Queerty Query

Is Country Music Ready For An Openly Gay Star?

Steve-GrandSteve Grand has had quite a week.  The country music cutie has seen his self-funded video for “All American Boy” go viral, racking up nearly 1.2 million hits on YouTube, and his previous underwear modeling photos have steamed up the internet as well. “All American Boy”  is a hit in the gay community because it has hot guys, hot guys shirtless, hot guys semi-making out, and all this is wrapped around a song that is actually quite solid. Grand’s voice is smooth and textured, and he lets out just the right amount of country music yearnin’ to make it all work. In LGBT culture, Steve Grand has definitely “arrived,” and has a solid career of New Now Next awards, Out magazine covers, and Pridefest gigs ahead of him.  But, outside of gay blogs and media, is country music truly ready for all of this?

In 2010, the industry was buzzing with the rumors that a gay singer was ready to come out.  It ended up being Chely Wright, a country singer who had a #1 country hit in 1999 with “Single White Female.” Wright capitalized on her buzz to release new music and introduce herself to a new generation of fans via pride parades and gay media, and also released a documentary called Wish Me Away that showcased her career and struggles with being gay in country music.

However, by early 2011 she was singing a different tune.  In an interview with the website Autostraddle, she was blunt and honest about the negative effects that coming out had on her career.  “It didn’t help my career,” she said. “My record sales went directly in half. If it appears from the outside in that it’s helped my career, it could be because I haven’t talked about the negative.”

Country music has long had the reputation as a straight white guys and gals only club, and though recent black acts like former Hootie and the Blowfish singer Darius Rucker and Cowboy Troy have had some success, they’ve had their share of incidents with fans who want to keep the status quo.

Where does that leave Steve Grand, or any other hot gay guy or gal trying to make their mark in country music? It’s hard to say.  “All American Boy” is a hit in the viral sense of the word, but is making no real impact on country radio.  Nashville is a notoriously insular place, and it is possibly that Grand could be resented not only for being gay, but for making such a huge splash without paying the proverbial dues.

Either way, if any openly gay country star was posed to make a real breakout in the industry, it’s Grand. He’s got the eyes, abs, and voice for the job, and “All American Boy” skews pop enough to earn comparisons to the pop/country style of a Carrie Underwood.  Either way, we leave the question to you, Queerty readers. Do we even care about country music? Is country music ready for an openly gay star? If so, is Steve Grand the guy, or is there someone else more up to the task?

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  • Fidelio

    Yes, country music is ready for a gay artist. Chely Wright, bless her heart, just didn’t have the wherewithal to put together a strong country song and marketing package for her subsequent work. Although Grand may not be the first openly gay country musician, he certainly seems to be the most marketable. It will all depend if he decides to take this seriously because he’s already hinted in an interview yesterday his next song may not be country at all. Quite frankly, music-wise he’s more theatrical. As Steve Starchild, he put out several covers that reminds me of a Glee episode or cabaret act. Yet, there is something intriguing about this kid who others simply call the “it” factor. Stay tuned. I know I will.

  • Mischiefwolf

    There’s already a gay country music star. His name is Drake Jensen. However, since he’s a big, hairy guy and not Abercrombie pretty he must not count.

  • Fidelio

    It should be noted Steve never called himself the first openly gay country artist. The media has dubbed him that for the sake of an angle. His messaging has been about the underlying theme of the song, not necessarily his sexuality.

  • CleJoke


  • avesraggiana

    I thought we already had an openly gay Country music star – Tim McGraw.
    *Wishing and hoping…*

  • Tackle

    Queerty I’ll throw some questions back to you. Are you getting paid to promote this guy? Three post on him within a week. Do you really care about country music/talent? Because Drake Jensen is very talentd, more so then Steve Grand and he’s openly gay. Or is it because Drake Jensen is older and more of the bear type, he’s just not your cup of tea? And as one poster noted above, He must not count to you.

  • Polaro

    @Tackle: Well, 1. because he is news and he is getting a lot of other press. 2. He is gay, made a gay song and video and he is interesting.

    Why is there always one or two queens in a thread who just have to rain on the parade and whine?

