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(CNN) -- Country star Ty Herndon has something to share: He's an "out, proud and happy gay man."

Herndon, 52, came out publicly as gay in an interview with People magazine.

He says he's known he was gay since he was a child and started coming out to family members in his 20s. But the "What Mattered Most" singer, who had a number of hits in the 1990s, kept the news close to the vest.

It wasn't until he attended a Tony Robbins seminar in 2009 that he decided to become more public, he told the magazine.

"I realized I had an incredible story that could possibly help someone's son or daughter or grandchild's life not be as difficult as mine has been," he said. "Maybe they wouldn't have to go through as much pain and suffering. It's time to tell my truth."

The country music world hasn't always been the friendliest to LGBTQ people, but Herndon sees signs that's changing. Singer Chely Wright came out in 2010 and the open-minded Kacey Musgraves has a song titled "Follow Your Arrow" that was just named CMA song of the year.

"I felt so proud of my city," he said. "I hope that trend continues; I pray it does."

Herndon has been in a relationship with his partner for six years. He doesn't expect his life to change radically now that he's made his announcement.

"(Being gay) is just an addendum," he says. "I'm a gay man, and I'm looking forward to living the rest of my life authentically and happy."

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