Interview with Chely Wright

AE: It took three years for you to write the book and record the album. Did you wonder during that time if another country music singer would come out before you?
CW: No, not really. I guess I reconciled that if somebody else does then good for them. It certainly wasn’t a race to be the first and if someone else did I would have had to tip my hat and be incredibly supportive and honor that. There’s a lot that comes with it. There’s an incredible responsibility, there are a lot of emotions. It scoops you out emotionally, it fills you up.

People may look at it as, “Wow, you get an interview in The Advocate,” and certainly no one ever imagined we’d get a call from Oprah Winfrey — except, actually, I did. None of this surprises me. Somebody asked me, “Can you believe you’re on the Rosie O’Donnell show?” And, yes, I can, because when I sat down to write my book, I knew what I was writing and I knew it was interesting because I had lived it. This doesn’t shock me. You do get [press] when you come out as an openly gay artist in country music. But there’s a lot more to it. You also get a lot of hate mail. You get a lot of s–t. And that’s okay. If people want to disparage me, at least I’m in truth.

AE: I’m curious how many people who are making these disparaging comments have actually read your book.
If you’ve read my book, you know that I didn’t really write myself as the heroine. It was not easy to write the crappy stuff I did. When you sit down and write a memoir, you can write yourself as, “Oh, look at how great I am and look at this and look at that,” but as I told Oprah, to write down your crimes and the lies you told — writing down the sentence, “I became a skilled liar,” was a hard sentence to write. It was difficult.

AE: So what’s next for you? You’ve done the Ellen show and you have the GLAAD Media Awards coming up.
CW: And I have the GLSEN Awards, which I’m super excited about. There’s so much coming up. I’m terrifically excited. Serving on the board of Faith in America is exciting for me. Singing my songs is really exciting because at the root of it all, that’s who I am. I happen to be a gay musician. I know for a while my gayness will eclipse my being a musician, and that’s okay. I signed up for that and I’m eager to be a poster child for as long as I need to be and am able to be because it’s an honor. I want to wear all the hats I am able to wear without hitting a wall. I get to do a lot of pride events this year and we’re working on pulling all of those together.

But more than anything, God, I just want to walk with my head held up high and to focus on the positive and to read the letters that have been coming in. I’m so excited to meet everybody on the road and shake hands and really be proud to be entirely myself.

I’ve heard a couple of people say, “Well, it’s no surprise to us in Nashville, we all knew she was gay.” Well, I hate to break it to them in Nashville, but I didn’t come out to those who thought they knew I was gay. I came out for the people who would never, ever have heard that I’m gay.

That’s the most compelling thing that I would like to get across: whispers don’t make it to the corners of America. Nashville is pretty privy to the rumor mill and I didn’t do this for those who thought they knew. I did this for the young people and the not so young people. The young people whose parents think I’m a great gal—well, I’m still a great gal and I’m a lesbian. I always have been.

AE: Also, being the subject of a whisper or a rumor is not the same as holding your head up high.
CW: Absolutely.

AE: What about touring with the album?
CW: We will be touring in the fall. We have a lot of book and record signings to do and lots of publicity things [to do], but we’re hoping to be out playing and singing in the fall. My management team is working on landing me in the right venues because we’re still not sure, I mean, I’ve got this country music fan base and we’re still trying to find out how many of them will be there. That will determine the venues. You know, I’ve lost a considerable amount of the fan base that I’ve always been able to rely on. So we’ll see.

AE: You’ve also found a lot of new fans as well.
CW: I agree, and I’m loving it.

Follow Chely Wright on Twitter and get more information about her book tour and other updates on her Facebook page.

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