Bonnie Whitmore, Rainbow Rodeo Zines, CMT Next Women of Country, and More!
Hi there, cowpokes!
WOW is all I can say -- not that it matters but as of this writing, 115 people have subscribed to this newsletter -- and I don't know a bunch of you! Thanks for subscribing!
First of all -- big news: the second issue of the Rainbow Rodeo zine is done!!! You can catch a sneak peek here. Want a copy? Pre-order here! You can subscribe for as little as $2 a year, though subscribing at higher tiers will net you goodies like handmade art by Rainbow Rodeo contributors, zines and albums from Adeem the Artist, and more!
For the month of February, I will be posting this newsletter weekly to keep you all up-to-date on the fundraiser. (Also, because I enjoy doing it.)
The other big news item this week is that Amythyst Kiah and Lily Rose have been nominated to CMT's Next Women of Country Class of 2022! This is a big deal! While they are not the first queer women to be nominated for the honor (that goes to Brandy Clark) they are for sure the first masculine-of-center women to be there. As a butch myself, it's really refreshing to see something like this representing all kinds of women, including diversity of gender presentation. Interestingly, neither artist currently has any explicitly queer songs out to my knowledge. Anyway, the Next Women of Country means they get TV spots that are broadcast repeatedly on CMT, get cross-brand promotion on all of CMT's outlets, touring support, a billboard in Times Square, and so on. Congrats!
(Thanks so much to Hunter Kelly of Apple Radio's queer country show Proud Radio for helping me decode all the industry ins and outs.)
Rissi Palmer also nominated guitar sensation and human ray of sunshine Joy Clark to the Color Me Country Class of 2022. Color Me Country is a fantastic Apple Radio show featuring BIPOC country artists.
This Sunday, Jan. 16 at 7pm et, meet the @colormecntry Class of 2022!!! This group cover folk, Americana, and Country. From left to right: Tony Evans Jr. (@itsTonyEvansJr ),Joy Clark (@JoyClarkMusic ), Madeline Edwards (@madelinemaking ), Michael B. Whit (@MichaelBWhit1 ), pic.twitter.com/8I0v9jHLc5— Color Me Country Radio w/ Rissi Palmer (@colormecntry) January 14, 2022
Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Bonnie Whitmore is a grizzled veteran of the Americana scene. With too many projects to count. Her sister, Eleanor, is one half of acclaimed Americana duo the Mastersons. The pair combined their formidable powers on their new album Ghost Stories. Bonnie, who is pan, tells us more about the new album and her own history as a songwriter and troubadour.
Explain the title of your album.
Ghost Stories seemed like a fitting title to follow my last solo record Last Will and Testament. I’m embarking on a new journey with my sis, in The Whitmore Sisters. We think a lot of folks think of ghost stories like scary tales we speak over a campfire, but Eleanor and I grew up with a different kind of tradition of songwriter circles. Some songs are about heartache or loss or joy from a memory, but a story through melody was always the intention of these. Some of the songs on the record we think are celebratory despite the sentiment of loss. The weight of the grief can be devastating, but the burden is more bearable when you think of loss as universal.
The title track itself came to us toward the end of the project. The original idea was inspired by the senseless death of Elijah McClain, but in reflection as white women, this wasn’t for us to be telling. So Eleanor and I pulled the lens back and wrote more to the root of systemic violence that is aimed at BIPOC and marginalized groups. This is the most politically driven of ghost stories on this record, but one that needs to be talked about. I’m glad we took the time to rework the song.
Tell us about the first song you wrote.
The first song I wrote I was called “I Loved You First.” I was a possessive 15 year old who was completely in love with her best friend who was dumping me for a clean slate at college. Now I understand the need for new beginnings, but I was gutted more than anything I’d ever known before, it was my first real heartbreak. I’d made a collage of photos and memorabilia commemorating our 5 years of BFFness for her to take with her to college. As much as I wanted to rip it to pieces, I ended up leaving it with her father who told me “I shouldn’t give up.” I was crushed and I remember on one of the many laments about the pain, a mentor of mine told me “You can’t let someone close your heart up. I know it hurts but use it and keep that heart open.” I don’t remember how that song goes anymore, but it was the first time I used songwriting as a tool to mend my broken heart.
How do you manage having a good time at shows, but also trying to stay mentally and physically fit?
