Interview with Chely Wright

AE: Well, good, we’re glad. How did the process of making the album change once you did come out to Rodney?
CW: That’s a great question. It got so much more profound. The making of the record was going so well before, but if it was going at an eight—ten being the most pleasurable, coalesced, artistic — it became a fifteen. It got so gooey and beautiful and our whole team, we just got into a deep emotional groove and it got really good and it all just came together.

Making a record is such an intimate experience. It’s like a marriage that lasts a couple of years. Can you imagine making such a personal record with someone and their not knowing that I’m gay? I’ve made seven with people who don’t have any idea who I am. So the minute I told my truth to Rodney, all of the colors became brilliant and calibrated. All of the truth, everything lined up and started to make more sense. I think if anything makes sense on this record, it’s because of that. I know that artists go, “This record is the best I’ve ever made.” I don’t say that about all of my records. I don’t think I’ve gotten better with every record. I think the Let Me In record, my first on MCA, was my best record before this one. I now think this is my best record.

AE: It is a beautiful record.
CW: Thanks. I hope I don’t have to go through this again to make another good record. I have yet to write without boundaries. Someone said, “Are you going to write songs with ‘she’ and ‘she’ in it?” And I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to write. The song “Like Me,” which is clearly me with another woman, I held back from Rodney.

The day I came out to him, I said, “Rodney, there’s one song I’ve held back from you that I believe is the emotional musical centerpiece of all the songs I’ve written, but I held it back because I knew you’d be able to tell that I’m gay from it.” I sent it to him on that day and that was the same day I started my book. I emailed him the song, opened my laptop and wrote the title page of my book. If I can write songs like that, that just tell the truth, I think I’ll be doing all right.

AE: Many people have asked you whether you’ve heard from Brad Paisley, whom you write about in the book, but I’m curious about the women in your book. You write about how being closeted affected many of your relationships. Have you heard from any of the women that you discuss in the book — your mom or Julia or Kristin?
CW: My mom and I have spoken. We did speak the day I flew to Chicago to film the Oprah show. My mom thinks that this is a sin. My mom thinks that this is a choice that I should not make. But this is not a shock to me. This is why I didn’t tell my mother. It’s disappointing. As I wrote in the book, this would be disappointing to me and hurtful, but what I’m choosing to focus on in that news from her is that there are young people out there who are getting that singular message from their parents.

I’m fortunate that I have a support system of people around me and I know better. I know that this is not a choice for me. I am focusing on the fact that there is a fifteen-year-old girl or boy out there [and] that this is the only message that they are getting. So it galvanizes me. It lights my fire when I hear that from my mother. I love my mother very much. This is not a referendum on my mother—her love for me or my love for [her]. This is just a matter of ideology and what she believes religiously and what I know in my heart: I was born this way.

And as for as Julia, I reached out to her before this news became public. She and I have marginal correspondence. We’ve owned a property together for a long time. But as far as rekindling a romance, I think I thought up until early this year that there would be no other woman for me but her, but I think I’m starting to let that go.

Heather, I’ve been working with my therapist a lot on this and I think my attachment to that relationship has been — and, by the way, I have not told anyone this, and this is not off the record because it’s and I know the demographic to whom I’m speaking — I think my attachment to my relationship to Julia is very complex and I believe that part of the reason why I’ve had trouble letting that go is I’ve just revisited the entire relationship in writing. I’ve fallen in love with her again and I’ve suffered the trauma of the breakup again.

I think I’ve been holding onto the hope that we would get back together because I would love more than anything to go back and un-break both of our hearts. I know now that I cannot do that. It’s not my job to do it. And she’s not out and I cannot be with a person who is not out. I’m not even saying that she wants me back. I don’t know what her feelings are about me or where she is in her life or how she feels about me right now. I mean, you can read it in my book. You can tell at the end of the book that I’m kind of pinning for that relationship.

AE: Certainly the title of the book, Like Me, connects to the relationship.
CW: Yes.

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