Boy, do we have a PACKED issue this week. First up, Nashville Scene has published its Country Almanac for 2023. I wrote about trans and non-binary artists' struggle for recognition in country music, Steacy Easton, whom I would love to have write for Rainbow Rodeo someday, wrote about the expansion of queer country music with artists like Justin Hiltner (who was interviewed here not so long ago), Adeem the Artist, and Willi Carlisle. Dr. Jada Watson brings the data on racial disparities in mainstream country music hits (shocker), a bunch of your faves are on our Artists to Watch list, and I get real snarky in the journalists' survey.
But before you read all that, I want you to meet Jiegang! She's been translating queer country lyrics into Chinese (and you'll see what she means below) and posting them on videos. Unfortunately, I don't have the name of the social media network right now, but it's not TikTok. Anyway, Adeem introduced us and she very graciously responded to my interview questions. There's a lot of cool information there, but I also think it's funny that Morgan Wallen fans are scummy on every continent. Even though the Chinese artists she mentions are not queer, I included them on this week's playlist.
Lastly, subscribe to the Rainbow Rodeo podcast to hear my brand NEW piping HOT interview with Mariel Buckley!
First, tell us a little about yourself!
I’m Jiegang, a queer woman from China, and I’m bisexual. Now I’m a postgraduate student who studies musicology and majors in Chinese modern and contemporary history of music.
What is it like to be queer in China right now?
I think it’s kind of complicated. If you don’t care about the whole situation of the queer community, LGBTQ+ rights or something like that, you probably can live your own life well. Because at least the Chinese government doesn’t criminalize homosexuality. And from my personal experience, I think many young people are friendly with the queer community. But in other hand, if you want to improve the whole situation of the queer community, you want to fight for your rights, you want to do something for the community, you probably feel upset and angry often. You can do very limited things under the government.
How did you learn about country music? Separately, how did you learn about queer country music?
Haha it's a bit of long story. I’ve been following the Billboard Hot 100 (not even the country Billboard) about five or six years ago. I watched a video that showed fragments of the songs in the Billboard Hot 100 every week. That’s the way I learned about western pop music. So for a long time the country songs I listened to were artists like Florida Georgia Line, Morgan Wallen, and I do like their songs (hope you don’t laugh at my taste lol).
And maybe one year ago I saw the songs of Lil Nas X (actually is music video) in Billboard. I’ve known him through the song "Old Town Road" before, but this time I was shocked by the content in his songs. In his album Montero, he was so bold and confident to show the queer characters and tell queer stories. And now he has huge success.
Because of his songs, I began to wonder if there were any country singers like him. I want to see a queer country singer glowing like him, I want to listen some country songs that show a queer love story instead of traditional man-woman love story. So I Googled “gay country singer” and I found Ty Herndon.
I knew he released "What Mattered Most" in the 1990s and had a new version in 2019, where the pronouns were changed into he/him from she/her. I thought "OK, that’s cool." After a while, I saw a new music video of Tyler Hubbard. In that music video, a group of people danced at skating rink, and I thought some people might dance vogue but I wasn’t sure. I searched for the information of this music video but I found nothing about vogue. I was a little disappointed, and it made me want to see queer country songs even more.
So this time I Googled “gay country song” and I found Paisley Fields’ song "Ride Me Cowboy." This opened my eyes. I was so surprised that their music is exactly the same with the paragon of queer country music in my mind, and I was obsessed with their music immediately. Through Paisley Fields, I learned about more queer country music. They opened the door to queer country music for me.
Have you met many country music fans in person or online? How do you hope to build queer community, or country music community, around you?
Once I joined a online fan group of Morgan Wallen in Wechat (a Chinese app like WhatsApp). It was a small group, only has 40-50 people. And I don’t think I’m a fan of Morgan Wallen, I joined the group just for curiosity. In fact I seldom read the messages in the group, and I’ve never ever talked in the group.
But one time I found someone in the group talking about his [the group member's] Twitter, which is an account of female porn. He even promoted his Twitter to seek more subscribers, and that made me feel so uncomfortable. Someone replied to it and said he used to assumed everyone in the group was gay.
I was so confused about it too, I didn’t know why would he think that way. And this reminded me of a dialog in the group before, they said there was no females in the group. In that time I felt a little funny, because I’m a woman, but I still didn’t talk in the group. But this time I felt there was no room for me in the group. It’s a group for both straight and gay men, but not for woman. So I just quit the group.
So if you ask me how do I hope to build a community around me, I have to say I don’t have a specific vision or goal, but at lease I hope a thing like that won’t recur. I hope the community is friendly for everyone, whatever the gender and sexuality you are.
Why do you think it's important to translate these songs into Mandarin?
Honestly, I don’t think queer country music is important for Chinese people, or it can make a great influence on China. I do think queer country music is important for Americans. I believe it will impact the old concept of country music a lot.
