Cody Alan is often called “the Ryan Seacrest of country music.” He’s done it all, hosting television and radio shows, award shows, and podcasts. Alan never quits working and, according to his new book (out now), never stops listening.
That’s one of the premises of Hear’s the Thing; note the use of the word “hear.” Alan feels that listening to others is the most crucial part of his job — and of his personal life, since it took years for Alan to say the words “I’m gay,” after finally giving in to his most inner and honest voice.
Alan has been on a journey of self-discovery and embracing his authentic self, in addition to strengthening his family, career, and community relationships.
“I came out in 2017, and I wanted to tell the whole story, leading up to that day four years ago. It was a real evolution, and then all that has happened afterwards,” Alan says.
The most difficult part about coming out was literally starting the process.
“I began talking to family and close friends, and that was the scariest aspect of it,” he says. “Part of my story is that I was married with kids, so it was a bit like unraveling that onion about how to deal with the past of being in a straight marriage. I am so lucky that my ex-wife gives me so much love and support. And we have figured out a way to co-parent that works for everyone.”
“Admitting I was gay was frightening, particularly to my wife, but I had to really build up a lot of confidence in myself to do it, and I realized that there was nothing to be ashamed of,” he continues. “I’m finally happy and proud to be gay
That was a big step. At the beginning, I was just too focused on how people would react.” Once his sexual identity became public, Alan was met with overwhelming support, including from some of country music’s biggest stars. “It was crazy. I heard from so many, including Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith, T.J. Osborne [who is gay], and Dierks Bentley,” he says.
It’s his interactions with these stars and others that comprise a good portion of the book. “There have been all of these country music adventures,” Alan says. “I get to interview all kinds of stars and write all about those experiences and what I’ve learned from them by listening, and that all began by listening to my dad’s vast collection of country music vinyl albums.”
Alan says Larry King, the godfather of interviewers who died early in 2021, told him that he never learned anything while he was talking. That advice resonated with him.
“It became the idea behind the book. All of us are always on our phones, on social media, leading busy lives. How often do we stop and really make a human connection? When we do, we’re better off and happier. It’s great every once in a while to slow down and shut up,” Alan says.
Finding time to do everything on his schedule has become Alan’s most difficult task.
“I absolutely love what I do,” he says. “They say if you love your job, you never have to work a day in your life. And that is so me. I dreamed of being a broadcaster. I love radio, television, podcasts, social media…all of it is really fun. And what makes it all worthwhile is that I am surrounded by a loving family and a great group of people professionally. I absolutely don’t mind working hard.”
“I know I’m full of axioms, so I apologize for one more,” he says. “I was once told, ‘There are no elevators to success. You need to take the stairs.’ And wow, that is just so true.”
To that end, no one may be happier than Alan that the world has opened up in recent months and a more normal life is emerging.
“I’ve got new projects after the book, including radio shows, podcasts, TV specials,” Alan says. “I’m ramping back up to be out on the road for concerts and festivals and doing roadshows so that more people in the country have the opportunity to listen to country music, and I have the opportunity to listen to them.”
This story is part of The Advocate’s 2021 People of the Year issue, which is out on newsstands November 23, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.