Although he's only been an openly homosexual man in country music for one day, singer Ty Herndon's declaration that he is an "out, proud and happy gay man" has given another male artist in the genre the courage to come out publicly – on the very same day.
In the YouTube video posted below, 26-year-old Billy Gilman, whose 2000 debut album, One Voice sold more than two million copies, begins by explaining that he'd been plotting a public revelation for several weeks and that Herndon, a friend, made it easier for him. Although visibly nervous as the video begins, Gilman praises his fellow country star for his brave effort and thanks fans repeatedly for their support throughout his career. Discovered by Asleep at the Wheel bandleader Ray Benson at age nine, Gilman scored his first hit, the Top 20 "One Voice" when he was 12 years old, making him the youngest artist to ever have a Top 40 country hit. He and Herndon were both signed to Nashville's Epic Records, although Herndon's final album for the label was released just prior to Gilman's first.
"I took a long time to grow in country music, and I took a while to grow up and recently released some new music," he says in the five-minute clip. "We filmed a video for the single, 'Say You Will' in Rhode Island. I was getting ready to do an interview with a reporter… 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."
After the reporter took a picture of the couple, Gilman realized he needed to tell fans himself, rather than having them read about it in an article that might not get the facts straight. He also acknowledged "rumors and whispers of, 'Is he or isn't he?' that followed him during recent trips to Nashville to meet with record labels.
"Being a gay male country artist is not the best thing," Gilman laments. "If people don't like your music that's one thing, but after having sold over five million records... I knew something was wrong when no major label wanted to sit down and have a meeting and listen to the new stuff. I did a showcase in Nashville and no major label showed."
Gilman, who lives in Rhode Island, also deems it "pretty silly" to be "in a genre and in an industry that is ashamed of me for being me." But he goes on to praise fellow artists Keith Urban, Vince Gill and LeAnn Rimes for their support of his career. "Not that they knew," he adds.
The singer also gives fans a quick look at the new music video he's currently editing and will be releasing soon.
"It's been a crazy day," he concludes, "and I can honestly say I'm scared to death. But I thank each and every one of you for your support. I will always strive to be the best artist that I can be. Now that I know that I have finally found my place as a person, that only makes the music that much better. I know some people won't agree with this, and that's OK. To each his own. But it was time for me to be honest."