Ty Herndon is one of Instinct’s favorite sons, of the fact that he has been covered by this magazine since before I started writing. He is the first openly gay country singer, but he has so much more to offer than being a historical icon, he is just one of those great guys you are lucky to have in your life.
I made friends with Ty Herndon 3 years ago (wow that went fast) when I interviewed him at the LOVELOUD Music Festival. We have since been in touch regularly, or maybe not as frequently as we should have been.
He has been on my podcast and told some great stories, and at times made me believe that he had it together “this” time around. Until the last few months, I saw how fragile it really was for him. With near suicide, slips back into addictive behavior, and god only knows what else, Ty Herndon tells us what a train-wreck his life has been, the only way you could, in a country music album, ‘Jacob’. This time, ‘Jacob’ was his salvation and got him back on his feet, now, his career is back on the right path with out of control album sales and people booking him to play shows, he seems to be back where he works best, working a crowd, laying on the charm, and playing great songs.
He rang me up asking, “How far away are you from Payson Utah?” I told him not too far, then he said he was playing a show there on Thursday evening, and asked me to come to shoot it. Well, you do that for friends. Then I had to actually buy the T-shirt that was sitting in the amazon basket for months, it’s a set of rainbow-painted lips saying, “Sober is Sexy”. This is the kind of thing you do for your friends, good-natured jabbing, he takes it well but also lets it fly too. I wore a Kilt to the show… He will probably never back off that one (Payson is a strange town, where you will see kilts almost as often as cowboy hats).
I got to the venue, and it was packed, a tiny town an hour south of Salt Lake City, where I spent a lot of time as a kid (in a kilt, too). There was a brand new amphitheater at the base of a hill, and this place was loaded, fans galore; it was the first of his “mini-tour”.
He played some great songs that I knew, and a new one “Standing in the Whiskey”, I was going to ask him about, but he told the story to the crowd. It was in the worst of his recent crash, and how he is now just shy of two years sober, he had this feeling and experience, of “Standing in the Whiskey”, and felt that was the one way to write about it, without it hurting so much.
He said, “I’m SOBER, …. AND I’M FUN … DAMMIT”. He knocked out some classics, and even a Bonnie Raitt song (if I can be totally honest, it was 99% as good as the original).
Something I wasn’t expecting was that he played “God Or The Gun”, he said, “This is a rough one, but I love a happy ending.” Ty Herndon wrote a song about sitting there, holding a gun, ready to end it all, and God getting him out of it, and he gave that to the crowd. Let’s be clear, Ty Herndon wears his heart on his sleeve, not really holding anything back, probably the most honest guy out there, he has NOTHING to hide. Here is his performance of that song recently on the Tamron Hall show. I had to include it as it was so powerful.
My wife said, “Wow, he looks great, especially at age 60”. Yeah, he is now in that club with Keith Richards, Ted Nugent, the guys in Motley Crue, Steven Tyler, and Ozzy Ozborne, it’s called “60+, sober and sexy”, a hard club to make it to in the rock & roll circus, but something to be proud of when you get there, most never thought they would make it there, for plenty of reasons.
He killed it with his final piece “What Matters Most”, the one he changed pronouns for a new version in 2019, the song that I had running around in my head all night and woke up to the next day. Check out or related post – Country’s Ty Herndon Dropped A Gay Love Song for that story and video from 2019.
After his set, he texted me, “Hey Mr. Kilt” thus, I’m pretty much going to carry that one from now on. He asked me to stick around for a few minutes. His manager came and asked me to come backstage for a few. He was in very high spirits, and he should have been, it was the best country show I had seen since Clint Black in 1992 (YES I REALLY DID SAY THAT). He knows I am very critical of country music, but I have to say, his new album “Jacob” is fantastic, especially live.
He wanted to go out and meet more fans, and his manager was saying, “We can’t, you have to go to the hospital.” Apparently, he is one of those amazing guys who will go do a show in a hospital for some very sick people. While his manager was complaining about this, my wife said to her, “They are men, they are CLUELESS about things like that, he might be gay but still a man, and thus clueless.”
If you get the chance to catch one of his shows, you should do it. Ty Herndon is one of the best country singers still out there, 60+ Sexy and SOBER. And he has a shirt to prove it now.
Look for his tour dates below.
And if you do need help and need to talk to someone about life, reach out to the TrevorProject.org