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Country music singer-songwriter and out lesbian Chely Wright will serve as a main attraction at this year's Nashville Film Festival. Her feature-length documentary Wish Me Away premieres on April 15 with an encore presentation on April 17.
From the documentary website:
Over a three-year period, award-winning filmmakers Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf followed Chely’s struggle – some of which was recorded on private video diaries – and her unfolding plan to come out publicly. Using interviews with Chely, her family, key players in Nashville and her management team, the film goes deep into Chely’s back story as an established country music star and then forward in verite scenes as she prepares to step into the media glare to reveal that she is gay. Finally, the film chronicles the aftermath of that decision in Nashville, her hometown and within the LGBT community.
In an interview with Out & About Newspaper, Wright discusses this documentary film chronicling her coming-out process and the opportunities that have opened up for her in the last year.
First of all, congratulations on your engagement (to gay-rights activist Lauren Blitzer).
Thank you. Sometimes I can't even believe all of these wonderful things are happening in my life. We're trying to wrap our heads around it right now. We're just a few months away now. I've been busy with my job and Lauren's been busy with her job, so we're falling into bed each night at midnight with wedding details in our heads and laughing at ourselves. But we think we're gonna have a fun time with family and friends. The wedding date is August 20, so I'm sure it's gonna be hotter than the dickens. Actually today we have a tasting with the caterer in Manhattan. We're just trying to to cram in all this wedding stuff when we can. I see why everyone gets worried about weddings, but our mantra is "No stress." We're both pretty humorous people and our families are funny, so we can't see how we'll mess it up. It's an exciting time.
How does it feel to see this new film come to the light of day? Anxious, excited, relieved?
I never saw the film until about a month ago. Through the course of the entire filming, I didn't see one frame of film. I felt like that would be too close and it might effect how I react. It's not my film; it's the filmmakers'. They had the editorial say, so what was the point of my watching it and being upset? When it was time, we went to the filmmakers' apartment and it was all of those feelings you just described. It's a very emotional film; it does chronicle some of my tough times. I mean, nobody's pretty when they cry. (laughs)
I think it's the untold story. A lot of people read my book, but this shows all that went into my deciding to come out. It was a really interesting time. I hope that the film will be helpful and give people a glimpse into the experience. I've known and felt fine about being gay for a long time, but this was my coming to terms with telling the world. Whether you're a high school teacher or you work at Walgreen's, there are a lot of criticisms and judgments that go along with doing that. It takes a pretty steeled person to (come out).
It must be a brave thing to expose yourself in such a public forum.
I'm not going to say "Aw, shucks, it was nothing." I know the courage it took for me to come out and write the book. Allowing the filmmakers to follow me in the time that I just wanted to be alone and handing over my video diary, it's a big monster. It will keep you up at night. I just gave them all of my video diaries and let them work. I've never been one in my career to go on TV and tape it and watch it back. There are a few things that I had never seen and didn't remember. At one point in the film I was being interviewed by Dick Clark---I've been friends with Dick for over fifteen years---but I never remembered any part of that. In some ways, the film was really fun to look at and see the early arc of my career. It's a sweet encapsulation, aside from the fact that I see these crazy outfits and hairdos. Lauren was watching back one day and asking me "What you were wearing?"
I remember photos from the night you won your Academy of Country Music award (1995) with that big wall of hair.
When I look at it, I say "Why did I have a ball gown on?" It just shows how country music has changed. When I got into it, that was before we became more like pin-up girls. In the late Nineties, the women started to get noticed in ways of fashion. When I first got into country music, we were very covered up and very conservative. That's a big difference from when I did my FHM photo shoot (2002) and I'm scantily clad!
Things are a little different now.
There's been a changing of the guard in country music. It's down to 3-4 companies really. There are fewer artists and fewer opportunities. There are few who are crossing over into pop culture, like Carrie (Underwood), Taylor (Swift) and Miranda (Lambert). It's a smaller, pared-down field now.
What I think gets lost in this shuffle is this wonderful album you made, Lifted Off the Ground. Do you feel the music has been overlooked because of your message?
It was a slippery slope, this decision. We felt that we had made the record of my lifetime. There's no doubt that this is a pivotal time for me artistically. With all this talk of my book---I didn't have a ghostwriter---people forget that I wrote a whole album by myself except for the song I co-wrote with Rodney (Crowell, Wright's producer). Not a lot of artists are sitting down for three years and writing an entire album, so it's a milestone just for me artistically. But I did know that in my decision-making, the story would likely eclipse the music. When I'm dead and gone, and people choose to look back on my body of work, I hope they say "Oh, that was a great album." But I had to make a decision to let the chips fall where they may. You pick your battles. Every show we are doing is selling out, and I'm slowly rebuilding the fanbase. Some fans have remained and there are new opportunities, so I'm trying to ingratiate them with my music and it seems to be working.
How is it to perform the songs from Lifted Off the Ground being removed from that difficult time in your life?
That's a good question. It's not unlike my entire body of music that I perform every night. I've got songs that chronicle different times in my life. Connie Smith told me early in my career to not record a song that you don't love because that's the one that will become your biggest hit. I feel really good about all the songs that I've recorded in my career. Lifted marks a very melancholy time in my life, a big valley in what I was going through. It's not hard to play that part in the show and sing those songs. For three-and-a-half minutes, I can get into it. The only song that was hard for me for a while was "Like Me." People have been wanting me to do it on TV shows and things, and I couldn't. The day we recorded it, it was just Rodney and I facing each other, and we recorded it in one pass. Now I do it, and I don't mind exploring my emotions.
And I'm sure the emotions of people who have shared their stories with you.
It really is an exchange of emotions, and that's woven into my psyche as well when I'm playing and singing. I've gotten hundreds of letters and I'm touched by the stories that I'm hearing. This music is for anyone who is hiding anything or who's maligned by society. I had a dark, lonely time, and it's been a shock really to hear these stories. This is not a gay record; these are not my songs about being gay. It was just me saying that I can't hide and I can't suffocate anymore. Once I made it past the moment, once I got back on my bicycle and let reality seep in, I said to myself "What the hell am I gonna do?" I really felt that I was being whispered to by God. I'd been trying to control everything and manage my secret. These songs are from my rock bottom and come from my heart.
When can we expect new music?
I'm still trying to manage the parts of my life. I could do advocacy work seven days of work; I have a longing for it; I feel God is calling me to do it. I want to get everything done and finding time to write is hard, especially when I'm on a plane 4-5 times a week. That's the challenge. I landed at JFK (airport) last week and the first thing I did when I came home was pick up the guitar. You've got to just hold the guitar and let yourself and be creative. Right now I've got six songs that I really, really like. This last album has been done since 2008, but it really felt like it was part of a narrative, and then there was a book, and then the film. It all had to work together.
There was a huge balance sheet that I had to reconcile when I came out. I knew that my public profile would be, to a certain degree, forever shifted. I knew my record sales would fall. But I believe I'm going to meet my maker one day, and the bulk of my life I'd been doing a lot for me to maintain and make sure my world was OK. One day you look in the mirror and really think about what you can do for others. I'm a tough person, tougher than i ever imagined. But now I'm a healthy, 40-year-old gay woman out and about and talking about my truths. So if I can stand up and make an easier for path for someone, I really feel good about that.
Nashville Film Festival will host a mini-LGBT film festival, "Pride on Film," during this year's event. The April 14-16 festival will feature six to eight GLBT-focused films, and an opening and closing reception. For tickets, go to NashvilleFilmFestival.org.
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.