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The rising star shaking up country music with her gay kiss song

The rising star shaking up country music with her gay kiss song

‘Make lots of noise, kiss lots of boys or kiss lots of girls if that’s what you’re into.’

Seems fair enough right? Well not if you are a country radio DJ in a conservative market deep in the Bible belt of the American South it’s not. It’s more a rallying cry to join the dark side and give your soul to the devil.

At least that’s been the reaction to those lyrics in the song Follow Your Arrow by new country music superstar Kacey Musgraves.

This young whippersnapper was already pushing traditional country fans into uncomfortable territory what with her nose ring, light up cowboy boots (we didn’t have country stars like that when I was growing up in Tennessee) and songs with lyrics that held up a mirror, forcing every country Tom, Dick and Harry to take a long hard look at themselves.

Lyrics like ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary, we get bored so we get married, just like dust we settle in this town on this broken merry go round’ from her chart hit Merry Go Round wasn’t comfortable listening for some.

But telling people to ‘get back to their trailer’ and mind their own business is one thing, telling them it’s ok to like people of the same sex is quite another all together. And it might have been a step too far as radio stations across the states lined up to say they wouldn’t play it if Follow Your Arrow was released as a single.

A little background on Kacey here, she placed seventh in reality TV talent show Nashville Star in 2007 and went on to write songs for some of country music’s biggest stars, with some of her songs used in the hit (and highly addictive) TV soap Nashville. All the while she was carving out a career as an artist for herself, eventually culminating in her multi-award-winning breakout album Same Trailer Different Park.

Don’t get me wrong, although country music has a reputation for songs about God, trucks and dogs (and certainly there is plenty of that), it has long pushed boundaries. Loretta Lynn for one was singing about women’s rights long before it was the done thing.

Big established country stars have been speaking out for a while on LGBTI rights, Carrie Underwood and Dolly Parton (who doesn’t just LOVE Dolly?) to name but two. And Willie Nelson’s song Cowboys are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other caused quite a stir when it was released. But these were artists at the top of their game with gazillions in the bank who could afford to say what they wanted. Kacey, although well on her way, did this pretty much at the beginning of her career, and that, if you will forgive the expression, takes some balls.

Back to all those radio stations saying no to a little song about a little same-sex smooching, flash forward to Kacey being nominated for a slew of awards and winning Best New Artist at the CMA’s and Best Country Album at the Grammy’s and what did she choose to perform at the awards shows? That’s right, Follow Your Arrow.

She stood right up there in her light-up cowboy boots in front of God and everybody (as my mama would say) and told them all, proud as punch, (again a favorite phrase of Mom) that it was ok to love who you love! With power comes acceptance, and vice versa, Follow Your Arrow was released as a single.

It may be a while yet before we have an out and proud country music superstar. Let’s not forget that KD Lang had to leave country music all together and turn to pop when she came out. And Chris Carmack, who plays closeted up and coming country singer Will on Nashville, thinks country audiences will still be bothered by sexuality for a bit. But little by little we are getting there and, with straight allies like Kacey Musgraves singing our song, that’s ok by me. I’ll take it.

The best thing is this: Somewhere right now there is a gay boy or girl, who has been told their whole life who they are is wrong, driving along the dusty back roads of the American south with the radio cranked right up. And they’re singing along with Kacey at the top of their lungs: ‘Say what you think, love who you love, ‘cause you just get so many trips round the sun, yeah you only, only live once… so follow your arrow wherever it points.’ Well done Kacey, well done!

Baylen Leonard hosts a weekly new and emerging country music show called The Front Porch on Amazing Radio every Saturday.

Watch the Follow Your Arrow video here: