uses the power of music and media to support the country music community and raise vital funds to support LGBTQ youth and families. For more information, visit www.F4LA.org.

About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.

LAUREN ALAINA, MATT BOMER, LEWIS BRICE, TERRI CLARK, BILLY GILMAN, MICKEY GUYTON, DENNIS QUAID, KALIE SHORR, & RITA WILSON JOIN CONCERT FOR LOVE & ACCEPTANCE LINEUP SET FOR JUNE 30

LAUREN ALAINA, MATT BOMER, LEWIS BRICE, TERRI CLARK, BILLY GILMAN, MICKEY GUYTON, DENNIS QUAID, KALIE SHORR, & RITA WILSON JOIN CONCERT FOR LOVE & ACCEPTANCE LINEUP SET FOR JUNE 30

Online charity event hosted by Kristin Chenoweth, Ty Herndon, and CMT’s Cody Alan will benefit ACM Lifting Lives® and GLAAD

>LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE

(NASHVILLE, TN) The Academy of Country Music’s charitable arm ACM Lifting Lives®, CMT, GLAAD, and country music star and philanthropist Ty Herndon today announced new appearances and performances for the upcoming 2020 Concert for Love and Acceptance, set to take place as an online event amid the ongoing COVID19 crisis. Musicians Lauren Alaina, Lewis Brice, Terri Clark, Billy Gilman, Dennis Quaid, Kalie Shorr, and Rita Wilson will join the lineup, which already includes two-time 2020 Grammy® winner Tanya Tucker, who is set to open the show. REDRAFT FOR APPROVAL: Musicians Lauren Alaina, Lewis Brice, Terri Clark, Billy Gilman, Dennis Quaid, Kalie Shorr, and Rita Wilson will join the performance lineup, which already includes two-time 2020 Grammy® winner Tanya Tucker, who is set to open the show. In addition, singer Mickey Guyton will make a special appearance, as will actor, producer, and director Matt Bomer, who will introduce Wilson. The event will be live streamed on YouTube, Facebook and at www.F4LA.org/concert, with additional appearances and performances to be announced.

“This show just gets better and better each year, and while we would rather be doing it as a live event in Nashville, we know that we have the opportunity to reach so many more people with our message of love and acceptance through this one-time online format. And, of course, our message takes on an especially elevated meaning this year in light of all that is happening around us. Our hope is that on this night we can all stand together in unity as one,” said Herndon.

ACM Lifting Lives® is a first-time event partner in 2020 and will be allocating proceeds to its initiatives.

“ACM Lifting Lives is honored to join forces with Ty and the Concert for Love and Acceptance,” said Lyndsay Cruz, Executive Director of ACM Lifting Lives. “We’re honored to support the message of creating a more accepting environment and jumped at the opportunity to help inspire awareness, and healing, through the power of music.”

For the third consecutive year, CMT returns as Presenting Partner of the event, with Cody Alan serving as co-host, a role he’s held for the past four years. A well-known and respected veteran personality, producer and programmer in the broadcast industry, Alan is a past recipient of the ACM National On-Air Personality of the Year award, and host of  CMT Hot 20 Countdown, CMT’s flagship music TV show, delivered to over 90 million homes weekly,  as well as host and executive producer of CMT After MidNite and CMT Radio Live, heard on 220+ stations, with nearly 8 million monthly listeners.

“This event has become one of the most meaningful events of the year for me, not only for the vital causes the show supports, but also because of generosity of the talent who support inclusion in the Country community. I’m thrilled to be back representing CMT, with the added bonus of bringing the show into country fans’ living rooms. Proud without the crowd!” said Alan.

GLAAD and Herndon created the first Concert for Love and Acceptance in 2015 shortly after Herndon became the first male country artist to come out as gay. Event appearances and performances have included Vince Gill, Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire, Lee Brice, Tyler Rich, Michael Ray, Rita Wilson, Chris Daughtry, Terri Clark, Chris Carmack, Gavin DeGraw, Crystal Gayle, Billy Gilman, Cassadee Pope, Calum Scott, Mickey Guyton, Levi Hummon, Cam, Cale Dodds, Tayla Lynn, Runaway June, Chely Wright, Billy Dean, Hunter Hayes, Brandon Stansell, Meghan Lindsey, Thompson Square, WWE Superstars, Meghan McCain, and more.

“GLAAD is proud to have been Ty Herndon’s partner in this groundbreaking endeavor since 2015, and as we press on through this very difficult moment in the health and safety of our nation, LGBTQ Americans are especially vulnerable – including LGBTQ youth who may be isolating in homes that are not accepting of them. Many of them – and their families – are country music fans, and this event will send affirming messages of support and encouragement around the globe,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO of GLAAD.

