In 1996, a thirteen-year-old vocal talent LeAnn Rimes hit it big with her album, Blue, making her a household name, especially among country music fans. Two decades later, Rimes is still making music and inspiring her fans—2017’s Remnants is her SIXTEENTH studio album!
One of the most notable songs on Remnants is an anthem celebrating the LGBT community, “Love is Love is Love.” In an interview with Us, Rimes explained, “A Pride celebration is a living thing. It is breathing authenticity. It’s a space we hold for one another, a place to come into what our souls move us to be, it’s a place in love and only love… That’s why the LGBTQ community continues to inspire me and enliven my spirit every time I perform for them.”
Rimes’ general charitable work is extensive, but in relation to the LGBT community, she has supported the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), The Trevor Project, No H8, GLADD, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Choir.
This year Rimes’ long relationship with her LGBT fans and her support for their community has been particularly highlighted: Rimes was honored an Ally for Equality Award at the HRC Nashville Equality Dinner on Saturday, March 25, 2017 for her advocacy for and outreach to the LGBT community.
“LeAnn Rimes is boldly using her influence in the music world to empower people to accept and be their true selves,” said Blake Brockway, co-chair of the HRC Nashville Equality Dinner, when the award was announced. “An outspoken advocate for LGBTQ equality, she is also making a difference in the lives of countless young people across the country by standing up for LGBTQ youth and speaking out against bullying.”
On December 10, 2017, Rimes will return to Nashville to perform at the Ryman as part of her “Today is Christmas Tour.” In advance of the even, Rimes shared some insights into her history with the LGBT community, why she feels so strongly about her obligation to be an active ally, and what the future holds for her.
Where is your commitment to the LGBT community rooted?
Well I mean my love and appreciation and support of the LGBT community has always been there, ever since I was very young. My uncle passed away from AIDS when I was 11, and, being from the south, me and my dad were the only ones who showed up at his funeral.
So I kind of saw this major discrimination and just … pain throughout the family, throughout the south in generally. Just like really, it's dehumanizing in a way. And it feels like it's a disease or something. I remember that's kind of how I felt when I was 11. He had this disease. He was gay.
It stuck with me very deeply, and I've always, I just have in my heart, I've always been a huge supporter of equality across the board. And I've had tons of LGBTQ fans ever since I was young. I have so many guys that were like, "We were obsessed with you. And our moms thought, 'Oh, we want you to be our girlfriend.'" They were like, "No, we just wanted to wear your shoes and go in your closet." I'm like, "Perfect!"
So these kids came out, used me and my music to come out, to tell their parents. I mean there's so many stories that I've heard, and it's just always been a part of my heart. And especially starting out as a country artist, that was one thing that I never shied away from—showing my support of the LGBTQ community.
What kind of stories have fans told you?
I've had some funny ones like I said where the kids were like, "Oh, yeah, my mom thought we were totally obsessed with you, but obviously in a completely different way."
And then I've had kids who said just the connecting through my music has helped them be able to express themselves. Some of the messages in my music have given them hope when they didn't have it.
Me just even speaking out about it and being a support system has helped them realize that they aren't alone. I mean there's so much that has been told to me—like the ones where kids were really thinking of not being here anymore. And somehow, they heard one of my songs and it gave them this boost to go, "Okay, I can do this. I can be me. And I can make it through."
Those are the hardest ones for me, and the most amazing ones, too, because you don't realize, every day, how much music, your music, can be touching somebody and helping them in their life. Those are the beautiful stories for sure.
You grew up in the Nashville music scene: how have you seen the Nashville music scene changing as far as its acceptance of LGBT people?
I think it's been a slow process, obviously. I knew my friends Ty Herndon, Billy Gilman, Chely Wright… I mean I've known Ty since I was eight, and we all knew. It just, it wasn't ever talked about, even between us, because it was just, it was something that always had to be hidden. And I know from being around them and discussing it with them later on in life how painful that was. I can only imagine.
I mean we all hide ourselves in a way, parts of ourselves. But when it comes to something that is such a core part of who you are—you don't go around choosing these things, it's who you are… And not being accepted for that, I mean that comes with its own set of issues and it rips your soul out.
So to be around that and to witness it is very hard for me. And every time one of them has come out, I've been so excited. When I saw Billy came out, I was in a McDonald's. I was texting him from the bathroom because I had just seen it on my phone and I was crying, and I'm like, "People are gonna think I'm crazy!" But it makes me so happy when people can be themselves and be free.
I think that the country community is slowly but surely really, really accepting it. I don't think they can get away from it anymore. But the true acceptance of it? Hopefully this won't even be a conversation we're having several years from now. Sooner rather than later, hopefully.
How did you feel when HRC Nashville presented you with their Ally for Equality Award?
Honestly it's probably one of my favorite things I've ever received, just because it's not about music, it's about the human and it's about a connection and being an ally for each other. As much as I've supported [the LGBT community], they have done the same for me for many, many years now and continue to.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
I have a Christmas tour coming up which we're about to embark on. I can't believe it's almost that time again. So we're doing that end of this year. We're playing the Ryman. So if anybody gets a chance to come out and see us, it's gonna be a really beautiful time. I love touring at Christmas because it has just a whole different vibe. Everybody's super cheerful and joyful, and in these times right now, I think the more we can spread joy here, especially around the holidays, the better.
I have a little acoustic tour that I'm doing right now, too. And then next year's going to be pretty crazy. I can't talk about anything yet, but-
I'm excited. Some more acting upcoming next year; I've got some good stuff and some new music. I'm about to start writing again and playing around in the studio, so there will definitely be some new music within the next four or five months.