Billy Gilman, who found success in country music as a child in the early 2000s, has come out as gay. Gilman, 26, made the announcement with a YouTube video posted Thursday (Nov. 20), the same day that fellow country artist Ty Herndon came out of the closet.
“It’s taken me a good many weeks to figure out how I was to approach this video that you’re watching right now,” he said. “But today, actually, a fellow country artist and friend made it easier for me to make this video. And I wanted my fans, who have stuck by me for many, many years, to know.”
Gilman said he decided to come out after being spotted with his partner by a local reporter.
“I took a long time to grow in country music, and I took a while to grow up, and recently released some new music,” Gilman said. “We filmed a video for the single ‘Say You Will’ in Rhode Island and was getting ready to do an interview with a reporter, locally. And coincidentally I ran into this reporter at a local fall festival with my partner, someone who I am happily now sharing my life with. This reporter took a picture of us and it was in that moment that I knew that I’d rather it be from me, than you reading it somewhere else, and probably filled with not truth.”
Gilman earned a double-platinum album for his 2000 release, One Voice, as well as two subsequent gold albums. However, he emphasized he was disappointed Nashville had lost interest in his music in recent years.
“In recent years when I did come back to Nashville, there were rumors and whispers — is he or isn’t he? For many that know Nashville and how much I love the industry … being a gay male country artist is not the best thing. You know, if people don’t like your music, that’s one thing. But after having sold over 5 million records and having a wonderful life in the music industry, I knew something was wrong when no major label wanted to sit down and have a meeting and listen to the new stuff. I’d do a showcase in Nashville and no major label showed.”
He added, “I guess coming to terms with this situation, people were stating, ’Oh, you don’t know how many times we heard comments made.’ … It’s difficult for me to make this video. Not because I’m ashamed of being a gay male artist, or a gay artist, or a gay person. But it’s pretty silly to know that I’m ashamed of doing this knowing that because I’m in a genre, and in an industry, that is ashamed of me for being me.”
Yet he made a note that his fellow artists have been supportive of him through the years.
“That said, I want to say that all of the country artists that literally I grew up in front of, Keith Urban, Vince [Gill] and LeAnn Rimes and all of these wonderful friends of mine have been nothing but supportive. Not that they knew, but they have been such wonderful people,” he said.
“And now recently Ty Herndon, who I’ve known and been a fan of. Congratulations on such a courageous effort.”
Nearing the end of his clip, Gilman stated, “You know, I’ve been dealing with this for … well, I’ve been with my partner now for five months. So going back and forth on how I was to approach this, I thought, rather than do it on some talk show, I would do it just in front of a simple camera, very personal. I’ve been an advocate for so many things in my life that I thought, why not now be an advocate for me, and for the cause that I believe in with my whole heart?”
Gilman paused his speech to show part of his music video, which he is editing, then came back to the camera for a few final remarks.
“Anyway it’s been a crazy day and I can honestly say I’m scared to death, but I thank each and every one of you for your support. You know how much I love you and just thank you for all of your support. Know that I will always strive to be the best artist that I can be. Now that I have finally found my place as a person, that only makes the music that much better,” he said.
“So I thank you for your support and I know some people won’t agree with this. And that’s OK. To each his own. But I felt it was time for me to be honest and to be truthful. I love you all and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.”
Gilman was born in Rhode Island and was singing publicly at age 7. By the time he was 11, he had released One Voice, his debut album for Epic Records. He achieved his greatest chart success with the title track, a commentary on school violence which peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard country chart in 2000. He also charted four other singles — “Oklahoma,” “Warm and Fuzzy,” “She’s My Girl” and “Elisabeth” — through 2001.