Trisha Yearwood / Russ Harrington

Trisha Yearwood has never cared what the country community thought of her LGBTQ allyship, so why start now? The country music icon, who has lent her robust and emotionally resonant mezzo-soprano to hit songs like Shes in Love With the Boy, How Do I Live, Walkaway Joeand XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl),sang at a Nashville gay bar two years after Ellen DeGeneress sexuality destroyed her sitcom and not long before the Dixie Chicks got Dixie Chickd. 

So imagine country music and the associated conservative values of 1999, when Yearwood performed for gay clubgoers at The Connection during the height of her crossover success, showing her true colors by headlining an event to raise money for her cancer-stricken gay friend. Yearwood was already a major star, having soared to music stardom when Shes in Love With the Boy,the lead single from her 1991 self-titled debut album, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs. 

In 2012, Billboard named Yearwood and her husband Garth Brooks the Most Powerful Celebrity Couple in Music, based on their combined album sales. (At the time, the couple, whove been married since 2005, edged out Beyoncé and Jay-Z.)

With Every Girl, the 55-year-old, three-time Grammy winner and host of her own Food Network show, Trishas Southern Kitchen, returns with her first studio album of new material in 12 years and a corresponding nationwide tour. In a recent conversation, Yearwood spoke about getting a kick out of why some lesbians are relating to her new single, marrying Garth because hes open-minded, how her concerts are a safe placefor LGBTQ fans, and the Nashville closet. 

Lets start with the albums lead single Every Girl in This Town,which Ive renamed Every Gay in This Town.I hope you dont mind. 

(Laughs.) That works for me! 

You sing We keep kissinboys, trying to figure it outand, I mean, story of my life. Know any single gay cowboys who are handsome, employed and emotionally available? 

(Laughs.) Its funny that you say that because we did it live the other night and one of my guys who works with me hes my social media guy is gay and I saw him in the crowd and he loves the song so much and I sang that right to him. He was just laughing. And then I had a couple of girls who came up to me when we did an album signing recently, and a girl introduced me to her wife and said, That song speaks to me. Its like you keep kissing boys trying to figure it out. I finally figured it out.(Laughs.) It was pretty great. The song works for everyone! 

What kind of reaction did you get from the country music community and fans for performing at a gay bar? 

I dont know. I feel strangely lucky, I guess. People dont tend to, especially during that time, tell you things to your face. You know, were still that way. We talk about each other behind our backs, but nobodys gonna come up to you and say, Hey, I think what you did was wrong,because what do they think Im gonna say? They know theyre wrong for even thinking that. Somewhere deep down they know theyre wrong. But I didnt get any flak. Im sure there were people who, again, talked about me behind my back, but it was the right thing to do. 

Was your appearance at The Connection your first time at a gay club?

No. (Laughs.)

Oh? Tell me more.

(Laughs.) Another hairdresser friend of mine asked me to come to his birthday party and I went. I cant remember the name of the place, but it was on 8th Avenue. I think its gone. Im sure everythings gone now since Im old. (Laughs.) But it was the first time I saw a drag queen impersonating me singing Shes in Love With the Boy,and I was like, Ive made it now. Im famous now. Thats happened.

And you tipped her $5. 

I did! You know that story! And I did because why wouldnt you?

So she made a good Trisha? 

She did, she did! You know, I can look like a pretty good drag queen myself. 

Wait, youve done drag? 

I do drag well. Yes, I do a good Trisha Yearwood impersonation.

It helps that you are her, so I feel like you have a slight advantage. What was the LGBTQ community like where you grew up in Georgia? 

Nonexistent. Well, probably there, but I was born in 64, so during my teenager years, the 70s, early 80s, like most kids in the South, I didnt really have an encounter with anyone who was openly gay until I was in college. I know there were gay people in my hometown, but it was just one of those things that people didnt talk about. 

Im so lucky to be in an industry thats really open. I was raised by a family who never made me feel like I shouldnt be an open person, so Im lucky in that way too. The other day we were just talking about how hard it must be to live a life where you cant really be yourself. So I like where we are. I know its still not easy in certain circles, but I like where we are and where were going. We preach love one anotherand thats what were supposed to do. 

Do you think todays country music community is more open to the LGBTQ community?

I think the community here as a whole has always been very open. So coming out and being an openly gay artist is happening, but its still not probably easy, but because there are more people who have come out, its gonna be easier. 

In 1993, Garth released We Shall Be Free,which stirred controversy with the line, When were free to love anyone we choose.I remember how big of a deal that was. 

Yeah. I live in a house that is about tolerance and love. I wouldnt be married to a guy who didnt feel that way, and hes been public about that too. Like you said, its in that song. You just speak your truth. 

Country artist Chely Wright acknowledged that you were one of very few country stars to offer your support when she came out in 2010. What kind of support did you offer her?

