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A year ago, on November 20, 2014, the country music industry received a big wake-up call when, in a single day, two well-known male artists, Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman, came out of the closet as gay. In the year since, Herndon has been a near-constant presence in the LGBT community, attending events like the HRC Dinner in Nashville and working with organizations like Nashville CARES.
Gilman, on the other hand, has kept a lower profile, and has a very different relationship to the country music scene.
In 2000, Gilman, who was just eleven years old, was propelled to fame by his hit single, “One Voice,” which was certified double platinum in the United States. He would become the youngest singer to reach #1 on the Billboard Top Country Album charts and has sold five million albums worldwide. Yet there came a time when Gilman couldn’t get label representatives to come to a showcase of his new music.
Long before he came out, rumors swirled around Gilman's sexuality, which he believes had chilled his career prospects before he ever came out. “When I came out,” Gilman told O&AN, “I brought it to my management team, and they said they weren’t going to bring it up, but there had been so many whispers and comments and they just hadn’t known how they were supposed to handle it.”
They hadn’t known whether to deny it or downplay it, and they hadn’t wanted to bring it up, so it simply remained in the air. “Then I began to understand why it had been a little tough, why it had been so hard for people to get turned on to me in the Nashville music scene.”
The day after he came out via YouTube, Gilman appeared on Entertainment Tonight (which had just the previous night aired the interview in which Herndon came out). During that interview, Gilman explained: “Being a kid in the music industry, you hear comments, or you hear all kinds of opinions. It’s crazy to know that I’m in an industry that’s ashamed of me for being me.”
“I didn’t want to have to handle coming out in such a public way,” Gilman said. “I had thought it wasn’t necessary anymore. I thought we were past that—I turned down a magazine that wanted to make a big deal out of the story—but in the end I decided I did want to address my fans and also to be a voice to those out there who were struggling. That’s why it’s still necessary to come out. I just wanted to help the situation, not benefit from it.”
The fact that he released his video on the same day Herndon came out did raise the profile of his own message to his fans however. “Everyone asks if I knew [Herndon] was coming out, if we planned it that way, but I had no clue he was thinking of doing what he did the same time I was. I had been working on versions of this video for a while, but I kept holding off for about two weeks before I did it. Then I got word that Ty was coming out, and I decided to just take the plunge. When I met up with him a month afterward, we laughed about it.”
Despite having heard the negative messages about LGBT people in the industry as a kid, Gilman says growing up in that world didn’t make him feel oppressed, primarily because he immersed himself so much in his work that he didn’t really know himself. “I was a personality before I was a person! I was busy with music, and wrapped up in being with my friends when I wasn’t on tour, then there was practice and songwriting. I was always busy, and I never really paid attention to my sexuality. I was always more worried about screwing up and getting in trouble with alcohol and that sort of stuff than with sex.”
As his music career cooled, a time that led Gilman to doubt his skill and worth as a musician, he had more time to get to know himself. “I was in my twenties before I really started to soul-search and get to know more about me. Then when I met my boyfriend Chris [Meyer] I thought, ‘This is it,’ and that’s when I really got that love is love.”
Since coming out, Gilman has found a great deal of support. “My publicity and management team have stood by my side,” he said. “I have a fantastic family. My parents never missed a beat. When I met my boyfriend, I fell into such a wonderful extended family, they all just let us be us!”
“The thing that took my breath away,” said Gilman, “was the fans. Fans from 12-year-old kids to 90-year-old grandmas reached out to me. The true fans, none of them went away, and others came out of respect for what I had done and then began to like the music. I also got so much mail from young fans who were struggling with this! So many young people in Middle America don’t have a voice. I couldn’t believe the amount of emails I got from them….”
Within the industry, Gilman has also received some support publicly, and a lot more privately. “You know who’s always been a great source of encouragement,” Gilman said, “and he’s been that way through my entire career—that was Keith Urban. He’s one amazing person. LeAnn Rimes is amazing! Lucy Hale has been wonderful!”
Gilman says he hasn’t really been around many of the people he worked with in the past, so he doesn’t know how people in the industry will react to him. “I felt like people like Reba or Tim McGraw were like my family. I’m hoping that the rest of the industry can come around. I don’t want a parade or to be honored. I just hope we in country music can develop into a world that doesn’t care about your sexuality: there are plenty of people out there who would love the music but feel outside that culture.”
With Gilman’s vocal talent, why stay in country music rather than explore other options is an obvious question. “I adore, and I’m obsessed with, country music!” Gilman said. “Country music isn’t just a way to make a living, it’s been there for me since I was five years old. I stand behind country music, but hopefully in the years to come it can learn to stand behind me again. Country music is the way I write, it’s who I am. It’s hard when you love something and they’re like ‘Eh.’ It’s a tightrope, though, I understand that. It’s a new situation for them, and you just have to handle it with respect.”
So how has his year out of the closet been? Personally, it has been stellar: “Chris and I have been together now for about a year-and-a-half. We just got back from visiting wineries in New York. We’re enjoying life together, and the respect we’ve been given.”
Professionally, Gilman, like so many other LGBT artists, is striking an independent route to some early success. He recently released his video for “Say You Will,” the first solo single he has released since 2008, and he intends to roll our new singles regularly for now. With the air cleared, Gilman finds himself in the position of having “to re-introduce myself to country fans now that I look and sound a lot different than I did just 7 or 8 years ago.”
But Gilman isn’t a kid anymore, singing other people’s songs, literally or metaphorically. He’s found his own voice with “Say You Will.” This new, independent and artistic engagement with country music, he says, is a reflection of the happiness he has found. “When you’re confused and not happy, you can’t freely let music come out. Trying to truly convey truth in lyrics in that situation…? You can be complex, but I was distracted by it. Now that it’s all on the table, there is no cloud there, and I can sing freely like I used to as a kid, but from my own place.”
And even within the country music establishment, attitudes may be shifting on Gilman. “In the past few months, a few companies have expressed interest,” he said. “I can’t knock [my experience]—it could have been better but it could have been worse. I think they are moving forward the best they can.”
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.