Country singer Chely Wright on the effect of coming out: 'My record sales went directly in half'

Chely-WrightImage Credit: Howard BragmanWhen Chely Wright came out to much hoopla and controversy last May, the country singer, natch, was promoting a memoir, a new album, and a Today show appearance — and she positively glowed about her public revelation: “Nothing in my life has been more magical than the moment I decided to come out.” But in a new interview with website Autostraddle that was posted yesterday, things seem a little less rosy for Wright, and she blames her coming out for poor record sales: “It didn’t help my career,” she says. “My record sales went directly in half.” It’s unclear how she can say that for sure, but it’s what she believes.

Wright discussed the perception from the gay community that coming out helped her career, thanks to all the publicity. “They’re wrong,” Wright says of people who have that perception. “There’s the gay community that now knows my name and it’s a long leap from the new demographic of people who will come to my Facebook page and hit the ‘Like’ button to them buying my record and coming to live shows. It’s a big stretch from those new fans to make up for the fans I lost.” Wright explains: “If it appears from the outside in that it’s helped my career, it could be because I haven’t talked about the negative. You won’t hear me bitching and moaning on my Facebook page about the hate mail I’ve gotten.” But, apparently, you will hear her talk about it now. “My life has been threatened. I get nasty letters every day, ‘I’m through with you Chely Wright, you’re going to hell.'”

Although there’s no excuse for hate mail, Wright seems to have just accepted the negativity as part of the package of being truthful — she claims she knew that she’d take a hit for being publicly honest. “There’s a big difference between press and advocacy and … sometimes people forget that people who sing or make movies, this isn’t just a hobby for us,” she says. “This is how I pay my bills. In coming out, I had a feeling that it would diminish my wage earning, and that feeling was correct. And, I am fine with that.”

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

The Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix

More on Chely Wright from
Chely Wright on her decision to come out: ‘I won’t be a whisper. I’m too proud of who I am.’
John Rich responds to Chely Wright: ‘I would never pass judgment on any friend of mine’
Chely Wright: Country singer comes out

Comments (48 total) Add your comment
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  • Meli

    Ms. Wright’s record sales weren’t that good to begin with, that’s why she chose to promote a memoir and come out publicly in the hopes of jumpstarting her stalled career. And I have heard cuts from the CD and have to say maybe her record sales were half of what they normally were because frankly she’s not that good and not that original.

    • joblo

      I bought a Chely Wright CD back in, like, 1995. I didn’t know she was still recording.

      • AcaseofGeo

        Well if she’s selling 25 copies a week now, double that and 50 copies a week is still pretty low. I don’t think coming out is the problem regarding her sales.

      • Amber

        yeah, I think she’s taking this, nobody buys my records cause I’m gay thing a bit far. As far as i could tell she hadn’t done much in country music since the 90s. Her coming out was the first thing I’d heard about her in years, and I’m a country music fan.

    • FromChicago

      Did anybody know about her before the news? I didn’t. She came out in a flashy way exactly to get publicity for the record and book sales. It didn’t happen? Well, it probably did better than if she had stayed in the closet.

      • David

        If she wants to make some big bucks, she should do Playboy. Nothing a man like better than to imagine a hot chick doing another chick. She would make more in a few pages of showing some T & A than she made in 20 years of making music. I would buy it.

    • Mel

      I completely agree! Chely’s cd sales haven’t been stellar in years. I can’t even remember the last song of hers I heard that was new… so to blame that on her coming out is completely false, in my opinion.

      I think she was hoping that all the publicity would lead to more record sales, but if you don’t have the songs to back it up, how is that our fault?

    • Bob

      Half of zero is still zero. LOL

  • DW

    I had never even heard of her until she came out of the closet, so maybe her record sales fell because no one cares about her music.

    • Carla

      Same, never heard of her before.

    • Karate Pants

      She released this album within ONE DAY of announcing she is gay. How in the world could her contention that this caused her record sales to be cut in half possibly hold water??? Maybe she’s gay AND nuts.

    • Andre

      Add me to this list of having never heard of her until her ‘look at me, look at me’ press tour. I suspect there are a lot of people like me that don’t care what her sexuality is and are actually a bit turned off when they try to profit off something that is as a part of them as the colour of their hair.

