Now that Ty Herndon has come out as gay, he isn't about to sing heterosexual love songs. The 52-year-old says that he is going to embrace same-sex relationships in his music, sending a strong message in the process.

"I may be the first man in country music to sing a love song to another man. And I'm very proud to do that," Herndon tells People. "I'm not changing the ‘he’s for ‘she’s.' It's straight on who I love. Love is universal.

"I'm keeping it unisex, but there are a few songs that I've written that I wrote about my own life," he adds. "That's the one thing about country music -- you got to sing what you know."

Herndon is heading into the studio later this month to begin working on his new album, which he says comes on the heels of one of the biggest adjustments of his life.

"I want to get [through] my first year of being an out gay man. I'm still getting my footing with all that," he explains. "And still remain true as a country artist. I'm still the same old redneck I was before I came out. So I have a responsibility to the fans to make great country music out there."

After keeping his sexual orientation quiet for so long, the Mississippi native says that the freedom is exhilarating.

“My life feels open,” he says. “It feels free, like the weight of the world’s been lifted off my shoulders.”

In addition to working on a new record, Herndon is also touring with fellow hitmakers Jamie O'Neal and Andy Griggs. A list of all of Herndon's upcoming shows is available on his website.

Country Artists Who Have Come Out