Black Opry Records launch & signs out gay country singer Jett Holden

Black Opry Records launch & signs out gay country singer Jett Holden
Black Opry Records launch & signs out gay country singer Jett Holden

Back in 2021, Holly G, a Black queer woman, founded a blog, Black Opry, to share her experience as a Black country music fan, but it evolved into a platform to give Black country artists their flowers and help launch their careers. Black Opry continued to expand by booking shows across the country under the Black Opry Revue banner, highlighting the unsung Black country artists Holly G found. Today, Black Opry takes on a new chapter with the launch of the record label Black Opry Records.

Related: New Beyoncé documentary to explore Black voices in country music

The new Thirty Tigers-distributed label started by The Black Opry founder Holly G launches with the signing of openly gay country artist Jett Holden. Holden’s debut album, The Phoenix with Black Opry Records, will arrive on October 4 with the lead single, “Backwood Proclamation,” featuring John Osborne and Charlie Worsham, available today.

"I don’t think there was a world in which I could’ve predicted that there would be a country music label run by someone who is Black and queer, putting out music by Black and queer people, and I certainly could never have predicted that the person would be me," Holly G tells PRIDE.

While Black Opry Revue has created a pipeline to touring and show opportunities, and folks like Rissi Palmer are picking up the mantle to champion Black country music with her Apple Music Country show Color Me Country, there are still many barriers due to the old guard.

"The mainstream country music space has only recently become more inclusive, but even the efforts we see put forth are mostly performative. Knowing that we have a space to be in charge of our own narrative and being able to work with artists who are making music that I love is an exceptional feeling," Holly G says.

However, Black Opry Records is positioned to change the music business significantly and at the executive level by signing and developing Black country artists like Holden, giving them a fair shot at their music dreams.

Related: 10 Black queer country artists you should add to your playlist immediately

“Being gay and Black had been a nonstarter for me in the industry from the time I started chasing a career in country music when I was 19. I had a developmental deal fall through when they learned I was gay,” Holden told Billboard, declining to name the label. “Every time things started to look up for me, all of a sudden I wasn’t marketable because I’m gay or my race or both. But when Black Opry Records became an option, I leapt at it.”

Although Holden’s signing is public today, he was initially asked to sign with Black Opry Records last summer after playing the Black Opry Revue at the Newport Folk Festival.

“They told me about the label and that they wanted to sign me first. I’m not used to being chosen first for anything, so it was a huge shock, but a no brainer. It was the easiest yes of my life,” he said, deciding to join the label as its first artist.

For Holly G, signing an LGBTQ+ artist was essential to make clear that Black Opry Records is here to champion inclusion in country music, setting a new precedent that will hopefully shift the music genre's old-guard practices.

"I’ve been so fortunate to build this community around me of like-minded people, and it’s beautiful to feel like there is a better future for the culture of country music. I am so fired up to be leading the way in creating that space," Holly G tells PRIDE.

One thing's for sure, we here at PRIDE have our boots and chaps ready to support this next era of inclusion in country music.