  • avesraggiana


    Drake Jensen, gay?! Oh, Daddy… my heart is now officially lost.

  • Shane

    Oh dear god, yes! Amazing voice, great song, brought a tear to my eye.

  • Tackle

    @Polaro: Why are you on here whining about what I wrote? And it’s really JUST about him getting alot of press, and because he’s gay made a gay song & video, and he’s interesting?
    SURE it has everything to do with this, and absolutely nothing to do with his looks? Then if you believe this then I’m sure you believe the sky is falling tomorrow.

  • miagoodguy

    It is sad how people just see a pretty face and body and think he sounds amazing. Mediocre singer at best. He should keep doing what he does best, pose for the camera in his underwear.

  • capsule


    Isn’t Drake Jensen Canadian? I think we are talking about the American music industry.

  • Homophile


    Are you in the music industry?

  • Adam1222

    he will not be a country star, because his songwriting and singing are terrible, nor are they “country”. you would not be talking about him if he wasnt an underwear model

  • Polaro

    @Tackle: Dreary, dreary person.

  • Merv

    No, country music is not ready for an openly gay star. It’s not that there aren’t some that are ready to accept it. It’s that at least half are not, and that’s too big of a disadvantage to start out with and still be successful.

  • tardis

    Who knows, but he’s made a impact. Perhaps he can be an independent country star. It’s happening.

  • Jackhoffsky

    You can’t get any gayer than Kenny Chesney. Seriously.

  • Jackhoffsky

    Oh and Ty Herndon had a few good hits before he was arrested cruising the park in Ft. Worth.

  • rand503

    My thoughts, based on my very limited knowledge of country music:

    1. Country music is about pain, suffering, surviving and overcoming. Think Loretta Lynn. IT’s not very conducive to overnight success, no matter how much yearning you put in to your song. Not all songs are about that, of course, but it is difficult in country to separate the person from the music — they are all conflated to some degree. The fans really do identify with their idols.

    2. The country music industry is a very strong one, and you have to prove you have what it takes before people start to take you seriously. One hit because it’s nice tune isnt’ enough. It might be, of course, the world is filled with one hit wonders.

    3. Being openly gay means that the deeply religious, which are a core group in this industry, are not going to support you. Just the opposite. They will turn their backs upon you, no matter how good your songs are.

    4. Not everyone in country is anti-gay. Some are deep in the closet, and some in deep denial. And because the places where country is biggest are also the places where anti-gay sentiment is highest, you can bet that there are plenty of guys who are in fact yearning for a guy just like Grand, even if they are outwardly anti-gay. Their cover is that they like his songs, and say that his eye candy appeal has nothing to do with it because they are 100% red blooded ‘merican.

    5. So it will be interesting to see whether his career takes off. I don’t know if it will, but he’s got to keep pushing. It won’t be easy to get to the top and stay there. EVery music industry is littered with the bodies of people who thought otherwise.

  • avesraggiana

    @Jackhoffsky: Ty Herndon, gay?! Really?!?!? Oh, Daddy…

  • gcforman

    Drake Jensen is talented, good-looking, and HONEST; he doesn’t NEED overt sexuality, and his songs do indeed reflect the country mood of pain and hardship. And did I hear mention of certain Afro-American entertainers experimenting in country? Come, come now, where’s your PRIDE, CHARLIE?

  • dannyboi2

    I wasn’t ready for country music and now with The Voice, am a bit Country curious. The Haters gonna hate no matter what, he’s a handsome man and that opens the door, str8, gay, bi or whatever we all like our artist to be pleasant looking at least.

    He’s a smart cookie and no pun intended, came in the back door, with a catchy tune, controversial video story of love and heartache. Never done by any other commercial (crossover)artist that I know of, Country or not.

    Most Gay themed gay music is dance or folky and never has had any real Commercial success. YMCA? comes to mind. So, yes Country music should be ready for a Gay Artist maybe not Steve but, Mirica is slowly coming around.

    The diehards are dying and the Blake Shelton’s are taking over so, we are ready. And if I recall we had a huge Kinda country Artist with K.D. Lang a women so, it’s a mans turn and why not. It all boils down to talent and a lil bit of luck. I’m not ready to buy a Steve Grad CD, but if he gets a Blake Sheldon as a Producer, I’m game.

