After three years, out gay country singer Ty Herndon released a full 15-track album, “Got It Covered,” now available from BFD records, and it is worth the wait. In addition to covering Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” Carrie Underwood’s “So Small,” and Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis,” Herndon includes remixed, alternative and dance versions of his hits, including “What Matters Most” and “Living in a Moment.”
The album provides a new way of hearing his songs and showcases his voice, which has become more confident and powerful over the years.
Herndon spoke with PGN about his music, LGBT activism and “Got It Covered.”
PGN: “Got It Covered” is much more overtly queer than your last album, “House of Fire.” Can you discuss why you made this choice?
TH: I’ve been out five years now, and it takes a little while to get a footing and find organizations to work with and create music. I have been writing — I have a new, original album coming in November. I did the Love and Acceptance concert and am working with queer kids to help the suicide rate come down. I made this album as a country artist and put this [rainbow] stripe across this album. This is me. These are my hits. I’ve done pronoun changes to special songs that had meaning to me.
PGN: In addition to your Concert for Love and Acceptance, you dropped a YouTube music video, “So Small” featuring the Rainbow Squad, a Nashville-based youth LGBTQ-plus group. Can you talk about your queer advocacy?
TH: That song “So Small” is pivotal. I’d heard it in my truck when I was about to get out of the business. “So Small” came on the radio, and it blew my mind. I thought: It’s spiritual and strong and life changing, and I connected so strongly to that. I turned around. The next day I made a call to talk about coming out. That song is the reason for this album. Kids are coming out as young as 10 years old and know who they are. Things change, you grow and progress, and creating a safe space for those changes to happen is important in this world. My advocacy is toward parents — you’ve gotta love your kids no matter what — give them love and knowledge and strength. I tell kids, so you are this [LGBTQ]. But your responsibility, if you want to be a doctor or lawyer or landscaper, is to be the best. The rest will fall in place. I wish someone had told that to me when I was 10.
PGN: You have alternative versions, remixes, duets and dance versions of covers. What makes a good cover?
TH: The album is truly everything under the rainbow! It’s a hodgepodge of my brand exploding. We released the dance mixes last year, so we’re relaunching those. What makes a great cover is a song that built you. Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” — I’ve been singing that song since it came out. It’s a love for the artist and a connection to it. I’ve done all these songs live and they are real crowd favorites.
PGN: You completely reworked “I Want My Goodbye Back.” It is almost unrecognizable; tough, and rugged, and it really shows your attitude. You have a wonderful stripped down version of “I Have to Surrender.” Can you talk about reworking your own songs?
TH: I grew them up a little bit to how I’d record them today. My hubby had one of my CDs in his truck before he knew me, and he said, “It’s like hearing them again for the first time.” He’s my toughest critic. I worked with Erik Halbig on the album. He’s worked with me for 22 years and knows my sound. It was fun recreating them. We’ll do another album since there are so many more songs. We’ll call it “Missed Hits.”
PGN: You cover Bonnie Raitt’s song, “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Can you talk about that?
TH: I’ve always done it. I did it when I won Texas Entertainer of the Year. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” goes back to so many painful times and past relationships that didn’t work out — when I was hiding in the closet. One of those relationships lasted 10 years. I heard that song and it broke my heart. I’ve been forever connected to it.
PGN: Your songs have real power, too. What can you say about the emotions in your work? You have struggled and recovered and survived. I feel I know you through your songs.
TH: In my darkest moments with addiction and hiding, music was the only safe place for me to run. I could step into that and be my best self behind the mic. Everything in my life was falling apart, but I could still do that.
PGN: What are you listening to these days?
TH: Calum Scott. I can’t get enough of his album. It’s amazing, almost too much for me. I also got to sneak Kristen Chenoweth’s forthcoming “For the Girls,” because she’s dating my guitar player.