ACM HONORS: Shane McAnally Says “I Really Didn’t Know You Could Be in Country Music and Be Gay”

On Living His Truth and Living the Dream

Like so many gifted country songwriters, Shane McAnally came from a small town in Texas. And he was obsessed with Barbara Mandrell. And he never knew you could write songs for country singers — superstars like her — to sing. But once he navigated that uncertain path, he arrived. And now he is the ACM’s songwriter of the year. It’s McAnally’s second win in the category.

At the 2019 ACM Honors ceremony at the Ryman Auditorium on Wednesday night (Aug. 21), Midland took the stage to present the award to their collaborator and friend. “Shane is one the most charismatic, abundant and funny people we’ve met,” the trio shared. “From the bottom of our hearts, your talent and your abundance and your lust for life flows through you. And you are a magnet. People all want to be around you. We love being around you when we get to sit down and make music together.”

When it was finally McAnally’s turn to accept, he went back to talking about his Texas roots, and about his love for Mandrell who was in the crowd for the event.

“I would watch the ACMs, and I was obsessed with Barbara Mandrell. But I didn’t know the path. I didn’t realize that the real heroes were the ones who wrote those songs. I had no idea. I didn’t know you could write songs, and superstars would sing them. So I came to town thinking you had to sing your own songs.

“And I am just still in awe of this wildest dream: that I get to write songs that people I love and look up to sing and put on the radio,” he said.

Then came the tears.

“When I talk about that wildest dream, I have to acknowledge the fact that truly, beyond my wildest dreams, not only did I not know that writing songs could be a job,” he said, “I really didn’t know you could be in country music and be gay.

“When I came out to my mom, she was so scared that I wouldn’t get to have this dream. But this town has never for a minute made me feel anything but loved and accepted.”

McAnally thanked his team, his family, his husband and his children. “I do have to acknowledge my husband. And it’s so cool to get to say that from this stage. We are living our truth and our dream. I love country music and I love this town.”

While McAnally is involved of many parts of the country music world, this award is reserved for someone known most predominately as a songwriter. Ross Copperman, Dallas Davidson, Luke Laird, Shane McAnally, Lori McKenna and Roger Miller have also been named as songwriters of the year.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.
@alisonbonaguro