  • Rusriverman

    I love many types of music whether it be pop/country/rock/r&b/classical. So is the world ready? Who cares, I like the song, the video is smart/loving even controversial and I’ve already bought his first song and downloaded the video, figure I might as well carry it around to listen at will. Hope he has a long and successful career at it all, music, modeling or whatever else he decides. He deserves it like we all do in capturing our hearts in our career.

  • Alan down in Florida

    To answer the basic question – the younger generation of country fans is very much ready for an openly gay artist. And Steve Grand has everything that trailblazer will need to get the job done. The obstacle is not the fans, it is the Nashville establishment and country radio that is the problem. And that’s not to say they are homophobic – they are just terrified that the older market might be opposed and too afraid to try and prove otherwise.

    Chely Wright’s chart and sales numbers were in free fall before she came out. And remember the timing of her coming out – just in time for the publication of her book about being gay in country music. And the mere fact that she had to come out was her telling the Nashville establishment that she’d been lying to them for yours. Even non-homophobes feel betrayed when they find out they’ve been lied to for an extended period. Not the way to win friends and influence people.

    Coming to Nashville as an out artist (without a record deal) will split country radio. Half the programmers will say “Hell no I ain’t gonna play the fa**ot!” The other half will say “it’s a good song and video and falls right within where country music is now, let’s give it a chance and see how the audience responds.” That said he’s gonna need a major record label fully committed to his stardom behind him. Becoming a country star is not an inexpensive undertaking.

  • Ron

    I don’t know about the Jensen guy. did he come out before he was successful like Steve Grand? country music is a wide assortment of styles and personalities, and many of the stars are gay friendly. Still, it’s a good question whether “country” music is ready for a gay star. Maybe pop country is. Nonetheless, this young man has star quality in the way he looks, and despite what others might think, I think he has a great voice and musical style. Yes, he’s nice to look at, but people shouldn’t hold that against him, which they seem to do. Yes, he might be too pretty to fit in with the Willie Nelsons of country music, but there are some pretty boy singers in the field. I’m a country music fan, and I still smart at how quick the Dixie Chicks were punished for a single statement about GW Bush. But Steve Grand put himself out there as gay when he launched his video. So none of the overly sensitive country music king makers can complain that they were blindsided by him. Give the guy a contract. Give him a chance. The fans will ultimately decide if they want to keep listening to him.

  • JimboinLA

    Are more relevant question is are brainwashed members of the sect of the cult of christianity called southern baptists ready to accept homosexuality as a normal in humans. My answer would be no. The brainwashed cult members have to die off because they are far to invested in their bigotry. Are brainwashed members of the cult of Islam going to accept homosexuality? No. When you are dealing with brainwashed cult members reason and logic doesn’t apply.

  • Dominickj

    Gay or not it’s the talent and the musician that counts or SHOULD anyway… GOOD for him!! Who cares what the Nashville crowd thinks anyway. IT’S the talent that counts and HIS following!!

  • Kit McCollum

    My answer to your headline question is, I don’t know. Why don’t you ask Doug Stone?

  • loren_1955

    Looking around a bit, watching various video clips on youtube, Steve Grand appears every a bit a good man. He has the looks, the physique, good piano skills, good singing, good personality handling a crowd. He should go far, and the gay community should be proud that we have a young fellow coming up that can represent us well. The very best to you Steve in your journey.

  • Brian

    The music industry is extremely homophobic towards the male-male erotic interaction. You can see this in the itunes charts where not one act is an openly gay or bisexual male – not even one. You are more likely to find an openly gay or bisexual male at Pat Robertson’s. house party than you are to find one on the music charts.

    Who’s to blame for this? Women. Women won’t buy from men who aren’t marketing romance to them.

