Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Rhinestone cowboy

'I'm a fish out of water,' gay country singer says

"Everyone knows there are no gay men in professional sports or country music," jokes Patrick Masse. Credit: Kaila Moore

It’s a known fact that the Lord Jesus lives on a ranch in the Midwest. This is why the most popular accessory for a plaid shirt is still a Bible, not a rainbow flag. Canadian country recording artist Patrick Masse is hell-bent on changing this.

“Everyone knows there are no gay men in professional sports or country music,” Masse jokes over coffee.

Nashville is one of the last places you’d expect to find an out gay or lesbian artist. Though by the same token, a Vancouver coffee shop is the last place you’d expect to find a country artist — which is what makes Masse so interesting.

“I’m a fish out of water,” he admits. “From what I know, I’m the only openly gay male commercial country artist. I know a lot of country artists in Nashville that are quite successful, but they are in the closet.”

Traditional family values dominate the country music industry — demonstrated by the massive commercial success of artists like Faith Hill or Tim McGraw. Still, there’s room for some diversity, as Chely Wright’s well-publicized coming out proved in 2010.

“I knew for many years that Chely was a lesbian; it just wasn’t made public knowledge,” Masse explains. “It’s not an industry where people are outed, either. Even if they suspect something, most of the public prefers to keep pretending otherwise.”

Although we’ve met to discuss his upcoming performance at WinterPride, it’s Masse’s novelty factor that originally compelled me to contact him. He’s branded himself as “a traditional, yet refreshing brand of country,” which in my mind translates to the Pimm’s Cup of country music: manly, cool and not too fruity.

Like Masse, I grew up listening to artists like Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. Unlike Masse, my musical daydreams involved boy bands, not the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.

That he was born and raised in Vancouver, better known for acts like Bryan Adams and Nickelback than for its country music scene, adds another puzzling contradiction to his resumé.

Masse came out to friends and family at 19, four years before his first album, Get There from Here, was released in 1998. His experiences living and recording in Nashville have given him a window into a world where religion and song frequently collide.

“Christian music is bigger in Nashville than country music, but they aren’t the same thing,” he says. “I am a country artist.”

A song like “Everybody Likes To Be Loved” from his latest album, Mend the Man, could easily appear on an album by Alan Jackson or Randy Travis.

Masse confesses that “kd lang has had a huge influence on my career.She’s navigated her career on her terms, which is something I think I’ve done as well.”

Masse is a vocal advocate for the transformative power of social media and believes it has helped artists who “wouldn’t have had a chance with the old music-industry model.”

“It’s a really exciting time to be an artist,” he says, “because you can have total control over your music.”

He’s working on a new album but has also spent several years developing a reality television concept based on his experiences as a gay country artist. Although he hasn’t sold the concept yet, he says, “it would show a different side to the industry, a side people have never seen before.”