I have to remember the show is the whole point of why I’m there. Everything else is secondary. I’ve found the best way to stay mentally and physically in a good head space is by making the time to do my yoga and meditation practice. This isn’t always easy, but moving the body is a basic necessity in maintaining. The road life is stressful and grueling in the best of times, the show is the reward for all that work you had to get there.
Have you ever been star-struck when playing with a musician?
It was during SXSW one year. I was lucky enough to have a showcase right before Drivin’ N Cryin’ and Kevn (Kinney) called me up on stage to sing "Highway to Hell" with him. If that wasn’t cool enough, he had also asked his buddy Chuck Prophet to sit in on a song or two. Chuck had just sung when Kevn called me up and for whatever reasons he put me on the middle mic and so when the solo came around, I was standing in front of Chuck who’s whaling and I couldn’t get out of his way, and so I just sat down cross legged in front of Chuck and stared up at him like a doe eyed kid. I did that for what seemed like an eternity until Kevn waved me over to stand next to him to finish singing the song. Thankfully none of those guys held it against me and I’ve gotten the chance to have a do over.
What is your vision for a more just music industry?
I think vision is best reflected with representation. If we want real diversity and insight, then there needs to be space and a place for everyone, not just CIS, white, and male. I’d like to see more women, BIPOC and queer in places of power within the industry. Personally, I’d prefer more community than industry. Music is healing and teaching and soothing and bringing together folks to be moved. Capital gains only pin us against each other rather than having us raise each other up. More support means more space for the art of music.
A thread of trans folk musicians
Speaking of Apple Radio, queer country artist Fancy Hagood has a new show of his own called Trailbazers
Don Giovanni is re-releasing queer country pioneer Lavender Country's second album, Blackberry Rose and Other Sorrows. The album came out in 2019 and you can listen to it on your favorite streaming services, but this time it'll get the love it deserves.
Shadwick Wilde of Quiet Hollers spoke with me about his new album of despair, hope, and struggle.
Inspired by Joan Armatrading and her own endless pursuit of creating instruments from found objects, Fathom is a trailblazing BIPOC folk artist from New Zealand. Read more about her!
I am enchanted by The Montvales' blood harmony and their strident political anthems. Read more about them!
A new music video from Sarah Shook
Also a new video from folk artist Josiah Johnson!
I was honored to contribute to Nashville Scene's Country Music Almanac, where many of my favorite writers and I spotlighted our favorite rising artists, including many LGBTQ+ and BIPOC folks. I interviewed Karen Pittelman (whose manifesto was in the last issue), Kym Register of Loamlands, and guitarist Ellen Angelico about how they organize for change in the music industry.
Veteran queer country troubador Cindy Emch (of the Secrety Emchy Society) has a big year ahead of her, so subscribe to her newsletter! (And apparently recipes are involved?)
Fun fact! @secretemchysoc1 has a whole passel of super cool things coming up in 2022 - plus I'm gonna share secret emchy recipes too - but only on the newsletter - sign on up y'all! https://t.co/iT8PoseBa8 #countrymusic #queercountry #americana #singersongwriter #womenincountry— Emchy 🌈 🖤 🤎 🤠 🪗 (@cindyemchy) January 19, 2022
- Queerfolk Fest show in Nashville on 2/2! Mask up, etc etc
- Every year, the number of artists playing SXSW that I've heard of gets smaller and smaller. BUT, I am stoked to see Mercy Bell, Paisley Fields, SG Goodman, and Pillow Queens playing this year!
Rainbow Rodeo Playlist
There was a bumper crop of great albums by queer country artists in January! Terry Blade, Janis Ian, Maya de Vitry, Sad Daddy, Quiet Hollers, and Raine Hamilton will tickle your ears no matter what kind of music you like! You can listen to my favorite songs below, and read my reviews of the albums (and my other favorite January albums) here.
- Submit your music and events to The Q LGBTQ Creative Network
- Submit your profile to the Country Everywhere which seeks to unite BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled artists and professionals
Your moment of zen from Jessye DeSilva:
I mean, we make the music we feel inspired to make… People also love to tear people apart for seeming inauthentic… Are BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks who feel their souls best expressed through country music supposed to just assimilate into a style in which they’d be more “marketable”?— Jessye DeSilva Music 🌈🖤💜🤍💛 (@JessyeDMusic) January 15, 2022