  • igoape

    Yes country music is ready for an openly gay artist. As for the question of do we care about country music well that is a no brainer. There are many gay people that love country music. I don’t know about the rest of the country buy here in Texas we also have gay country bars. We love country music but country doesn’t love us back. Today’s country though is very different than that of 20 or even 10 years ago. It is much more pop oriented and very similar to what used to pass as rock.
    I really don’t know why some gay guys have to be such drama queens. There can’t be more than one gay artist per genre? I have been listening to country for decades and I have never heard of Drake Jensen. From the number of hits on his videos neither have many people. Other people have have made the transition from you tube artists to genuine stars. Take Justin Bieber. He may be an outsider but he has a built in fan base that record companies would die for. Many just wish their artists were able to get 1.5 million hits in a week. Even Garth was preaching equality to his fans. “When your free to love anyone you choose” From We shall be free. Steve Grand is the real deal. He is a very attractive guy granted but we listen to music with our ears. When Adele was asked to lose weight she said she makes music for the ears and not the eyes. Steve happens to have great vocal chops but people are ragging on him because he used to be a model. Channing Tatum used to be a stripper. He even spoofed his past in Magic Mike. Many gays saw that movie. For that matter former models turned actors include, Ashton Kutcher, Josh Duhamel, Kellan Lutz, Tom Welling, and Antonio Sabato Jr. I think he will have a great career and I can’t wait to hear more from him.

  • mz.sam

    Sorry guys, on the contrary, I really wish it were true! I know the country music scene extends far beyond Branson and Grand Ole Opry, but I even doubt if The Voice’s (filmed at Universal Studios) Blake Sheldon would want to groom Steve for his Country shows if that was the wishful case. Chely Wright is a prime example of many country fans turning their backs on her after coming out, despite her amazing talent and good looks. Also, we never see her at the big music award shows. That’s the reality and the real world. But on the flip side, with this awesome singer/songwriter’s talent and his hot centerfold good looks, Steve can truly succeed among younger music fans as a ‘cross-over’ artist, irrespective of his sexual orientation. His music is honestly heartfelt and is persona is infectious and genuine. Being a YouTube star has a limiting shelf life. By staying put in Chicago, his chances of the industry noticing are much slimmer than performing in the West Coast/LA music scene. As example, NBC’s The Voice was created. My friend who had been struggling for over 10 years with his rock band has finally landed a record deal…even after numerous gigs at the Viper and House of Blues! But I’m as hopeful and happy for this talented young artist’s notoriety and wish Steve nothing but upward and great music success…Country or not.

  • junk4sts

    I just watched the video and listened to the song, it’s a man singing about wanting another man to be his “American Boy” so at it’s core the song is gay. I think Gay and Gay friendly men and women who like country music will become fan’s of Steve Grand, if he can continue to write compelling music that more than just his Gay following can identify with, he has a shot at success in country music, but (and this is just my opinion) I don’t think most straight men will ever identify with this song, He’s a man singing about wanting another man, it’s not gross or disgusting, but at the same time it’s not appealing either, and what straight man who likes country music is going to want to hang out with his other straight friends and listen to a man singing about wanting another man, there is simply a disconnect there that’s both personal and social. I think the same can largely be said about straight women, so where does that leave an artist like Steve Grand? It depends on how successful he wants to be. His music has to appeal to the majority of country music fans, that means singing about themes that most listeners can identify with (which american boy does) and using lyrics that are ambiguous enough to allow the theme to apply to everyone (this is where american boy ‘fails’). For me the test is simple, take the same song and video and replace Steve Grand with say Taylor Swift all of a sudden all of the straight country fans can identify with this song. To be “successful” in country music Steve has to let the listener supply the context. I think that’s what he was going for based upon what he said about the song in and interview.

    Lastly, only Steve Grand can decide what “success” means to him, I think it’s every artists dilemma, does he want commercial success, or does he define success some other way. Either way, I like the song and the video.

  • J.c.

    Very handsome kid and the song is a real breakthrough. Enjoyed the video on youtube also. Love Queerty! Great site. Wish the fat guys commenting would stop bitching about handsome in shape attractive men. So a note to fat guys..” You are not “bears”, “Bears are NOT fat they are suppose to look that way! YOU are glutinous fat humans. So stop whining because we don’t want to look at your shit! (lol)

  • marc sfe

    @Tackle: Okay Tackle, let’s go one further. K.D. Lang was the FIRST out lesbian country music star. Jensen, didn’t cut his first until 2001 and he is Canadian and thus not as much airplay in the United States.