Herndon will also serve as executive producer of the 2020 Concert for Love & Acceptance, alongside returning executive producer Zeke Stokes, who has been in that role since the Concert began in 2015. Stokes is President of ZS STRATEGIES and a former Vice President of GLAAD.

For more information and ongoing updates, as well as to RSVP for the live online event, visit the Foundation for Love and Acceptance at www.F4LA.org.

About ACM Lifting Lives®: ACM Lifting Lives® is the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music dedicated to IMPROVING LIVES THROUGH THE POWER OF MUSIC™. Through partnerships with artists and strong ties in the music industry, ACM Lifting Lives® funds music health programs while also serving members of the music community who face unexpected hardships through its Diane Holcomb Emergency Relief Fund. With generous donations and the support of artists and fans, ACM Lifting Lives® has funded national music therapy programs serving various mental and physical health organizations. Some of the recipients have included patients at children’s hospitals and other healthcare facilities, recovering veterans, people with Williams syndrome, and individuals suffering with mental illness. For more information, please visit www.ACMLiftingLives.org.

About CMT: CMT is the leading authority on country music and lifestyle, offering a mix of original series, music events and specials. CMT is everywhere its fans are including two cable channels (CMT and the 24-hour music channel, CMT Music), radio (CMT Radio), digital (‪CMT.com) and social (CMT on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube). CMT is a unit of ViacomCBS Inc. (Nasdaq: VIACA, VIAC) (“ViacomCBS”). For more information, please visit cmtpress.com.

About The Foundation for Love & Acceptance: Founded by Grammy nominated and Dove Award winning country music artist and philanthropist Ty Herndon, the Foundation for Love & Acceptance uses the power of music and media to support the country music community and raise vital funds to support LGBTQ youth and families. For more information, visit www.F4LA.org.

About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.

ACM LIFTING LIVES®, CMT, GLAAD & TY HERNDON ANNOUNCE PARTNERSHIP ON 2020 CONCERT FOR LOVE & ACCEPTANCE

ACM LIFTING LIVES®, CMT, GLAAD & TY HERNDON ANNOUNCE PARTNERSHIP ON 2020 CONCERT FOR LOVE & ACCEPTANCE

Emmy and Tony Award Winning Actress and Singer Kristin Chenoweth and CMT’s Cody Alan will join Herndon to co-host online charity event set for June 30

Two-time 2020 GRAMMY® winner and original female outlaw Tanya Tucker will kick off online event, additional appearances and performances to be announced

>LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE

(NASHVILLE, TN) The Academy of Country Music’s charitable arm ACM Lifting Lives®, CMT, GLAAD and country music star and philanthropist Ty Herndon today announced Tuesday, June 30, as the date for the 2020 Concert for Love and Acceptance, set to take place as an online event amid the ongoing COVID19 crisis. Produced by Herndon’s newly formed charitable foundation, The Foundation for Love & Acceptance, the event will be co-hosted by Emmy and Tony Award winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth and CMT’s Cody Alan, who has hosted the event alongside Herndon since 2017.  ACM Lifting Lives® and GLAAD are the beneficiaries of event proceeds.

Two-time 2020 GRAMMY® winner and original female outlaw Tanya Tucker will open the show at 8:00 p.m. ET. The event will be live streamed on YouTube, Facebook and at www.F4LA.org/concert, with additional appearances and performances to be announced.

“Now more than ever, it’s so important that young LGBTQ people see the artists and musicians they love standing up for them. Since we began this event in 2015, it’s only been about love and acceptance, and we’re not about to let this COVID virus distract us from sending a message loud and clear to LGBTQ youth: you’re perfect just the way you are,” said Herndon.

ACM Lifting Lives® is a first-time event partner in 2020 and will be allocating proceeds to its initiatives.

“ACM Lifting Lives is honored to join forces with Ty and the Concert for Love and Acceptance,” said Lyndsay Cruz, Executive Director of ACM Lifting Lives. “We’re honored to support the message of creating a more accepting environment and jumped at the opportunity to help inspire awareness, and healing, through the power of music.”

For the third consecutive year, CMT returns as Presenting Partner of the event, with Cody Alan serving as co-host, a role he’s held for the past four years. A well-known and respected veteran personality, producer and programmer in the broadcast industry, Alan is a past recipient of the ACM National On-Air Personality of the Year award, and host of  CMT Hot 20 Countdown, CMT’s flagship music TV show, delivered to over 90 million homes weekly,  as well as host and executive producer of CMT After MidNite and CMT Radio Live, heard on 220+ stations, with nearly 8 million monthly listeners.

“This event has become one of the most meaningful events of the year for me, not only for the vital causes the show supports, but also because of generosity of the talent who support inclusion in the Country community. I’m thrilled to be back representing CMT, with the added bonus of bringing the show into country fans’ living rooms. Proud without the crowd!” said Alan.

