Chely Wright may now be one of the most popular stars in country music, but although she scored chart-topping success with the track “Single White Female”, it is her sexuality which has propelled her to current superstardom.
Last week, Wright became the first country musician to openly declare her homosexuality. This may not seem like a big accomplishment for some people, but in Nashville, being gay is almost frowned upon, especially on Music Row.
“I lived in Nashville for 20 years and nobody knew I was gay,” Wright tells SFGN. “I’ve been called a humanitarian, a great American and now, I’m proud to say that I can be called a lesbian.”
Wright was living much of her life in isolation. “I was hiding my true feelings and losing friendships I made along the way. I stopped being invited to parties because I was afraid to bring my partner, so I didn’t go. After a while, people stopped calling me.” It was around that time when she began to go into a downward spiral.
Although Wright came out to her sister in 2004 and her father in 2005, she still hid her sexuality from her friends and fellow musicians. “I was in a very dark and scary place. I attempted suicide in 2006. I actually had the barrel of a gun in my mouth. Something made me stop from pulling the trigger,” Chely stated. “I guess at some point, we all hit rock bottom.” instead of taking her own life, began writing about her tribulations in the form of song.
The story begins in the winter of 2006, with a heartbroken Wright self-exiled herself to her bedroom, living in her pajamas, began putting pen to paper, opening her heart to the world. “I was going through a very rough time in my life. The songs are a reflection of that time period,” stated Wright. “I was on the verge of breaking down and couldn’t live a lie. I kept running but where do I hide?”
Wright decided to reveal her sexuality to her entire family and friends in the summer of 2007, but the groundwork for her latest album had already been laid.
The heartbreak and struggles Wright endured can he heard on her latest album Lifted off the Ground. The album would never have come to be were it not for an equally dramatic personal transformation, which she has candidly and painstakingly documented both in music and in words in her autobiography, Like Me.
After writing a dozen or so songs, Wright reached out to one of her musical heroes, Grammy-Award winning producer Rodney Crowell. She barely knew him, but she’d somehow captured his number in her cell phone, so she called him cold and asked if she could come see him. Minutes later, she was standing on Rodney’s porch, guitar in hand. To Wright’s relief, Rodney then offered his musical and personal support.
“Making a record is like a marriage,” Wright states, “you need to reveal everything, so I came out to Rodney in hopes to make a better record.” Crowell, along with Wright agreed that if Chely were going to come out publicity, she would have to do it right.
“I didn’t want to say it and then chase my tail and defend my faith, truth and integrity. There were very profound reasons why I hid for so long and I wanted young people who may be like me in small town America to understand that it is okay to be who you are. Even though someone may listen to Justin Timberlake or the Black Eyed Peas, they can still relate to my story.”
Both Wright’s album and autobiography are now available in stores. To learn more about Chely Wright, please visit her website Chely.com.