Country singer Billy Gilman is making headlines for coming out, and some big stars are rallying around him. Here’s what you need to know about the country crooner.
1. He’s the most successful country singer you’ve never heard of
He might not be a household name like Tim McGraw, but Gilman tasted huge success early in his career. His first album was certified double platinum; the next two were certified gold. He’s even been nominated for a Grammy.
2. He made a splash in the industry at a really young age
Gilman had a hit at just 11 years old with the song “One Voice,” which landed on the Billboard Top 20 country charts. He was the youngest artist to make it onto the top 40, and he was listed in the Guinness World Records as the youngest singer to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.
3. He has performed with some really huge names
Gilman sang on the charity single “The Choice” with huge country artists like Alan Jackson, Wynonna Judd, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Ronnie Milsap, Kellie Pickler, LeAnn Rimes, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Keith Urban and others. He was even featured on Charlotte Church’s album Dream A Dream.
4. He says the industry turned its back once the gay rumors started
In the video he made announcing his sexuality to fans, Gilman claimed that most of Nashville has turned their backs on him because the genre only celebrates macho men. “In recent years when I did come back to Nashville, there were rumors and whispers — is he or isn’t he? Being a gay male country artist is not the best thing… I threw a showcase in Nashville, and no major label showed,” he said.
“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 I’m in a genre and an industry that’s ashamed of me for being me.”
5. But a few country stars have been amazingly supportive
“The country artists that literally I grew up in front of – Keith Urban and Vince [Gill] and LeAnn Rimes and all these wonderful friends of mine – have been nothing but supportive,” Gilman said in the video. “Not that they knew, but they’ve all been such wonderful people.”
LeAnn even tweeted her pride in her friend’s courage.
— LeAnn Rimes Cibrian (@leannrimes) November 20, 2014
6. He was inspired to come out by fellow country artist Ty Herndon
Herndon came out earlier in the day and his honestly directly inspired Gilman to make his own announcement — especially since he feared being outed by the press without his own input. The two were once both signed to Nashville’s Epic Records.
7. Chely Wright has his back, even if some of her “fans” don’t
When Chely Wright came out in 2010 she faced a huge backlash, so she understands why Gilman tried to hide his sexuality for so long. Some of the reactions to her supportive note to Gilman on Facebook prove why even more stars should come out— there are kids out there dealing with hate every day.
— Chely Wright 🇺🇸 (@chelywright) November 21, 2014
Watch Billy Gilman’s coming out video.