But for Chinese people, we know very little about country music, we aren’t familiar with either country music and queer country music.
I translate queer country songs into Chinese, just because I like them and I want more people to hear them. And I think if I translate the lyrics, it’ll be easier for people to understand and accept them.
Also, I noticed you used “Mandarin” but not “Chinese”. Since you used that word, I assume you also know Cantonese. It’s interesting, because my first language is Cantonese. I don’t know if you think of Cantonese as a Hong Kong language. But in fact, Cantonese is also used in Guangdong province and Guangxi province in mainland China.
The reason I prefer to use the word “Chinese” but not “Mandarin,” is Mandarin and Cantonese use the same characters. Cantonese does have some specific characters, but most of them are spoken language but not written language. For the written language, the characters of Mandarin and Cantonese are usually same.
Since the lyrics are texts, I prefer to use “Chinese” instead of “Mandarin.”
Who is an artist you are excited about right now? Are there any Chinese artists you'd like our readers to know about?
Paisley Fields and Adeem the Artist. For me, Paisley Fields’ music is more about the daily life, and Adeem the Artist’s music often expresses their concepts and opinions. I like them both. And it’s Paisley Fields’ music makes me want to build a channel sharing queer country music.
野孩子(Wild Children),张尕怂(Zhang Gasong), 万能青年旅店(Omnipotent Youth Society). Wild Children is a folk band, their songs are often considered as one of the best folk songs in China. Zhang Gasong is also a folk singer, I’ll call his music as new school folk while Wild Children is definitely old school. His music combines traditional Chinese folk music and western pop music like blues, reggae, funk. The melodies in his songs are always ethnic, and the arrangement is Western, but he also uses a sanxian (a Chinese instrument, I think it’s kind of like banjo?) a lot in the arrangement.
Omnipotent Youth Society is considered as the best rock band in China by many people.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
I don’t know how you think about China or Chinese people. In fact, I think we know very little about each other. I guess most Americans have never been to China, and most Chinese people have never been to America -- neither have I. Our concepts and opinion about the other side usually come from books, newspapers, television, the Internet. I’m not saying the concepts and opinions are wrong -- everyone can have their own opinion, that’s OK. I’m saying don’t let this opinion effect you when you meet a real person.
The opinion we have is general, is about a whole nation, but everyone is a unique person. A Chinese person is not equal to China, an American is not equal to America. I think we should all be sincere to everyone, judge someone by their words and deeds, not a concept of whole nation or whole community.
Here are all of the queer country album releases this month! Let me know if I should add something to the list!
1/6 — Joel Brogon, Where Do We Go From Here
1/6 — Amy Martin, Travelin’ On
1/27 — HC McEntire
Maren Morris apologizes on behalf of all of country music for homophobia (and presumably transphobia.) Much to discuss. What do you think? Let's check in next week. (h/t The Boot)
DEADLINE EXTENDED -- Submit to the BibleBelt Queers Zine. The theme is "Queer in the Time of COVID" and the deadline is 3/1.
You can get almost 50% off the book Queer Country using this code: F21UIP
This thread gives advice on self-managed transition in Alabama and other states that restrict our bodily autonomy
Queer songwriting circle https://www.eliconley.com/group-classes.html#circle
1/21 - 1/22 — This weekend!!! Country Soul Songbook is throwing its third annual Summit — now in-person in Durham, NC or online! This is a really fantastic weekend of panels and performances by, for, and about LGBTQ+ and BIPOC country and Americana artists
2/14 — Leslie Jordan tribute show https://theboot.com/leslie-jordan-tribute-concert-lineup/
2/17 - 2/19 -- Austin's OUTlaw PrideFest is taking over San Marcos!
2/18 --Baby's First Rodeo in Philly is hosting a queer country night! There will be dance lessons!
3/18 -- Jake Blount and Jackie Venson (among others) are playing the Fort Worth Highwater Fest
4/15 & 16 — The High Water Festival in Savannah, GA will feature a number of queer artists like Rainbow Kitten Surprise, SG Goodman, Orville Peck, Ezra Furman, and the Black Opry. Who’s buying a ticket for me?
Updated every two weeks!
Thanks to Catie Pearl-Hartling for making a parallel list on Apple Music!
Thanks to Heike Hausmann for making a parallel list on Tidal!
From tour planning to album recs to sci-fi, we've talked about just about everything you could want! Reply to this e-mail to join the Rainbow Rodeo Discord!
Eli Conley is hosting a series of queer songwriting workshops via Zoom. Join in!
Submit your music and events to The Q LGBTQ Creative Network
This Twitter thread has a whole list of places to find jobs in the music industry
And here’s a list of resources for “women” entering the music industry — presumably they also encourage nonbinary participants
Submit your profile to the Country Everywhere which seeks to unite BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled artists and professionals
Sign up to the Black Opry Revue’s interest form!
Check out the weekly Queerfolk Fest show in Nashville