Kevin Thornton and the sincere, and gay, origins of country music
Most of us think of country music as those songs where heartland hunks git all excited about shitkickin' on a payday. It's diametrically opposed to the boots-in-a-dryer dance music that most of us hear in gay bars. For a brief moment about ten years ago, gay men and country music almost came together when Brokeback Mountain was released. (Remember C&W karaoke at Gladaman's Den?) But gayness and country music actually can peacefully co-exist. There are at least two country singers - Ty Herndon and Steve Grand - who are out, and now there's a third.
Kevin Thornton spent most of his life on the road playing in bands. He toured so much and so often that at one point in his career he was virtually homeless as it didn't make sense to pay rent on a place he never saw. But one thing had to be addressed - his homosexuality. So at the age of 43 he decided to start Indiana Queen, a new project featuring himself and a rotating band of other musicians. And he decided to be as out as possible.
"Something inside me went fuck it, I'm going to make this happen with or without help," he explaind. Indeed, it is an independent project, made without the support of a record company. It is also super ambitious. Aside from the music, Thornton has released a feature length film to accompany all of the songs on his new CD. Called Summon Without Sorrow, it is a deeply intimate look at his life as a country music performer and as a gay man.
"People cried at the premiere, I wasn't expecting that," he says. "When I was making it, I knew it was vulnerable, and people kept commenting on how personal it was." The entire film can be viewed on YouTube at
The question remains. Why did he choose country music? "Country music chose me. That stuff about beer and trucks is bullshit, but the origins of country music are sincere. It's outsider music. Nashville itself is super progressive and everyone in the music industry is pro-gay, but they have to present this face to the world because the people who consume country music are not necessarily that."
So it's clear, Indiana Queen needs to find an audience. Thornton has a clear sweet voice and writes pretty melodies. But there are also lyrics like "well-endowed angels descend, the weight of their cocks are sinking them to the earth." It's a long way from Buck Owens and the Buckaroos.
Thornton and I agree that gay culture should be everywhere, including the midwest. In part, that's because gay sex is everywhere, but also because nations, and audiences, are made stronger by other points of view. The country music scene will be a hard nut to crack, but worth it. Thornton is now settled with a home and a relationship and cats, and Summon Without Sorrow may make it to a gay film festival somewhere near you, but a lot of work remains. In the meantime, check out his music, including his new single "Nashville Don't Give A Damn"