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MUSIC Out country singer Ty Herndon discusses what matters most
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Ty Herndon may have been in the music business for more than a couple decades now—but he's not slowing down at all.

For Pride Month, he's released a re-recorded version of his 1995 breakthrough hit song "What Mattered Most"—complete with gender change. And on Friday, Aug. 23, Herndon will release Got It Covered, a 10-track album that features reimagined hits and covers of some of the musician's favorite songs.

Windy City Times: Congrats on the [recent] 5th Annual GLAAD + Ty Herndon Concert for Love and Acceptance. How did it go for you?

Ty Herndon: Thanks! Once again, there was a class-act line-up—and this year, there were people who just showed up backstage to hang out. That's an awesome thing as well. Hunter Hayes jumped out and sang, and Tim [McGraw] and Faith [Hill] hung out backstage. We want to create an atmosphere of love and acceptance.

WCT: So let's talk about this new version of "What Mattered Most." What emotions did you feel while recording this?

TH: Well, first I want to say that Rolling Stone named it one of the top 10 songs to hear—and that kind of blew me away. [Editor's note: That list is at; And I noticed that on that list they're getting back to are singers—people like Tanya Tucker and Trisha Yearwood.

As for the emotions, they were the same that I had when I recorded it [initially]—some fear. But every time I [experienced] fear, I thought about that 14-year-old kid that I was when I watching the country awards; I couldn't relate to the songs, but I hoped that one day I could. And that took the a great deal of the fear away.

My main goal was to celebrate 25 years of that song. It was a nice birthday present—and it's on the album Got It Covered that's coming out Aug. 23. There'll also be a version for the straight folks that I recorded as before.

WCT: When I interviewed you in 2016, I asked if you thought you'd ever record a more gay-specific song one day. [Herndon came out in 2014.] You said, "Absolutely," and then you added that you'd love to duet with another male artist you respect—even a straight one who'd be willing to do it. Is the duet coming?

TH: There is a duet coming, but it's coming from a completely different angle. I'm recording a gorgeous song with my "sister," [out singer] Chely Wright. I can't let the cat completely out the bag, and that's on this album. And in November, I'm releasing my 20th original album, and we'll be truly stretching the envelope with that one; we're not only gender-specific on that one, but in some parts we're gender-free.

WCT: With Got It Covered, how did you decide which songs to cover. I know you've released versions of 'I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and "Walking in Memphis" recently, among others.

TH: Uh-huh. Well, on this album, seven of the songs are mine; they're just re-imagined. But at the same time, at my shows, I always sing others' songs—like ones by Carrie Underwood, Tanya Tucker and Marc Cohn. So I just look back at what I've sung. I think "Walking in Memphis" has been recorded about 30 times; I always joke that Cher made him the most money on that song, and that I'll make him about 30 more cents.

WCT: I also wanted to ask you about a tribute song you took part in called "Hands." It sounds like a modern version of "We Are the World," with people like Jennifer Lopez and Mary J. Blige taking part.

TH: [Laughs] Yeah. I was on vacation in Italy and told them I couldn't be a part of it because I couldn't find a studio there. I was vacationing with some of my musician friends and they said, "What world are you living in? Just play the track, get a microphone, put it into your Mac and send the vocal to them." So that's what I did: Standing in a vineyard in Italy, I plugged the mic into the Mac, and sang my part. I sing louder than everyone else; you definitely hear me in the chorus. [Laughs]

WCT: I'm sure you heard about Taylor Swift's new video for the song "You Need to Calm Down." At the end, she asks viewers to sign her petition to support the Equality Act. What are your thoughts on celebrities getting involved in politics?

TH: Well, I love that her video got the point across. I think a lot of people of the younger generation are loving that. My comment was, "Didn't we have this record already? Wasn't it called 'Shut Up and Drive?'" [Laughs]

I love the concept of the record—that we all need to calm down. It reminds me of something my grandmother said: "If you put a hundred hearts on a table—just the hearts—you won't be able to tell if they're Black or white, gay or straight. They're just hearts." People should be able to do whatever they want.

The flip side is that, as campy as that video was, there are lawyers, doctors, mechanics and other folks who are just living their lives. I am an advocate for that. And as campy as we can be—and Lord knows I can be campy—I love that it's about just doing your thing.

I also love that Pride festivals are family-friendly and keeping it PG—at least until the afternoon, when people can go crazy. I'm the first person to put on a big wig and go on the dance floor, but I love that this generation… Well, let me tell you about my nephew. He's 15, and he told his mother one day, "You know, Uncle Ty is just a plain ol' gay guy." [Laughs] I just love that.

WCT: With this being Pride Month, what does "pride" mean to you?

TH: Just being able to get up every day and be my most authentic self. I'm awfully proud that I can just walk on any stage. I'm really proud that I can be a vessel and teacher for equality.

The video for the new "What Mattered Most" is at For more on Herndon, visit .

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