Image Credit: Howard BragmanOn Monday, country star Chely Wright (“Single White Female”) revealed on People.com that she’s gay. As she explains in her new autobiography, Like Me, she’s known about her sexuality for a long time, but she guarded the secret so intensely it brought her to the brink of suicide after a breakdown in 2005. Now, with her memoir and a new album, Lifted Off the Ground, on shelves, she’s talking for the first time about what she calls her “truth.”
EW.com sat down with Wright three weeks ago to discuss her decision to come out, and how this revelation will affect her future as a tremendous supporter and regular entertainer of the U.S. military — as well as her future in country music. “I want my country fans to stay with me,” Wright says. “I’m not giving the finger to country fans. By all measure, they already like me. They voted me ‘most philanthropic,’ ‘country star with the biggest heart,’ People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful, Kansan of the Year. I’m still all those things. I just happen to be a lesbian. And I have been the whole time. I wasn’t confused. I’ve been gay the whole time.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: [we are engaged in some pre-interview chit-chat about live performance and big arena spectacle.] On the flip side, I went to go see Patty Griffin a couple nights ago, and…
CHELY WRIGHT: The Patty? Living with Ghosts changed my life, changed how I write songs. It perhaps saved my life. My guitar, my bike, and Patty Griffin. There’s a song I didn’t record for this record called “Love for Patty Griffin.” It’s one of the ones I played when I went to [Lifted producer] Rodney [Crowell]’s house with my broken guitar and my broken self and said, “I think I’m dying,” and played him the songs that came to be Lifted Off the Ground.
How did she save your life?
Because she knew me in her songs. “Sweet Lorraine,” “You Are Not Alone,” “Nobody’s Crying,” “Mary.” I was reaching for God at this time in my life, and when I heard “Mary” and the Living With Ghosts album, I felt like God was whispering in my ear.
She’s been duetting with a lot of male country stars lately. Could she survive a career in mainstream country?
No. I think she’s so good she just doesn’t have to tolerate what the rest of us have to tolerate. Like getting your ass grabbed by a radio guy. Why would Patty Griffin ever walk into a room of drunk radio guys and get her ass grabbed? It’s a really broken template, because the labels are imploding. I’m not happy about it. I don’t look at that and go, ha ha ha. It’s heartbreaking to watch the labels close, because all my pals, they’re out of jobs. But you can’t do it the way we’ve been doing it.
I think it’s interesting you’re still saying “we” when you refer to the country music industry.
I still consider myself a part of it. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the successes of it. And I still very much consider myself a part of the Nashville community. I don’t feel like an outsider yet.
Yet? Is that what you’re predicting?
Rodney said it best. Someone was talking to him about what it’s going to be like for me and they said, “They won’t publicly hate her. They will freeze her out.” I wrote about it in my book. It’s the secret haters who do the most harm, historically. And that’s the thing with the internet. Somebody wrote a really nasty Twitter about me lately. And I thought, you know what? I can’t wait until I’m in charge of that rumor, that whisper. I’m proud of who I am. I’m not necessarily proud of being gay. I’m proud that I’m about to live my life honestly. I won’t be a whisper. I’m too proud of who I am. I’ve been too good a steward of my life. Why should I allow someone else to write a nasty Twitter about me? At least in high school you knew who the bully was. You knew who was kicking your ass. I wrote about that in my book, that I looked online at something nasty written about me, and I vomited. It made me sick. Not what I read, but that I couldn’t defend myself. That I couldn’t say, “Yes I’m gay, but I’m not a f—ing whore. It doesn’t make me promiscuous or deviant! I had a partner! We had a home! We had a garden! We had dogs and fish!” And it made me so angry that I was not in charge of my story. That’s the most compelling reason why I decided not to just do a video blog and say, “Hey! Ta-daaa! [sing-song] I am a gaaaaaay!” I wanted to tell my story.
If you hadn’t decided to be true with people about who you are, could you have put out another album?
Would it have been any good?
It would have been this album. It wouldn’t have had “Like Me” on it. I know what it looks like from the outside. It appears that I decided to come out and wrote an album about being gay, right?
It does seem very personal.
I had my breakdown on the last day of 2005. And I swear to God, these songs were pouring out of me. And annoying the s— out of me. To answer your question, I think — some country stations are playing my single now. I think my record will get dropped.
Not played anymore. The stations who are playing it. We’re not really working it to country radio. READ FULL STORY