There has been a longstanding truism in Nashville that people in the Country music Industry are steadfastly opposed to supporting GLTB issues. While those attitudes are far from crumbling to dust beneath our feet, there are those within the industry who have started stepping forward and are making moves to change things for the better.
When the folks at CMT sponsor events like the Nashville HRC Dinner and the Unpredictable Fashion Show not to mention overwhelmingly outspoken support of the community from Country Music stalwarts such as Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson it is becoming clear that we are witnessing the start of a real paradigm shift in Country Music.
The latest step in that direction is the recent announcement that longtime County Music Legend T. Graham Brown will be the headlining act for the 2006 Nashville Pride Festival on Saturday, June 3.
Brown and his band were brought into the festival largely by the efforts of their openly gay drummer, Mike Caputy who has performed with a number of stellar performers in his lifelong career in the music industry including the distinct honor of being the first drummer to ever work with legendary R&B star Rick James.
Caputy spoke with O&AN in a recent phone interview regarding the announcement and his involvement in bringing Brown into the Festival. T. Graham Brown was unavailable for comment at press time.
How long have you been the drummer for T. Graham Brown’s band?
About 13 years so far. I’ve been with him almost since I first arrived in Nashville. We do a lot of touring mostly but I have also done some recording with him as well.
How long have you been out as a gay man in the Country Music industry?
Like with most people it has been a real process of coming out. Technically I came out for the first time about four years ago, but in the past year and a half I finally decided that enough was enough and that I could no longer live a secret life any more. No more lies. I figure those who can handle it will and those who can’t, well… * chuckles *
What has been the response from your peers in the industry as you decided to pursue your coming out in earnest?
The response has been overwhelming. At first I was convinced that I would loose friends over it or that it would hurt my career. However, I have been really fortunate in that I have yet to experience any real opposition or negativity. Everyone has showered me with noting but unbelievable acceptance and support. A lot of people were surprised but they have all made a point of telling me that it didn’t make any difference.
Did you ever envision a point in your life and your career where you would be able to be out and open with who you were without fear of reprisal?
Absolutely not. If you had told me seven or eight years ago that I was going to come out and not have my life drastically change I would have told you that you were out of your mind. I had no plans of ever coming out. I had the same heartbreaking story that a lot of guys from my time had. I had a lot of girlfriends and was married and that was going to be my life. I’m an Italian from Buffalo, New York and that was never going to happen. Thank God that we are in a much more accepting and tolerant time now that it was like back then.
I understand that T. Graham Brown and the band including you were almost not able to perform at the Nashville Pride Festival. How did it come about that you were able to make it happen?
When I was first approached about the possibility I thought that we would be unable to do it because we are largely booked on the weekends during the summer so I just assumed that it would not be a possibility at all, so I was just going to help find someone else with national exposure to perform for them. Fortunately, I soon discovered that we were free on that weekend so I asked the guys in the band how they felt about it and they all said “absolutely!” After that I approached T. about it and he said “Count me in!”
As someone who has spent a log time in the perceived oppressive atmosphere for gays in the Country Music industry, do you feel like things are starting to really change in the industry to a point where it doesn’t matter if you are gay or not?
I think the changes are taking place right across the board in society in general. Things may be a little slower in Country Music but that’s just because we are still in the South and this is still the Buckle of the Bible Belt no matter what happens elsewhere. I don’t think that Country Music is yet at the place where a major artist could come out and be successful, but for the everyday musicians like myself it is much easier than is often thought. It hasn’t affected my career yet in any negative way. That may change when this gets printed, but I’m okay with that. It’s about time that things started to change with myself mainly and I’m ready for whatever comes.