Chely Wright Fans Show Support at Nashville Book Signing
Although she's been dividing her time recently, living in both Nashville and New York City, Chely Wright still considers Music City -- and country music -- her home. And if her visit to Davis-Kidd Booksellers on Thursday, May 27, was any indication, she's been welcomed back by country fans with open arms.
Chely's "homecoming" coincided with the singer reading from and signing copies of her candid memoir, 'Like Me,' in which she reveals she is a lesbian, detailing the inner and outer struggles of coming to terms with that realization all the while trying to maintain her successful country-music career.
Hundreds of eager fans and many of her Nashville-based friends made their way inside the store to await Chely's arrival. The singer, who had just flown in from Los Angeles after an appearance on 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show,' was visibly moved by the outpouring of support that greeted her as she stepped to the stage.
Among those in attendance was Rodney Crowell, who produced Chely's latest CD, 'Lifted off the Ground.' The hour-long program consisted of a reading of selections from her book, followed by a Q-and-A session and an impromptu performance, but this was clearly a time meant to reconnect with longtime fans, and if there were any detractors in attendance, they were decidedly non-vocal. No picketing, no derisive signs on display, just friends welcoming the singer, whose absence from the public eye in the last several years had obviously not gone unnoticed -- even if many had no idea her return would also include such a startling revelation about her personal life.
After reading selected passages from her memoir, Chely began taking questions from the audience. A diverse crowd if ever there was one, the singer noted the presence of young children in the audience and also spotted a man and woman seated in the front row, asking if they were a married couple. Indeed, they are. After the program, The Boot spoke to husband and wife Steve and Sharon Roush, from Lebanon, Tenn., who have been married 37 years and are longtime Chely Wright fans.
"We've been in her fan club for years," Sharon Roush tells The Boot. "We have all of the CDs she's ever had and we've even got her new one. We wondered what happened to her because we hadn't seen her. We thought maybe she fizzled through the cracks like a lot of the stars do. And then when we started reading about her in the paper, amd we heard about this signing, we definitely wanted to come and see her and support her, and let her know we're still fans of hers."
Adds Steve Roush, "I listen to who I like because I like their music. Who they are and what they are, that's up to them. Whether I agree with it or not, that doesn't really matter."
Lee Walker, an openly gay long-time country music fan originally from Arkansas, was excited to be meeting Chely, having seen her live in concert several times. Noting the significance of Chely's coming-out, he says, "She's opening doors for young people who are hiding and just need somebody to look up to. I've been out for 17 years now. And I wish I had somebody like Chely when I was a kid to look up to and to make you realize you can do anything, even if you're gay. Her being the first [openly gay country artist], it does make you look up to her for having the courage to come out. For her to maybe open doors for some other struggling artists or other artists that are out there right now who've thought about coming out -- maybe they will now."
One 23-year-old female fan, from a smaller town north of Nashville says, "I never thought somebody would be out in country music because it was such a topic that you didn't discuss, really. And I'm glad Chely got to speak on the level that she got to, on 'Oprah' and on 'Ellen,' because it's important to get to as many people as possible."
Chely also performed solo, acoustic versions of two songs from 'Lifted off the Ground' -- the debut single, 'Broken' and the caustic 'Damn Liar.' Before greeting the long line of fans snaking throughout the bookstore, she left them with the sarcastically witty (and unreleased) 'Something Positive and Hopeful.' And in spite of the sarcasm of the tune (written during the darker days before her coming-out), she really had left those who gathered on this night with just that.