  • Danny

    Not to prey on stereotypes, but how many gay people listen to country music as opposed to people from the religious right? I mean, come on. Being a gay country singer is like a one way ticket to obscurity.

  • Brian

    That’s goofy. I’m a country fan and had no idea Chely was even still around until the whole coming out of the closet thing. She had one, maybe two, relatively popular songs 10-12 years ago. She’s just not a mainstream country artist.

    • Amber

      my thoughts exactly

  • bagabou

    Nice that she has something to blame for her low sales. Maybe it’s because her music is not that great or nobody knows who she is?? Nope, can’t be because of that can it???!!! Never heard of her.

  • Karate Pants

    Maybe sales of her memoirs, also released in conjunction with her announcement, will offset her poor record sales.

  • RJ

    Chely who???

  • Minutiae

    Well, she seems to be the one who used her sexuality as a “strategy” to help her career, so I can’t say I feel that sorry for her.

    • Crina

      Anonymous April 30, 2012 Honestly , I’m a bit guilty of hviang these negative impressions toward Indian people. My very first social network next to friendster was a language site. I met different nationalities and Indians have bad reputation in that site coz most of them were there not to learn language but to do cyber sex. So I always decline every time I see a friend request or chat request from Indians then one time I got a chat request but the nationality was not displayed and the photo was not looking indian, To cut the story short , I was able to chat with this person , to my surprise, the person is very smart,and well grounded.. from then on we became really good friends. I’ve learned so much about Indian culture and vise versa. If you want to piss an Indian national tell him that their cricket team will be lost with Pakistan and if wants to piss me off he will just tell that Manny Pacquiao this bollywood movies, I promise you, you’ll get be addicted to it I recommend: ghajini’and if you love the movie email me and i’ll recomend another one and a lot more

  • Princess1965

    Chely who?????
    Why do we care if she is gay?

  • david

    It’s sad but true, the record simply wasn’t that good. As a gay man who bought some of her previous albums (pre-coming out), she’s never been one of the most compelling country artists. Plus, it wasn’t very commercial – radio was never going to play it.

    • murpis

      David, you are exactly right. I live in Nashville and am surrounded by country music and artists and she was famous in the 90s. She has not been known at all in the past 10 years. I think she set her expectations a little too high.

  • jpratm

    will i never heard of her. but will honor a listen.

  • Rob

    If I were you Chely, I’d not care one iota about any ‘fans’ not listening to me anymore. They weren’t worth having in the first place, especially those artists in Nashville who shunned you. How about reinventing yourself? Move to LA or NY, find some dancehall producers and become the DIVA you ought to be. I’m sure that audience will always love you. Don’t look back!

  • KXB

    So her record sales went from 10,000 copies to 5,000 then? Yawwwwwwnnnnnn- no one CARES!!!!!

  • kt

    As a huge country music fan, I fully support Chely coming out.
    However…she hasn’t had a major hit in YEARS, and only had one hit at that. She didn’t sell records because she’s not a relevant country music artist anymore. The only reason I even remember her is because of the news story with her coming out a few months ago. That’s all there is to it…Plain and simple.

    • Brenda Barrett

      You’re completely correct. I do wish Chely all the best, but she’s one of so many musical artists who have a bit of success and then never hit the charts again. I am still shocked and appalled, though, by people’s intolerance. I honestly don’t understand why people are threatened by homosexuality.

  • Stacey

    She hasn’t had a hit in like ten years. She can’t blame her coming out for affecting her career. I am sure it’s had some affect. I am not naive to think it doesn’t. But come on, she didn’t have a Carrie Underwood type career before coming out. She hadn’t been heard from really since Single White Female or even Jezzebell. Maybe she was more under the surface. But I follow country music and she hadn’t been heard from in years. Sure she can blame her recent sales on her annoucement. But not her career since it was very low key before hand… Still, it’s a shame it did. But it’s something that happens. Coming out might have done her a world of good emotionally and physically but it was always going to be hard for her career given she is in a conservative music genre. Country is known having it’s values and they might not be as progressive as the rest of Showbusiness. Of course not ALL. But a lot of the business is like that…

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