    Now, who peed on your Cheerios? Steve Grand has been highlighted in the main stream media since his video went ballistic on You Tube. Frankly, good for him! Huffington Post has run three articles on him this week, he’s been on GMA, mentioned on The View – so get off your soapbox about Queerty having three articles on him.

    I’m not going to debate who is the better singer or if looks are impacting Steve Grand’s popularity. I could care less how someone looks – what I care about is the voice and how the music strikes me. I’m an near retirement age and I’ve been listening to country music since we had a 19″ Philco black and white television – meaning before there WAS color television. That said, I had no idea who Jensen is at all – so, if you wish to get your panties in a twist because Steve Grand has done a great job at self promoting, then get your panties in a twist.

  • evdanker

    Steve is a very determined young man, and has enough talent to be successful at what he wants to do: tell his story through his music.

  • LadyL

    Reading all the posts here I’m left with a few thoughts… first: Elvis Presley is country music’s god–idolized and imitated endlessly–yet how much dues-paying did he do before becoming a major star? An artist with the right “it” factor can and will break all the rules.
    [email protected]Alan down in Florida: I’m in agreement with most of what you’ve said, although to your point about Chely Wright I would offer as rebuttal the observation that it’s a safe bet that the people who felt most “betrayed” about the years Wright was lying to them about her life are likely the very ones who made her feel she had no other choice. Performer or private citizen, most of us know how hellish the closet is and how scary and difficult it can be to come out of it–and why.
    And finally, many commenters here and on other sites are making the argument that in order for Steve Grand to have a chance at acceptance and success he’ll have to offer songs that have cross-over appeal for straights. I think that will happen regardless if he writes good, solid stuff that speaks to his experiences, never allowing himself to forget who he is and how he really feels. It seems to me that the most memorable writing is found not in generalizations but in the specifics–for example, I can never hear Alanis Morrisette’s blazing “You Oughta Know” (including the stately MTV Unplugged version) without feeling it as a powerful gay anthem. It doesn’t matter at all that Alanis is speaking as a straight woman to a cheating male–just listen to how she tells him off. Whether you’re a gay girl who has known closet case betrayal or a gay guy who has suffered same, it’s pretty much all there. You have only to tweak the lyric slightly as you sing along, replacing “An older version of me” with “A female version of me” or “Did you forget about me, Madame Duplicity?” instead of “Did you forget about me, Mr. Duplicity?” and there you have the perfect retort to a lying, two-faced cheater. It may sound strange, but it’s the specific story-telling that makes the best songs universal.

  • Gigi Gee

    @miagoodguy: re “It is sad how people just see a pretty face and body and think he sounds amazing. Mediocre singer at best. He should keep doing what he does best, pose for the camera in his underwear.” You must be a riot at parties. What’s that? You never get invited to parties. I wonder why that might be? Get help.

  • Franklin

    His song is popular because he’s a middle American looking white guy that can carry a tune. That’s not being bitter, that’s not being catty, that’s calling a spade a spade. Had be been black, Asian, or avg looking and he wrote the same song you guys wouldn’t be feeling him the way do are, and anyone who says otherwise is full of it.

  • jamie

    I liked the video, the song, and the looks of the video, but something bothered me. Finally realized that this guy was using BOTH of the frothiest marketing tools: sex appeal and emotion. These things should be about 10% of the message and the meaning of it should be the other 90%, unless you want to be a one-hit wonder. Steve’s emotional message is not just his hopeless longing in the song, but also the whole tears in the doe eyes about being rejected by his parents for being gay. Frankly, it’s pretty disingenuous or confused. If you want a good example of someone who’s struggled with this same problem, look at Adam Lambert. Eventually, if he has genuine talent, he’ll concentrate more on the meaning and less on the abs and the persecution. A perfect example of someone who approaches his career completely opposite, by concentrating almost exclusively on meaning and not image, is Jay Brannan. He’ll never go viral, but he communicates realness and unique talent. What more can you ask of country music or any other kind?

  • bearfuzzlover

    Why not … and if his music is any good (I have no idea because I have never hear of him until today), he will hopefully hit the top notes!

