Unity and allyship took center stage at the 2021 Concert For Love & Acceptance. Taking place virtually for the second consecutive year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Concert For Love & Acceptance founder Ty Herndon joined forces with CMT and GLAAD to present the annual event that spotlights country artists who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as those who serve as allies. The 2021 event brought a host of moving performances and powerful words from the likes of Herndon, Brothers Osborne, Rissi Palmer and more.
Here are five of the best moments from the 2021 Concert For Love & Acceptance.
Brothers Osborne share message of self-acceptance
Making their Concert For Love & Acceptance debut, the Grammy nominated duo of John and T.J. Osborne delighted the at-home audience with an acoustic performance of “I’m Not For Everyone.” Their appearance was particularly poignant, as T.J. made history when he came out as gay in early 2021, making him the first openly gay country artist signed to a major label. “We want to thank Ty Herndon and GLAAD and CMT for hosting this each year and standing up for the LGBTQ families and the youth. What you guys are doing over year and year again is extremely helpful for a lot of people, and myself,” TJ praised. Sitting amongst a cozy living room setting adorned with plants and soft lighting, the two raised up this message with the song that’s about loving oneself in spite of adversity, TJ’s smoky vocals shining as they sang “Hell, I’m a legend in my own mind / I’m good for some but I’m not for everyone.”
Ty Herndon premieres heartfelt new song, “Lean In”
The man of the hour used the show’s platform to debut his sentimental new song, “Lean In,” from his upcoming album, JACOB. Herndon’s voice is as gorgeous as ever, matched with Jamie Floyd’s equally beautiful vocals, the two traded stunning harmonies over an uplifting message that encourages the listener to find a shoulder to lean on, embracing the pain in order to get to the beauty to the other side. “I want you to lean in / When this world is too much to be in / When you’re standing there holding your jagged heart / And you need to be reminded of who you are / I’ll get you through / Til you can tell yourself the truth / I want you to lean in,” they profess over a piano-led cinematic melody, making for one of the night’s best performances.
Kathy Mattea accepts R.A.L.Y. Award
The 90s country icon provided one of the evening’s most sobering moments when she accepted the R.A.L.Y. (Rescue A Life, Y’all) Award from Herndon’s Foundation For Love & Acceptance in honor of her advocacy for the HIV/AIDS community. Mattea made waves in the country music industry when she appeared at the 1992 CMA Awards wearing a red ribbon in support of those living with AIDS, and spoke out about the epidemic while presenting at the ceremony where she shared the names of her friends who passed away from AIDS. During her virtual acceptance speech, Mattea recalled how in the years after the CMA Awards, members of the industry continuously shared with her in private their own experiences with AIDS, the R.A.L.Y. Award serving as a token of gratitude for her brave efforts nearly 30 years ago. “It helped me to know that everybody who might’ve been offended by words, there were people who felt like finally someone in their community understood and was safe to talk to about it, and that feels like it was worthwhile,” she reflects. “Thank you for remembering, thank you for helping me remember a sweet time, and thank you for all the good work you are doing in this world.”
Rissi Palmer speaks to country music’s future
Palmer has become a force in country music through her Apple Music radio show, Color Me Country, and she used her voice to share a powerful statement both with her words and music at the Concert For Love & Acceptance. “It’s an amazing time in country music right now. We have an opportunity to completely change course and move forward in an evolved, representative, diverse way. And that means everybody can see themselves,” she professed, offering shout outs to Pride and Black Music Month. “We have an opportunity to change and to choose, and I’m thankful to be a part of this.” Her inspiring words lead into an equally moving performance of her song “Seeds,” which puts forth a timely message of resiliency and overcoming obstacles to become the type of person we want to be, serving as the ultimate example of self-expression as she let her stirring voice fly proclaiming, “When they bury our dreams / We push them up through concrete / We’re growin’ where they can’t see / These roots run deep / Because we are seeds.”
Rising LGBTQIA+ artists get the spotlight
Each year, Herndon and crew select several LGBTQIA+ artists in the genre to spotlight, and this year, he continued to show the vast talent country music has to offer as Floyd, Brooke Eden, Lily Rose, Chris Housman and ARLO were chosen as the 2021 Rising Star honorees. In between Floyd’s collaborative performances with Herndon and The Voice winner Jake Hoot, Rose showed off her countrified voice with an acoustic performance of her new song, “Remind Me Of You,” while ARLO flexed his impressive vocal chops, followed by Housman, who painted a picture of a authentic country life as an LGBTQ person with “Blueneck” where he shares, “there’s a lot more color in the mix / When you’re out and proud out in the sticks.” The set closed out with Eden, who brought an upbeat and flirty vibe paired with her soulful voice on “Got No Choice,” the gifted group proving that country music’s bright future is indeed in good hands.
Fans can continue to donate to raise funds to support LGBTQ youth and families by visiting f4la.org.