Drake Jensen began rounding up loyal fans in 2011 with his debut album On Finding My Way to Finding You. Charting at number 16 on the European Country Music Association’s top 100, Jensen quickly proved an openly gay artist could succeed in country music. If anything, Jensen said he's got the most pushback from gay fans, and he looks forward to when we learn better how to "unite and come together."
Now, Jensen aims to expand his fan base further with today's release of his sophomore album, OUTlaw, featuring the lead single "When It Hurts Like That." On the eve of the album’s release, the talented singer-songwriter sat down with The Advocate to talk about his decision to come out, why some gay men haven't been so accepting, and the inspiring stories he’s heard from fans.
The Advocate: You’ve been open about your sexuality since your music career began. Were you worried people knowing you were gay would have a negative effect on your success?
Drake Jensen: Absolutely. Anybody who says they wouldn’t be scared entering the music business at all is lying, let alone coming out as a country artist. But I think denying who I was ever again in my life wasn’t an option. Besides, I knew I was going to make a quality product and no one was going to scare me away from the genre, because I was coming into it standing for something and I knew people would be attracted to that. So that helped balance my apprehension.
Have you experienced much backlash from fans of the country genre since you came out as a gay artist?
Interestingly, the greatest criticism I’ve gotten has been from the LGBT community rather than the straight community. Don’t get me wrong, about 80% of my fans are gay men who are wonderful, but I’ve been told my music is too heterosexual and called some ridiculous names by gay people in the past. However, I think most of that comes from people who want [gay artists] to be a certain way, but I’ve got to be who I’m meant to be and who I’m comfortable being. As far as the country music scene overall though, I’m not really getting any backlash and if I am people are talking behind closed doors because I don’t hear it.
It seems strange that people would criticize you for not embracing the LGBT community enough in your music. From recording the duet "Stand By Your Man" with Drag Race alum Willam to having your bear claw tattoo featured prominently in your music videos, you’re obviously very comfortable with being an out artist.
I’m really proud of who I am and I love our community. What would this world be without the LGBT community? I think we really enhance society and I think the one thing we need to learn to do better is unite and come together. Because once we learn how to love ourselves and to work with one another then we’re going to be unstoppable. I do think that’s beginning to happen now, but it’s just going to take a while.