Jennifer Nettles on Gay Rights: ‘This Should Have Already Been Behind Us’
As the country music scene inches slowly towards acceptance of the gay and lesbian community — thanks in part to songwriters like Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves‘ brave lyrics in her single, ‘Follow Your Arrow’ — Jennifer Nettles is already way ahead of the game.
The songstress, who developed her performance chops in Atlanta in the ’90s and amassed a large gay and lesbian following in the process, says it’s about time the country music community allowed for more diversity among both the artists and their audience.
“It’s exciting to see within the country genre, yet at the same time, for me in terms of social motivation and evolution and moving forward, I always feel — be it within a music genre or a religious movement or whatever — like, ‘OK, come on, let’s move faster. Let’s get there faster. Let’s get it done,’” she tells PrideSource. “This should have already been behind us. So I am excited about it, but I want it to continue and be more.”
The 39-year-old has spent her entire career living outside the traditional country music genre, both in her lyrics and music, as the lead singer of the award-winning duo, Sugarland, and in her new solo project, ‘That Girl.’ But Nettles says while she has never tried to speak to one specific group through her music, she has always tried to be honest in each song.
“The resounding message here is authenticity,” she explains. “Within the gay community, the courage it takes to be one’s authentic self —even if you’re viewed as different — is inspiring. Consequently there is definitely a connection in that degree of authenticity — and doing it because you gotta be who you are — that connects my music with the gay community.”
Nettles knows her views are not shared by many in the country music world, but she insists she hasn’t faced any negativity because of her own beliefs.
“I think people know better,” she maintains. “In the sense that I definitely try to live as authentically and honestly as I can, I think it’s known that I am supportive of human rights, gay rights and civil rights across the board. It’s pretty well known where I stand.”
Nettles proudly watched the mass wedding at the 2014 Grammy Awards, which was officiated by Queen Latifah and included several same-sex couples. She ran into Queen Latifah the next day, and recalled the hope they shared in that conversation for the future of people’s views in America.
“She said, and very rightfully so, that a few years from now this won’t even be a conversation,” Nettles says. “And wouldn’t that be nice to be able to look back at history and, like we have any time there’s a violation of civil rights and human rights, go, God, I can’t even believe we were there, ever.’”
The married mother of one-year-old Magnus says she would be totally fine if, as an adult, her son told her he was gay.
“I would say, ‘Be happy,’” Nettles insists. “Look, he can be anything he wants in any fashion, be it by his job or who he loves or whatever. He won’t be an a–hole, and I hope he doesn’t go to the dark side in any kind of addiction, but otherwise [I'd say], ‘Love and live and just be happy — and I hope you find your true prince.’”
Nettles is spending much of the next few months on the road in support of her latest album, including stops in Nashville, Biloxi and Atlanta this weekend. See all of her upcoming shows here.