BY David Michael Conner
May 13 2009 12:00 AM ET
Your first album was folk-rock and had lines in it that maybe weren't very radio-friendly-especially the title track, "Pieces of You," which includes lyrics like "You say he's a faggot / Do you want to bash in his brain / You say he's a faggot / Are you afraid that you're just the same?" Do you think you could ever work such controversial subject matter into your country music? That song was such a great social experiment because obviously it's standing up for ... tolerance. But when I sing it -- and it's been my whole career -- I'm not really sure that a lot of people are really listening to me. I sing it and people get up and are offended. It's fascinating because [a lot of people] won't really listen to the lyrics and get the point. I don't know if I'd ever even ... you know, at the time, there was this really beautiful girl who was really mean to me [ laughs ], and I wanted to lash out and say that she was ugly and I started writing the song and thought, what a fascinating thing. Hatred usually says something about yourself and your insecurity. I don't know ... I'd be open to it, but I haven't felt like writing anything exactly like that since that time.
It was a pretty big deal for me at the time when that song came out. I was 17 and someone played that song for me, and it was powerful to me as a young gay person to hear someone singing those words. Around the same time, you were one of the first headliners in Lilith Fair. The festival is rumored to be coming back in 2010. Do you plan to be involved with it?I'll have to look into it. [Touring] got to where I really hated being on the road and so instead I'll do these short, two-week tours where I'll do 14 shows in 14 days and then come home. I'd have to see what the schedule is like. I really want to build a home life with my husband and tour around that schedule.
Are we going to see you on Dancing With the Stars next season?I don't know ... sometimes I think I got lucky breaking my leg [ laughs ]. Ty has been working his butt off. He left at like 7 in the morning yesterday and didn't come home until 9 o'clock at night. Such grueling days.
Do you think you'd still be in the competition now if you hadn't hurt yourself?I know that Ty has a really strong work ethic and when he puts his mind to something he'll really improve, but ... that's like comparing apples and oranges. He's not metro at all, and I didn't know how far he'd be able to go, but it's been amazing to see how far he'll go. America's really responding to his personality. He's such a stand-up guy in a world of flakes and it's been amazing to see America fall in love with him.
It's been entertaining, and maybe educational, to see a cowboy adapt so well to such a campy atmosphere.Yeah, you know, I think that's a big reason he did the show: People don't get a chance to be around real cowboys or bull riding or rodeos and he wanted to try and let people get to know a lot of stuff that people don't know.
You were with Ty for about 10 years before getting married. Why did you finally tie the knot?We wanted to start a family, and it just finally felt like time. We both got our careers beyond what we ever thought we would, and it just felt like time to take the next step.