Ty Herndon says that he has been blown away by the positive reactions he's received from fans and fellow artists in the weeks since he came out.

"My mom says I need to send thank-you cards, so I've got a long list!" Herndon tells People about those who have shown their support, including some of country's biggest stars.

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

A few days after making the announcement, Herndon was nervous to play at the Charlie Daniels Band's Christmas 4 Kids benefit concert at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, but he was greeted at the gig with full support.

"I was met at the back door of the Ryman with love and hugs from peers, from other artists, and affirmation and love by the Nashville community," he says.

Herndon is using the outpouring of love to empower himself and others to help change the conversation about homosexuality, especially in the South.

"All that keeps running through my mind is: It's time to get to work," Herndon says. "There's so much work to be done in the South with all these kids that are struggling so greatly with finding love and support and finding a place to go to feel loved and supported."

But Herndon says that he's being careful not to jump into activism too quickly.

"I'm gonna get my footing with all this … I think if you're going to speak to something, you need to be as knowledgeable as you can," he adds. "Right now, I'm just gonna sing about it."

The singer knows that his journey won't always be easy, but he says that he had much to be thankful for over the Thanksgiving holiday, which he spent in Nashville with his family and his partner Matt.

"I'm sure there's some challenging days to come," Herndon says, "but today, I'm just gonna sit and take this in and know that I'm a much stronger and better person because of all the support and love."

Herndon will be hitting the road in 2015 with good friends Andy Griggs and Jamie O’Neal.

Country Stars Who Have Come Out as Gay