  • Saralikesyarr

    Good for him!

    I might just listen to his song for this.

    I usually dislike country, but I would definitely support a Gay country singer.

    Good for him!

  • Derek Williams

    NOW is always the right time.

  • Niall

    I’m not trying to be snarky, but let’s be real, most of the views the video wracked up was due to the sex appeal of it, not due to the quality of the song itself. So, he’ll either have to make better songs to keep up his career or continue putting hot guys in his vids and hope it floats. Now in pop music, that might get you far, but I don’t know how much good it’ll do him as a country singer.

  • JimboinLA

    I’ve been listening to it without watching the video. It’s a good song. Great hook. Resolves well. The moment the song stops is fantastic. The eye candy helps but if it wasn’t a good song no one would listen or care.

  • JimboinLA

    The key change when he says ‘the beautiful body exposed’ it perfect. Anyone who doubts his sincerity needs to watch this clip of him talking about feeling that there was no way he could ever make his parents proud after he came out. Goddamn heartbreaking. I am giving this kid 100% support.

  • JimboinLA

    So how can we get Rick Ruben to produce his debut album??? Rubin gave the Dixie Chicks a number one album after country music turned on them. Rick Rubin need to produce his debut album. Anyone have any ideas?

  • MarvelUs

    I love the Abs, much better than those corny rhinestone cowboys. Hot stuff out behind the barn, sexier than any straight yodeler.

  • simris2k

    @Mischiefwolf: I also like Drake Jensen! Although I’ve read below that some think this post is only about AMERICAN GAY country singers, I have read that nowhere in the article. Drake is indeed a great gay, country music singer!

  • Tackle

    @Cupsul: yes Drake Jenson is Canadian. But the article did NOT specify American. The original post said the first gay country singer.That’s why I mentioned Drake Jenson. The other is that Drake being an older bear type, would Queerty show him the same love as they are showing Steve.

  • Tackle

    @marc sfe: no one peed in my Cheerios yet. But did someone pee in your eyes. I see you’re blinded like so many on here with the delusion that’s it’s just about the music/talent and nothing else. Denial is one hell of a drug. If that were the same song and talent but that person was in a wheel chair. Was fat. Over 40. Transgender. Black or Asian and even a non-white Hispanic, you and most of his supporters would not be posting. His voice and talent are mediocre at best. But that’s ok. Because most of what’s signed are in the same boat. Steve definitely has a good shot. I just beg to differ with many on here saying he’s something great and the vocals are amazing. The same people who are loving him now as a 22 yr-old, will be the same ones to kick my to the curb once he turns 30. They will turn their attention to the next young, hot 22 yr-old and swear, it’s only & all about the talent. People don’t smell their own BS. As far as signing a online petition , I’ll pass. I don’t know anything about his personal caricature. Could be and practice agism, racism, sexism, Could be the biggest jerk. Or could be a sweet wonderful guy. But I just don’t know.

  • Ed

    Thanks for the song and the video (let’s face it, a little male chest-viewing makes things more fun any day). I’ve already posted that I think this is MY summer song, even though my husband hit me with a pillow when I told him (just a swat). :-)

  • gcforman

    Hello people. The gentleman in question can sing, and he is a cutie with a lot of S.A.; but I’m making this comment more about Mr. Jensen. Drake has talent he hasn’t even tapped yet. He does have a certain appeal to those who are advocates of Beardom, Have any of you taken the time to watch/listen to any of his videos? “On My Way to Finding You” is most excellent–one isn’t aware of the gender he is singing to his until the end. He is in a totally committed relationship with his spouse, he is active in the relationship with his fans via Facebook, and has brought attention to those tragedies relating to bullying, among other social issues. Meanwhile, as a 63 year old fart, I tend to listen to my old favorites: Willie, Johnny, Merle, Kris, Waylon, Buck, Dolly, Tammy and Loretta. Someone recommended I give Drake a try and I found him an energizing spark. This new, sexy fella, I’d never heatd of before the Queerty story. He sounds ok, but he didn’t really speak to me

  • Polaro

    @Tackle: I recommend therapy.

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