Each June the LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride month, commemorating not only the 1969 events at Stonewall, but also the promotion of equality and visibility of the Queer community. This year, as COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings slowly ease, and Pride events begin to be held in person, there’s even more reason for celebration. For Country Music’s LGBTQ+ artists, and their allies, there are many songs that highlight the celebratory nature of the month, and here are 10 to get your playlist started.
Kacey Musgraves, “Follow Your Arrow”
This 2013 release, which Musgraves penned with openly gay songwriters Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, earned praise for its lyrics celebrating the “do what feels right” mentality, whether that’s lighting up a joint, or, as the song goes, “kiss lots of boys – or lots of girls, if that’s something you’re into.” “Follow Your Arrow” made history when this inclusive track was named Song of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards in 2014.
Brothers Osborne, “Younger Me”
Sibling duo Brothers Osborne released this transparent track shortly after T.J. Osborne came out as gay earlier this year.
Youth ain’t wasted on the young/These trips around the sun/I needed every one/To get where I’m standing now/It’s an uphill road to run, they sing, in a nod to how the hard times have helped them become who they are today.
“I’ve always wished I could speak to my younger self, give him a hug and show him who he’d become and what he’d achieve,” T.J. said via Twitter of the song’s release. “Once I came out, that feeling was overwhelmingly strong that this song was born.”
Brooke Eden, “Got No Choice”
Over the past year, Eden has shared her love story with music industry exec Hilary Hoover through a trio of sun-drenched videos, including the breezy “Sunroof,” “No Shade,” and “Got No Choice,” all of which feature her relationship with Hoover. The couple also recently announced their engagement. Eden’s video for “Sunroof” also earned a nomination for “Best Family Feature” at the 2021 CMT Music Awards.
Garth Brooks, “We Shall Be Free”
When we’re free to love anyone we choose/When this world’s big enough for all different views, When we all can worship from our own kind of pew/Then we shall be free, Brooks sings in this 1992 release. Due to some country stations banning the song from radio airplay, the track became Brooks’ first to not reach the Top 10 on the country charts. However, it did earn Brooks a GLAAD Media Award in 1993.
Mickey Guyton, “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?”
Do you let her think the deck’s not stacked/And gay or straight or white or black/You just dream and anything can happen?, Guyton sings in this scathing indictment on a society that builds up young girls, only to put up various gender and racial roadblocks to their success as they grow older.
“As kids, we’re told that we can be whatever we want to be when we grow up. And as women, when we grow up, we realize we can’t be everything that we want to be when we grow up. And it needs to change,” Guyton told CMT of the song back in 2020.
Lily Rose, “Remind Me of You”
Newcomer Lily Rose, whose track “Villain” became a viral hit, didn’t write this new track, “Remind Me of You.” The song was penned by Sam Hunt, Ernest K. Smith, Ryan Vojtesak and Corey Crowder. However, Rose put an indelible stamp on the song. Instead of swapping the song’s pronouns to reflect a heterosexual relationship, Rose chose to leave them as they were.
“Girl you were all that I wanted and that’s why falling in love with her is so hard to do, she don’t remind me of you,” Rose sings on the haunting track.
Ty Herndon, “What Mattered Most (Alternative Version)”
Herndon earned his first No. 1 hit with “What Mattered Most” in 1995, long before he came out as gay in 2014. In 2019, he changed the pronouns used in one of his biggest hits to reflect a story of expressing regret over the ending of a former romantic relationship with another man. One listen to the updated version of the song shows Herndon’s voice sounding more powerful, expressive and authentic than ever.
The Highwomen, “If She Ever Leaves Me”
This superstar group–which includes Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby–included this song on their 2019 self-titled album. The song offers sly humor from the perspective of a woman telling a man that if her female lover ever leaves her, it won’t be for him. The group debuted the song at the Newport Folk Festival in 2019.
“If she ever leaves, it’s gonna be for a woman with more time/Who’s not afraid to let her dreams come true/If she ever gives her careful heart to somebody new/Well, it won’t be for a cowboy like you,” they sing.
Luke Bryan, “Most People Are Good”
Bryan, who over the past decade has become of the biggest stars in the country genre, included this line in his Platinum-selling, chart-topping hit from 2018: “I believe you love who you love. Ain’t nothing you should ever be ashamed of.”
“The first time I heard the song I was just so enamored with the whole body of the work of the song, and everything it was saying and doing,” Bryan told popculture.com in 2018. “That line kinda bypassed me as somebody in the LGBT community latching onto it. I mean I just heard it as just love; I kind of heard it as just a love line. I didn’t really pick it apart that way. And I will be truthful,” he continued, “I thought about it as even an inner-racially charged line originally. But that’s only even after I had multiple listens of the song. And then as people started asking me about it, and going into even recording it, somebody brought up, ’Would you ever have changed that line?’ And I would’ve been like, ’Are you crazy? Not in a million years.'”
Willie Nelson, “Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other”
This song was originally recorded by Ned Sublette, though it was Nelson’s version that most people know best, thanks to Nelson’s version being released right around the time of the 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain.
And there’s many a cowboy who don’t understand the way that he feels for his brother/And inside every cowboy, there’s a lady that’d love to slip out, Nelson sings in the track. More recently, newcomer Orville Peck also released a cover of the song.