You might not know Chris Housman's name yet, but the independent country music singer-songwriter is making waves with his new song, "Blueneck" -- one he said he wishes he had heard when growing up.
The song, which dropped April 7, features progressive lyrics -- especially for one in the genre -- such as: "Can't a country kid wanna see the glass ceiling shatter / Wanna see a world where Black Lives Matter." Even just these two lines touch upon the need for better representation of women and Black artists in country music, two points that have been discussed widely in recent years.
In "Blueneck," Housman, who is gay, describes a person like himself, who is a "liberal redneck," someone who is liberal in political and social ideology but lives or grew up in a conservative setting or a "red state."
Below, Housman, 31, introduces himself to the world in a personal essay for "Good Morning America," detailing his journey in life thus far and explaining how, with "Blueneck," he wants to show that country music can be for everyone. As he sings, "I think y'all means all and I know we all / Just wanna know that we belong."
Growing up as a gay kid immersed in country music, on a Kansas farm near a town of only about 200 people, I certainly always felt different.
While I loved the '90s country songs I was hearing on the radio and performing at shows starting at the age of 7, I knew deep down that they never totally applied to me. In "Blueneck" -- my new song that went viral on the social media app TikTok and was the No. 1 selling country song on iTunes for a time last week -- I wrote the song I wish that I had heard growing up. One in which, as a line in the chorus says, "y'all means all."
After coming out at 18 -- having never met an openly gay person before -- I moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University and pursue music. But I quickly had a realization: I could continue to chase the country music dream, or I could live in my fresh, openly queer skin.
I certainly didn't think I could do both. Why would I? I had never seen it done before from an unknown and unsigned artist. So I put music on the back burner for a number of years while I gradually got more comfortable with myself.
In 2014, my world was flipped upside down when I broke my neck in a freak inflatable waterslide accident. After one week in ICU and a nine-hour spinal fusion surgery -- during which I lost control of the left side of my body at one point -- I was so incredibly fortunate to be able to walk, with help, out of the hospital.
To say that experience was eye-opening would be a massive understatement. I remember crying into a spoonful of macaroni and cheese, so excited that I was able to feed myself -- even if I barely had enough strength to do so. I spent the next three months in a neck brace and another three months after that slowly regaining my strength. But the strongest thing I developed from that tragedy was my newfound perspective on life.
I remembered that I had come to Nashville to sing, perform and write songs -- not to work a 9-to-5 sitting at a computer all day like I was doing at the time. I jumped at the first chance to leave my desk job and play shows for a living, touring across the country and playing at 150-plus colleges.
When the college shows slowed down, I focused on co-writing with other songwriters in town -- which I would do every day, unpaid, before waiting tables at night to pay the bills. Though only part-time now, I still wait tables.
As I continued to grow into myself -- especially in this wild last year -- I started to understand that I actually had quite a lot to say about the genre that claims to be "three chords and the truth” yet shuts out a lot of truths from being told. As someone who spent a large portion of my life feeling excluded from country, where the word "freedom” is used and idolized frequently, I saw an opportunity and need for change that would make some more folks included, free and safe to be themselves.
So while the overwhelmingly positive response -- more than 4 million collective views and nearly 100,000 followers on TikTok -- to the song I wrote about being a "red state Blueneck” just a month ago has been a pleasant surprise, it also makes complete sense that so many people would feel seen when given a space that they've never been allowed to shine in before.
This "Blueneck” has so much more to say, and can't wait to make the "y'all" in country music finally mean "all."