Ty Herndon came out as a gay artist five years ago, and since then, he's been advocating for acceptance in country music, using his platform to inspire others to live their own authentic lives.
"I've been in this business for 25 years, I've been very, a very lucky man, but I authentically couldn't live in this skin anymore," the 57-year-old singer recalled to PopCulture.com during CMA Fest in Nashville. "I was actually ready, I didn't care, I'd go work at Waffle House. I didn't care, I was prepared to walk away. Everything else in my life became so authentic."
"But here's the deal, I'm just a cowboy from Alabama," he added. "I grew up on a pig farm in Alabama, so it's kind of crazy."
In addition to continuing to release music, Herndon speaks with young children and their parents to help foster a positive environment, though he revealed that there's one thing he often hears from the young people he encounters.
"I talk to a lot of kids today, and the number one thing I hear is, 'We want our country music, but country music doesn't like us,'" he shared.
That sentiment spurred Herndon to create his annual Concert for Love & Acceptance, which recently held its second outing in Nashville. The concert saw stars like Lee Brice, Chely Wright, Daughtry and Rita Wilson come together to advocate for acceptance for LGBTQ people, with Herndon sharing that the night's message is a simple one.
"I wanted that 14-year-old kid like me, that was sitting at home, to know one thing. You don't have to be afraid of country music," he said. "You can come to town, we got a new generation of folks here. You know we're kind of out with the old, in with the new, and if the old can't hang, then they need to go away."
"It's about love and acceptance," the Mississippi native continued. "And I tell these kids, 'Don't worry about your sexuality. If you want to be in Nashville and you wanted to be a singer/songwriter, then go to school. Be the best singer, performer, songwriter, producer that you can be. The rest will follow. Your authenticity will lift you up, and you will be the best at what you do. So, I've become a little bit of a teacher/preacher that I didn't know I would be along this journey."
During a recent meet and greet, Herndon continued to embrace his teacher mentality, sharing a touching experience he had with one family at a show in Dallas.
"This Mom and Dad brought their 14-year-old son back and they introduced me, and they were like, 'Okay, this kid just came out to us, like two weeks ago, and he wanted to come on the show and meet you,'" he recalled. "I got so emotional, I was like, 'Dude, you understand, you got two great parents here right? They brought you back here today.'"
"This is the best part of the story, like any healthy 14-year-old kid, who has parents that love him," Herndon continued. "He looked at me and was like, 'Dude, you can have them.' That made me so emotional, because I was like, you guys are so ahead of the game here."0comments
"If we could just teach everyone today that we just need to love and accept no matter what, it's an important lesson."
Photo Credit: Getty / Terry Wyatt