GLAAD and Herndon created the first Concert for Love and Acceptance in 2015 shortly after Herndon became the first male country artist to come out as gay. Event appearances and performances have included Vince Gill, Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire, Lee Brice, Tyler Rich, Michael Ray, Rita Wilson, Chris Daughtry, Terri Clark, Chris Carmack, Gavin DeGraw, Crystal Gayle, Billy Gilman, Cassadee Pope, Calum Scott, Mickey Guyton, Levi Hummon, Cam, Cale Dodds, Tayla Lynn, Runaway June, Chely Wright, Billy Dean, Hunter Hayes, Brandon Stansell, Meghan Lindsey, Thompson Square, WWE Superstars, Meghan McCain, and more.

“GLAAD is proud to have been Ty Herndon’s partner in this groundbreaking endeavor since 2015, and as we press on through this very difficult moment in the health and safety of our nation, LGBTQ Americans are especially vulnerable – including LGBTQ youth who may be isolating in homes that are not accepting of them. Many of them – and their families – are country music fans, and this event will send affirming messages of support and encouragement around the globe,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO of GLAAD.

Herndon will also serve as executive producer of the 2020 Concert for Love & Acceptance, alongside returning executive producer Zeke Stokes, who has been in that role since the Concert began in 2015. Stokes is President of ZS STRATEGIES and a former Vice President of GLAAD.

For more information and ongoing updates, as well as to RSVP for the live online event, visit the Foundation for Love and Acceptance at www.F4LA.org.

About ACM Lifting Lives®: ACM Lifting Lives® is the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music dedicated to IMPROVING LIVES THROUGH THE POWER OF MUSIC™. Through partnerships with artists and strong ties in the music industry, ACM Lifting Lives® funds music health programs while also serving members of the music community who face unexpected hardships through its Diane Holcomb Emergency Relief Fund. With generous donations and the support of artists and fans, ACM Lifting Lives® has funded national music therapy programs serving various mental and physical health organizations. Some of the recipients have included patients at children’s hospitals and other healthcare facilities, recovering veterans, people with Williams syndrome, and individuals suffering with mental illness. For more information, please visit www.ACMLiftingLives.org.

About CMT: CMT is the leading authority on country music and lifestyle, offering a mix of original series, music events and specials. CMT is everywhere its fans are including two cable channels (CMT and the 24-hour music channel, CMT Music), radio (CMT Radio), digital (‪CMT.com) and social (CMT on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube). CMT is a unit of ViacomCBS Inc. (Nasdaq: VIACA, VIAC) (“ViacomCBS”). For more information, please visit cmtpress.com.

About The Foundation for Love & Acceptance: Founded by Grammy nominated and Dove Award winning country music artist and philanthropist Ty Herndon, the Foundation for Love & Acceptance uses the power of music and media to support the country music community and raise vital funds to support LGBTQ youth and families. For more information, visit www.F4LA.org.

About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.

TY HERNDON COVERS THE CARRIE UNDERWOOD SONG THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE

TY HERNDON COVERS THE CARRIE UNDERWOOD SONG THAT CHANGED HIS LIFE

Ty Herndon‘s dynamic album of cover songs includes one from Carrie Underwood. It’s arguably the most important song on the upcoming record, Got It Covered.

Among re-imaginings of his own “What Mattered Most,” “Living In a Moment” and many more are covers of songs by Bonnie Raitt, Marc Cohn and Underwood. For this exclusive Taste of Country premiere, Herndon explained why “So Small” is so important. He recalls hearing it in his truck on the way to a real estate class in Nashville, having recently moved back from Los Angeles.

“I was having a tough time deciding whether or not I wanted to stay in a business that I loved so much,” Herndon shares. “I believed strongly that I was done. I wasn’t hearing a lot of dynamic singers on the radio anymore. The music had evolved and changed.”

“So Small” was a 2007 single for Underwood from her Carnival Ride album. It would become a No. 1 hit for the American Idol star.

“The message was incredibly strong and it was something I needed to hear. But holy cow … It was all about that vocal — dynamic, strong, and powerful! So powerful that it changed my mind. I had quite a few tears that morning in my truck. I let go of my fear and decided to stay in the music business. I decided I could do exactly what Carrie was doing in some small way. For me, it’s simply meant doing music that mattered. Music that changes hearts and minds. And it also gave me the courage to start the conversation about my own coming out process.”

Herndon says a full music video is set for release the same day his new Got It Covered album drops, on Aug. 23. It’s a dynamic video with a strong message.

“Thank you Carrie Underwood for being on my radio that day,” he says. “It changed my life.

Billy Dukes | August 15, 2019

LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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.

