On March 20, top names in Country and Americana music will join forces in Nashville to perform in the name of equality and inclusion. More than 15 major music artists will put on a show to uplift the LGBTQ+ community and highlight the injustices Republicans seek to set into law targeting queer and transgender people.
Allison Russell, Mya Byrne, and Brothers Osborne will join Sheryl Crow, Hozier, Jason Isbell, Maren Morris, and more for a star-studded show, Love Rising: Let Freedom Sing (and Dance) A Celebration of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: Let Freedom Sing (and Dance) A Celebration of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness at Bridgestone Arena
The concert came to be through an initiative that began when the Tennessee Pride Chamber organized a letter signed by more than 230 businesses in Tennessee asking Republican Gov. Bill Lee to veto what was known as the drag felony bill.
Lee signed the bill into law as well as another that bans gender-affirming care to trans youth.
Warner Music has been a supporter of the Tennessee Pride Chamber, according to Brian Rosman, the president of the organization. A board member who works at Warner Music then worked to get the industry to support the veto. Since then, there has been an intense desire among many artists and representation companies to provide more support to the LGBTQ+ community, including Allison Russell and her management team, Live Nation, and Brandi Carlisle and her Looking Out Foundation.
“Visibility and representation are more important than people realize,” Rosman tells The Advocate. He and his husband moved from West Hollywood to Nashville in 2017 and were welcomed with open arms.
“Every neighbor seemed to have a personal connection to the LGBTQ+ community, a non-binary grandchild, a gay brother,” he says.
The couple moved to rural Tennessee last summer. Rosman says that he and his husband were the first gay married couple their neighbors had ever known, and that’s why he thinks the issue exists.
“They don’t have any personal experience with LGBTQ+ people. Some don’t believe transgender people are real at all. They don’t understand us, and maybe don’t care to, but people can’t see beyond their own personal experience,” he says. “Concerts and efforts like Love Rising with some of the biggest names in Country [music] and Americana music help to bring visibility and representation to those rural communities.”
Tennessee Equality Project executive director Chris Sanders echoed that sentiment.
“The event is important because it can mobilize people in Tennessee to notice and do something about the horrible legislation we are still facing for the remainder of the session,” he says. “It can also put a national spotlight on Tennessee and make people ask why we don’t have the same constitutional rights here that people enjoy in other parts of the country. We are sadly in another phase of our state’s history where “states’ rights” are taking us down a painful path.”
Inclusion Tennessee founder Phil Cobucci says that it’s this painful path that concerts like Love Rising hope to avoid.
“With music beating through the soul of Tennessee, our friends throughout the music industry knew that after this latest round of heartless and cruel attacks on our community through legislation, they could not stand by any longer,” Cobucci says. “Thanks to the hard work of countless music industry professionals, this event was able to come together in a matter of seven days.”
It’s essential for action now, the groups say, so events like Love Rising are coming together quickly.
Rosman says that the effects of the anti-drag measures from the Republican state leaders have already altered the landscape for upcoming celebrations.
“We are already seeing Pride Festivals remove drag performers from their celebrations. Municipal governments in smaller cities like Murfreesboro, Franklin, and others have said they will withhold permits for Pride Festivals with or without drag performances,” Rosman says.
As of April 1, drag performers could be charged with a felony and lose their voting rights just for performing. Additionally, critics say the bill is so broad that even if a transgender person walks down the street, they could face charges for impersonating another gender. As part of their legislation, Tennessee lawmakers also intend to reclassify drag performer venues as strip clubs, making those venues have to have a certain license to have drag shows.
“Drag is not a crime,” says Rosman. “Drag is an art form built on self-expression and artistic performance. Drag is also a powerful tool for political protest that uplifts the LGBTQ+ community in the face of discrimination and oppression.”
“Drag is both an art and form of political protest -- both protected by the United States and Tennessee Constitutions,” Rosman adds.
Rosman says he has a message for people who live in Tennessee.
“If you are a working professional or own a business in Tennessee and want to show your support for the LGBTQ+ community in Tennessee, join the Tennessee Pride Chamber,” he says.
In addition to the Tennessee Pride Chamber, Rosman suggests that those who wish to get involved should contact the Tennessee Equality Project, Tennessee Pride Chamber Foundation, and Inclusion Tennessee.