A Brief History of Queer Country Music, From Lavender Country to Orville Peck
Into every generation, a legendary supergroup is born: One band in all the world, who combine their extraordinary powers to both celebrate and expand the boundaries of their musical moment. In this case, folk powerhouse Brandi Carlile, award-winning songwriter Natalie Hemby, country / pop crossover artist Maren Morris and Americana luminary Amanda Shires have combined their powers to form the Highwomen. Their self-titled debut, out Friday (Sept. 6), is one of the most eagerly anticipated country albums this year.
The Highwomen have dedicated themselves to telling stories that have been overlooked by mainstream country music. In early interviews and following their performance at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival, their song “If She Ever Leaves Me” (penned by Shires, her husband Jason Isbell, and Chris Tompkins) has been billed as “the first gay country song" -- but, in fact, it's really the latest installment in a decades-long tradition of queer country music.
While out LGBTQ+ country artists are few and far between in the mainstream, the queer country scene is more vibrant than ever. Read on for a (brief and incomplete, admittedly) overview of queer country musicians past and present.