I think its one thing to say, Oh, Im fine with that,and another thing to show up and be a friend. And she had a benefit party every year. I had gone the year before, and that year was the year right after the (coming out) announcement that she had that party. I just went. It was kind of like going to the benefit for the hairdresser: I didnt think about it. Shes my friend, Ive been before, she asked me to go and Im going. And so I dont ever set out to make some sort of strong statement. Im just friends with who Im friends with, and if somebody wants to comment about that, thats fine. 

Are you inspired by artists like Brandi Carlile, who is infiltrating the country arena as an out lesbian?

Im inspired by her as a person in music. For me, its really about the music. I was on a label with a diverse bunch of artists, and I dont know how K.D. Lang made it work in the late 80s, early 90s, because she had enormous success. But I tend to just look at it like when I heard Brandi for the first time – and actually her voice reminds me a little bit of K.D.s my first thought wasnt shes gay; it was, I like her voice.Maybe thats why I am the way I am, because its just not my first thought. We all want to be accepted for who we are inside and what we do. Even if people like our music, what I do in my personal life is 100 percent secondary. 

As for your gay male fans: How many times have they expressed their gratitude to you for the Walkaway Joevideo and the fact that without it we may not have been able to experience a 23-year-old Matthew McConaughey in a field without his shirt? Because thank you for that. 

Well, youre welcome. (Laughs.) Yes, Im totally responsible for his career and he just never calls, he never writes. I finally got a chance to thank him. When I did that video, the b-roll was shot in Austin, Texas; I wasnt even there. He was an aspiring actor who just came in for casting. People still dont realize it. Theyll see the video on YouTube and be like, Oh my god, that looks like Matthew McConaughey, but he looks 12!And Im like, It is him!

You got him when he was a baby.

Total baby. 

Every Girl is your first solo studio album in 12 years. Why not release more music more regularly? 

I will, I will. I think what happened was I was on an almost-four-year tour with my husband and that was a lot of dates. When I wasnt touring, I was filming the cooking show and I do a lot of other things, but music is what feeds my soul. I didnt really intend for that much time to pass, and I think if Id made a record during that time it might have been frantic and just thrown together because there was so much going on. 

So in 2018, when the tour had ended in December the year before, I knew I had time and thats when I sat down and made both albums, the Lets Be Frank album and the country album. I really was able to just concentrate on that, which made it fun because I could really just pour myself into really digging and finding those songs. And the result of this album – I dont know if Ive been happier with an album. The song choices and really getting to spend time with them and just listen and listen and listen and not settle has been good. 

The luxury of making this album (was) almost in the way I made the first album, where you just listen to songs and nobody is really paying attention because youve slipped under the radar and you have all the time in the world, and once an album takes off then its hard to find that time. So I felt that I had that luxury last year of just really focusing on the music, which was really a gift.

You recently acknowledged that youre a big Lizzo fan. Whens the Trisha-Lizzo duet happening? 

I would really have to up my game to sing with Lizzo, but I would totally be up for it. When I went to see her we were doing the cooking show, and what I do in the mornings when Im sitting in the makeup chair for 90 minutes is, Im listening to stuff that pumps me up for the day. Usually its Bruno Mars or Beyoncé. I had it on the Bruno Mars channel and (Lizzos) Juicecame on and Im a huge Prince fan and I was like, I love this girl, who is this?” 

Shed been around for five years, but this was right before things started to really jump for her and she happened to be playing a small club here in Nashville. So I went and stood in the crowd with 200 people, mostly a bunch of white girls and a bunch of gay boys, and just loved it. I only knew that one song; now I know them all, so I cant wait to go see her again. But it was so cool. And what I loved about her was just shes a movement. For everybody. She is an icon for all of us in that shes about accepting yourself and loving yourself the way you are. And thats a message that is universal. Thats a message I need to hear for myself.

What about incorporating a Good as Hellor Juicecover into your upcoming tour setlist? 

I try to stick to things I know I can do well. I could really screw that up! 

Lets talk food. Is there a dish your queer friends request when they come over for dinner? Im good with anything low carb.  

(Laughs.) No, theres no specific dish. Im the person whose house you come to when you want comfort food, so if youre going to boot camp and you wanna take a day off, thats when you come to my house. (Laughs.) You dont come to my house for low carb. Your cheat day? Come to my house. 

Wendy Williams went on your show and said your set had the best lighting. Just how magical is this Trishas Southern Kitchen lighting? 

When we started doing a cooking show, the lighting was about the food. I was like, I understand that, but I have this whole other career and I really wanna look pretty, OK? Can we light the host a little bit?(Laughs.) So I kind of pushed the barrier a little bit because I really did want it to be pretty. Im like,I want this to be beautiful so that its a thing in my world.

So are you feeling pretty on set? 

Yeah. If I could take a guy with a key light everywhere I go, Id take him to the grocery store.