Out gay musician, ordained Christian minister, and musical evangelist: a simple game of which of these is not like the other? No, this list describes Nashvillian Jeremy Ryan Brooks, currently nominated for two Artists Music Guild’s (AMG) Heritage Awards: Favorite Male Vocalist and Mainstream Artist of the Year. Last year, the first year the AMG presented the Heritage Awards, Brooks was awarded New Artist of the Year.

This is all so remarkable, given Brooks’ journey through the world of Christian music and the difficulty of coming out as an evangelical Christian. Brooks’ struggle with his homosexuality ultimately led him to pull back from the Christian music scene, in which he had been deeply involved since his childhood. He never disconnected and never stopped making music, which is for him a calling. Rather, he worried that continuing to work with prominent Christian ministers and conservative groups while negotiating the path to accepting his sexuality might draw negative attention to him and place him at the center of a controversy. So he reduced his visibility and quietly went about sorting through questions he’d long faced in greater privacy than he’d have otherwise enjoyed.

Recently, however, he has been reconnecting with his musical roots in a big way, and that is due in no small way to recognition by groups such as the AMG. While the AMG is a trade membership organization which provides musicians with access to professional services, including access to benefits such as insurance, banking and retirement, it also offers a different kind of services, such as pastoral care. While not outwardly religious in most respects, the AMG does have deep roots in Christian music—for instance, a number of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s musical colleagues are involved in the organization. Indeed, the awards offered by the AMG< share the name of Heritage USA, the Christian theme park and development built by the Bakker’s PTL, “Praise the Lord Club.” Having gone through the process of coming out, members of the AMG and other colleagues from the world of Christian music have encouraged him to come back and bring his experience with him. While Brooks is the only openly gay nominee for this year’s Heritage Awards, he is an openly gay nominee, and that says a lot about the shifting attitudes in the music worlds in which he moves.

Brooks says that he’s learned a lot from his experiences over the last couple of years. Two things in particular stand out from our conversation. First, the importance of being authentic to oneself and one’s own path in life. It’s hard to serve others when you neglect yourself, and it’s even harder to do when you try to be someone else. Second, it’s important to remember that only you can tell your story. Sure, you can be afraid of how other people are going to spin you or the path of life God has put you own, or you can be on the front line of presenting the message of your life. Overall, when asked what was one lesson he learned that he’d most like to share with others, Brooks said it’s that people are more open to welcoming authentic people.

These days, as Brooks continues to rebuild his foundations in the Christian, and wider, music world, one question he very often faces is, “How do you still affiliate with evangelical Christianity when you know there’s so much animosity toward others like you, if not you, from so many groups and individuals?” Brooks’ answer reflects the faithful but humorous attitude of someone who walks a narrow path between two different worlds: “You have to have a whole lot of Jesus and a little f*@# you inside!”

For more information about Jeremy Brooks, see facebook.com/jryanbrooks


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