2014 Became Country's Coming-Out Party for Artists Including Ty Herndon and Billy Gilman

On Nov. 5, Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally made history as the first openly gay winners of a Country Music Association Award when they took home song of the year honors for co-writing Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow,” the left-field hit that includes a lyric that celebrates same-sex love “if that’s something youre into.” “Do you guys realize what this means for country music?” Musgraves said from the stage. She didn’t elaborate, but the impact became clear soon enough. On Nov. 20, veteran country singer Ty Herndon revealed that he was gay, explaining that “Follow Your Arrow” helped motivate him. “There has never been a song more affirmative of that in country music, and it’s our CMA song of the year,” the Nashville native told People. “I felt so proud of my city. I hope that trend continues; I pray it does.” Hours later, singer Billy Gilman came out in a YouTube video, citing Herndon as inspiration. As for Clark? She’s up for best new artist at the Grammys.

Billboard Year in Music 2014: Kacey Musgraves on Singing With Loretta Lynn and Why She No Longer Has a Bucket List

This article first appeared in the Dec. 20 issue of Billboard.

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