[EXCERPT]

> LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE

COUNTRY ARTISTS FIND POWERFUL MEANING IN 2019 TY HERNDON CONCERT FOR LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE

COUNTRY ARTISTS FIND POWERFUL MEANING IN 2019 TY HERNDON CONCERT FOR LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE

Tim McGraw, Daughtry, Rita Wilson, Mickey Guyton and more demonstrated their passion for the LGBTQ community at the 5th annual Ty Herndon Concert For Love and Acceptance at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville on Thursday (June 6).

Each artist that participates finds meaning in the cause. For Guyton, it stands for action. As a second time participant, Guyton shared how she feels a kinship with the LGBTQ community, calling the conversation surrounding the event “so important.” “Being an African American woman in country music, I know what it’s like to be different. I know what it’s like to not feel accepted and that’s why I’m here, to show solidarity and show everyone that I’m with you and I love you and I see you,” she expressed to Sounds Like Nashville on the red carpet.

Country music has a long history regarding lack of LGBTQ representation. While artists like Kacey Musgraves, Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and more have been vocal about their support for inclusion, Guyton admits that “a lot of work” needs to done to better incorporate the LGBTQ community into the genre. “I’d be lying if I said that everything is perfect, it’s not. But in order for change to happen there has to be action from across the board…and throwing an event like this is making this a normal thing,” she says.

Billy Gilman echoes this sentiment, adding that country music has a “long way to go” when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion, believing that fans would embrace LGBTQ artists on the radio. “I think the audiences aren’t as abrasive as the men writing the documents,” he observes. “I think if they would let their guard down and try to infiltrate a little of an LGBT artist on radio, I think you’d be surprised at the lack of clapback.”

Gilman came out as gay in 2014 and has made it his mission to be a voice for those who feel suppressed. He’s met and received letters from people who share their stories of abuse and homelessness as a result of coming out. The singer says the Concert For Love and Acceptance gives a voice to those living in remote areas who aren’t always embraced with acceptance. “We need more love, and by coming here, it fuels us all to go out for the rest of the year and push through to all our kids and adults,” he says, describing the event’s mission as “creating a better world.” “Hopefully one day, we realize that we don’t need a Love and Acceptance concert, it’s all equal now. I only pray for that day.”

For Rita Wilson, the event symbolizes support. Wilson had heard about Herndon, whom she calls an “incredible artist,” and the event through a mutual friend and songwriting partner. Wilson has been an advocate for the LGBTQ community through her work with Aid for AIDS, a nonprofit that provides education and access to treatment for individuals who have HIV. “I think in my world of supporting AIDs research and finding a cure for AIDs, that’s been a big part of our involvement in the LGBTQ community. Also, I just feel like we have to do more work and accepting and just realizing that it’s not a choice…You were born that way,” she relates. “I’m a Christian and I still believe that.”

The concert also shone a spotlight on emerging artists Zolita and Jada Cato, the recipients of GLAAD’s Rising Stars Grants. Zolita is a singer-songwriter who’s music and videos highlight femme-on-femme lesbian representation, while Cato is a Birmingham-based singer and theatre actress. Growing up in Alabama, Cato was a fan of 90s country music, introduced to the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain through her sisters. She says it’s a “dream come true” to be a involved in an event that celebrates people she didn’t see represented in country music during her youth.

“When I was 14 waking up every day for high school watching CMT, I would never even dare to see a queer person or hear a queer person, or really even a person of color for that matter, and barely any women. So, it’s been nice to see the progression and be able to be a part of that because it’s hard to go against the grain and do something different but ultimately it’s worth it. It doesn’t really serve you to change your art in a way that isn’t authentic to you,” Cato explains. “I’m so grateful to be a part of something like this, in hopes that someone that is growing up watching CMT now knows that the door’s been opened.”

Similarly, Brandon Stansell grew up in a southern town where he didn’t see himself represented in the genre he admired. A native of Chattanooga, Tenn., Stansell has since moved to Los Angeles to launch his country music career, releasing such songs as “Hometown” that capture the feeling of isolation, but also appreciation for the rural town he was raised in, along with a cover of Musgraves’ “Space Cowboy.” “I’ve loved country music my whole life, but I’ve never seen myself reflected in it. So I think it’s really important that queer people, just like straight people, have the opportunities to write about their experiences in an honest way and be able to put those out and have people hear them,” Stansell shares.

He cites the Concert For Love and Acceptance as an agent of change that provides a platform to tell these stories, uniting LGBTQ artists with their allies in country music. “It’s that one night where we get to shine the big spotlight on the LGBTQ community in a space where not many people see us or know that we even exist, so this is kind of the start of it,” he says. “This is that thing that changes everything.”

> LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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