Ty Herndon Hosts Concert for Love and Acceptance During 2017 CMA Fest

Since coming out as gay in 2014, Ty Herndon has become a major voice in country music for the LGBTQ community. It was not long after this proclamation, and his 20th anniversary of his fan club, that Herndon decided to put together the Concert for Love and Acceptance, with the 2017 installment supporting GLAAD and Nashville’s Oasis Center.

“I wanted to do something different because I had just two months prior to that come out as a gay man in country music, so I wanted to celebrate that, I wanted to celebrate the love and acceptance that the fans had shown me and by pulling some cool hearts into one house and do a concert,” Herndon reveals to Sounds Like Nashville on the red carpet about the inspiration behind the event. “And as this thing became successful and grew, I knew that we needed to add a good cause to it, so tonight, all these artists are here for the Oasis Center that represents LGBT youth in the Nashville area.”

Michael Ray; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Love & Acceptance

Michael Ray; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Love & Acceptance

The country star says the goal of the night is to shine a spotlight on LGBTQ youth, as the Oasis Center assists teens in transitioning into healthy adulthood. But the grander theme of the night was tied into the words “love” and “acceptance,” which Herndon defines as allowing people to be who they are. “Love for me is a kid sitting at home, knowing that no matter who they are, their family loves them, and that their church loves them and that their friends love them and acceptance for me is the same thing,” he explains. “It’s just knowing that you can go to school, you can go to church, you can go to the grocery store and be who you need to be and be accepted and loved.”

One person who has been personally impacted by Herndon’s efforts is The Voice star Billy Gilman, who also came out as gay in 2014. The thought of being a part of an event that benefits his community was a no-brainer. “It’s a part of a circumstance that does affect my personal being and many people that we’re benefiting don’t come from the best or most loving and accepting backgrounds, so we’re here to fill this world with a little bit more hope,” he says of the Concert for Love and Acceptance.

Runaway June; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Love & Acceptance

Runaway June; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Love & Acceptance

Gilman also says that it’s important for an event like this to be included in one of Nashville’s busiest weeks, CMA Fest. “It’s great to see this within the usual CMA Music Fest. It’s a great, great thing for it to be standing toe to toe with such a prolific weekend and it makes you feel good because we just want to live our lives and spread love just like everyone else and it’s a good feeling to be accepted,” he says, adding that one of the most important elements of the night is that it benefits the Oasis Center’s efforts to help homeless LGBTQ youth. “It’s inept a real thing unfortunately, and so we’re benefiting that and the proceeds go to all the homeless youth, which is very important, I can’t imagine that. So it’s way bigger than just us singing that’s for sure.”

Like Herndon and Gilman, CMT host Cody Alan made a powerful impact when he announced he was gay in January of 2017, followed by an outpouring of support from the Nashville community. Contributing to GLAAD via Herndon’s event is something Alan was eager to do. “When I came out in January, GLAAD was so helpful to me personally and making my voice heard and sharing my story with people across the country so I really wanted to give back in any way I could and when I found out they were doing something in Nashville, my hometown, it made perfect sense,” he says about his involvement.

Mickey Guyton; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Love & Acceptance

Mickey Guyton; Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Love & Acceptance

The show itself embodied the themes of love and acceptance, with the likes of Herndon, Gilman, Mickey Guyton, Runaway June and many more taking the stage to perform in between videos showcasing the work of GLAAD, the Oasis Center and empowering stories of individuals coming out. Herndon opened the show with his hits “Living in a Moment” and “What Mattered Most.” Runaway June also rocked the house with their own hit, “Lipstick” and new single “Wild West.”

“I thought it was really important to help give back in some way and that’s what this night is really all about,” Alan concludes. “Beyond that though, it’s about realizing we’re all very similar and that we love great music, we love life and celebrating love. It’s all those things.”