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Brian Glenn: Country's Out Sensation
by Ross Forman
2007-05-16

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Brian Glenn. Pic by Michael Gomez

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Brian Glenn has performed alongside some of the biggest names in the country music scene, from Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson to Reba McEntire and Patty Loveless. He's also met countless other celebrities, from politicians to actors to TV personalities to world-renowned authors—including John Grisham, Amy Grant, Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakum, Fred Williard and Willard Scott.

Also, let's not forget President Bush. Glenn played at the national Christmas tree-lghting ceremony in December 2005. He met the president and First Lady Laura Bush in the White House.

And then there's Dolly Parton. Glenn will be singing alongside Parton May 19 from 7-8 p.m. at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and it will air live on the Great America Country ( GAC ) channel.

'It will be one of the greatest moments in music to date for me—backing up Dolly Parton. That's a tremendous honor,' Glenn said. 'She's just one of those bigger-than-life people. She's an icon of icons. Just to meet her is a tremendous honor; it's almost surreal.'

And it's not like Glenn is a rookie in the game. Instead, he's been performing for more than a quarter of a century. He's a third-generation singer and entertainer from Cadillac, Mich., and was part of a family band while in high school.

He moved from Michigan to Nashville and, naturally, has been a fixture on the local scene and beyond, including countless gigs at the Opryland Hotel.

The family band toured all over North America before splitting in 1996.

Glenn later formed his own band called Hunker Down, which opened for Lee Ann Womack and Lonestar, among others.

Glenn also has performed at the Opryland Theme Park and, from 1999-2001, with Michelle Wright Tours.

In 2002, Glenn, a harmony singer and bass guitarist, joined Marty Stuart's band, The Fabulous Superlatives. Stuart had numerous country hits in the 1990s, and also gold and platinum albums.

The group has about 80 gigs annually across the United States. In addition, Glenn also does numerous solo shots.

'I love touring with Marty. It's a great band, by far the best band I've ever worked with,' said Glenn, 38. 'It's a lot of fun, great music, great vocals, great instrumentals and we all get along real well.'

Glenn is the lone gay one of the four-member band.

' [ The band ] became aware [ that I was gay ] about three or four months into [ my time with the band ] , in the fall of 2002, and it hasn't been a significant enough of a problem for anyone to be replaced,' Glenn said proudly. 'When I decided that I wanted Marty to know that [ I was gay ] , I certainly was apprehensive and prepared for the worst. But it didn't turn out that way, and I'm certainly grateful for that.'

When he joined Stuart's band, Glenn said he wasn't out to the extent that he is now. Glenn actually was in the band when an article about gay people in country music came out; Glenn was mentioned in the article. 'That was the real turning point for me,' he said. 'I have not experienced any real career backlash from coming out, then or now.'

So is there a gay community within the country music scene?

'Of course there is. Whether it's big or small, I don't know. But gay people are everywhere,' Glenn said. 'Sure there are gay people out there working in country music, in numerous positions, but to what capacity and how many, I don't know. It's a big issue to many of them that they have to keep quiet in order to keep their careers going, I think. And that was something that, as I got older, I just wanted to clear up any mystery.'

Glenn said he is now single.

'I do date, but I am not dating anyone exclusively now, nor anyone seriously,' he said.

Why not?

'I haven't yet found anyone who I want to do that with. I haven't yet found the prospect who I want to get serious with,' Glenn said. Plus, he's incredibly busy these days.

Glenn has appeared in numerous music videos, including a spot in That's How We Do It In Dixie, from Hank Williams, Jr.; and Farmer's Blues, by Marty Stuart with Merle Haggard.

He also has appeared in the musical A Stoop on Orchard Street, performed in Nashville, and numerous TV gigs.

Among Glenn's many accolades are being a Grammy nominee in 2007 and an Americana Music Association nominee in 2006. Also, he has done vocals on more than 1,500 demos in Nashville.

'I wear a lot of different hats when it comes to country singing,' Glenn said. 'My album Original Intent has a pretty broad scope of things—from traditional country to contemporary country to pop-country to R&B and even a touch of blues. My thing has always been to be a chameleon and wrap myself around any situation I'm in.

'I have fun molding myself into whatever the situation is; I enjoy doing that.'

He cites his biggest musical influences as Ricky Skaggs, Steve Warner, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless and Wynonna Judd, among others. Plus, he praises some pop and rock acts such as Huey Lewis & The News and Janet Jackson. He also enjoys Josh Grobin.

And, he added, 'my family had a huge influence on my career. My dad was a Chet Atkins-style guitar-player and a singer. He was a really good, smooth country singer, so I had a guitar in my hand and was playing at weddings, American Legion halls, moose lodges, places like that in Northern Michigan from the age of 11.'

Glenn also had aunts, uncles and cousins in the music industry. Artistic talent runs deep in his family—the Nolf family, that is. You see, his real name is Brian Glenn Nolf, but in the professional world, he opts for Brian Glenn.

'We had a lot of trouble keeping that [ name ] straight. It's such an unusual last name that not a lot of people knew it was our last name. They thought it was a composite of our last names put together in some weird word,' he said. 'Plus, it was often misspelled or mispronounced.

'When I stopped working with them at the end of 1995, I just wanted to simplify my name—and just dropped my last name.'

BRIAN GLENN ON …

What he's most proud of: 'I think I'm most proud of the collective work that I've done with Marty over the past five years. We did an album called 'Bad Lands,' gospel albums and so much more. This work has been the most influential for me because it's the best work I've done as a musician and singer. And with each album, I've gotten progressively better at what I do. I'm very proud of the progress that I've made.

What's ahead for him: 'I just want to be the best band member I can be. I just want to be the best musician I can be and have as much fun as I can.'

Stargazing: 'Being with Marty affords you the opportunities to meet a lot of famous people. He's quite the ambassador to country music.'

Glenn will perform at The Grand Ole Opry on May 19 at 7 p.m. on the Great American Country channel.


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