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“Homophobia in Country Music” part two. Is Steve Grand the changer?

Friday, 19 July 2013 Written by // Wayne Bristow - Positive Life Categories // Arts and Entertainment, Gay Men, Current Affairs, Music, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific , Wayne Bristow

Wayne Bristow on the phenomenon that is gay country singer Steve Grand and whether he will change the face of country music in America.

“Homophobia in Country Music” part two. Is Steve Grand the changer?

When I first saw the Steve Grand video All-American Boy (see below) I thought it was good and posted it on the Facebook page. I figured it would get shared and I would be done with it. Then I watched how the video was taking off on YouTube. When I saw what everyone was saying about it, I felt compelled to chime in. My thinking is, with all the changes in the United States on equality and same sex marriage, will this video change the country music industry?

His name is Steve Grand, a 23 year old singer/songwriter from Chicago. His career has taken off to the tune of over 1.3 million hits on YouTube  in All Amercian Boy’s first week. His own life story, though, about telling his family he was gay and being sent for “straight therapy”, could well be the subject of an all new, modern day country song in itself.

So is Steve Grand the first “openly gay” country singer? Some people say no, because before him there were k.d. Lang, Chely Wright and another Canadian country singer named Drake Jensen who has proclaimed himself the first openly gay country singer.

On one count, I have to say no he's not, because Steve Grand’s song doesn’t even sound country. For me country has to have the “twang thang” the sound of the old classic country. If anything, his song is what would be considered “cross-over” country, meaning it could also make it on the pop music charts. I actually like the song, it’s so well written, it has everything it needs to be a huge hit, but it’s no more country than Taylor Swift. He is a genuinely talented musician who plays guitar and piano. He’s is so much more than a gorgeous boy with killer abs.  

On the other hand, I believe that when you become a household name, when everyone is talking  about  you, when your song gets over a million hits and you are on “Good Morning America”, then you have arrived, and are the first successful, male, openly gay country singer, hands down.

I did a little comparison research on Drake Jensen. His music is more in the classic country style. I found one video of him singing Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” with Ru Paul’s Drag Race star “William Beli”, but other straight male singers have recorded it too. Lyle Lovett recorded it for the soundtrack to “The Crying Game” back in the 90s. In another of his videos “On My Way to Finding You”, Jensen is seen singing and sharing time with another man whom you guess is a partner, but they could also be two good ole boys spending time together. At the end they are seen sharing a long hug but that’s it, they disappear into the house together.  

As for k.d. Lang, Chely Wright, Melissa Etheridge or even Elton John, I have never seen them share a same-sex kiss in any of their videos. If there is any same sex activity, it's shown by the use of actors.  But in Steve’s video, he takes the lead and plants a hot and heated kiss on the lips of the guy he is attracted to in the video’s storyline. 

It should also be pointed out that those other stars came out long after they made it, when their careers were secure. In reality, Steve didn’t come out as gay on his first video either, but there is no doubt “All American Boy” is an all-out shamelessly gay video.

When I researched Steve, I found several video’s on that he made under the name Steve Starchild. All the songs are covers from other artists. In a couple he is sitting at the piano and singing and a couple more he is singing with someone else. Clearly he is not going to be a “one hit wonder”, this guy can sing. (See links below)

To subsidize his income and music career, Grand did some modeling for an Australian underwear magazine called DNA (left) using the names Steve Chatham and Finn Deisel. To finance the video “All American Boy” he went into credit card debt in the amount of $7,000.

So, is Nashville ready for an openly gay country singer? Will we ever see him on stage at the Grand Ole Opry? Will he be granted a membership of the Opry? I remember they fought Shania Twain saying she wasn’t country and questioned her ability to tour. She went on to outsell all female singers combined in Nashville at that time and headline some of the most successful concert tours by a female singer and she was able to smile all the way to the bank without sharing much of her fortune. Can Nashville pass on yet another superstar?

It may seem like a stretch but with the advances in the U.S. on equality and same sex acceptance, it isn’t impossible. However, Chely Wright admits she lost many of her fans when she came out and later married her now wife, Lauren Blitzer in 2011. Nothing is a sure thing. Social media can make you  - but it can also break you.

I was following the TV show Nashville and they brought in a gay storyline. It wasn’t a far-fetched or goofy storyline, it was believable. Many country top stars have made appearances on the show so I think some of the barriers are coming down, slowly. For example, Willie Nelson has a video called “Gay Cowboy” that pokes fun at the subject and it isn’t offensive.

I’ll leave you with the title of a song from Canada’s Terri Clark , “I think the world needs a drink”.

Song Links:

More Than This – Conor Matthews ft. Steve Starchild a.k.a. Steve Grand

Faithfully - Steve Starchild ft. Sari

How to Love – Steve Starchild

You And I – Steve Starchild

It Will Rain – Steve Starchild