Life has been good for country music singer Ty Herndon since coming out publicly as gay
It's been less than four months since Ty Herndon publicly declared to the world that he is gay - the highest-profile country music star to ever do so.
He has not had a single regret since and encountered more acceptance than he ever thought possible.
'Dude, I have been so thrilled,' he told Gay Star News in a recent interview. 'I started touring in two days after I came out - I played the Grand Ole Opry two days after I came out. The crowds have been great. The public's ready - they're great. I've got a lot of faith in them.'
Herndon's going public at the age of 51 followed years of struggle for the singer who kept his secret when he first hit the charts in 1995 with the single What Mattered Most.
After five years of riding high, the strain took a toll. By 2000, Herndon was no longer being played on radio and by 2002 he had stopped touring.
His professional and personal slide that included a divorce from his second wife, bankruptcy, gaining 75 pounds, financial and legal problems and two stints in drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities.
Five years ago, he had an epiphany and decided it was time to tell the truth to himself and eventually to others.
Country music had not been known for being welcoming to openly gay stars. Chely Wright came out in 2010 and has since then had to turn to Kickstarter to fund an album.
But Herndon sees the tide changing and expects others to be joining him and Wright soon.
'Nashville's grown up so much in the last little while and I've been hearing from a couple of sources that couple of young, gay artists are about to be signed and that makes me really happy,' he says. 'I don't know who they are but I can't wait to support them and be a part of their evolution.'
For now, Herndon is happy to carry the mantle and is busier professionally than he has been in years. He begins recording a new album in 20 March with a release date of 12 June scheduled.
'It's been crazy,' he says. 'I've been home once. I've been out touring and I've been writing and we start recording the new album. The songs are written and that's always the hardest part and I've been so meticulous with this particular album because it has really the most important words that I've ever written.
'I get to finally sing about every bit of my life - I don't have to pretend. I don't have to replace the he's with she's in the lyrics.'
Herndon has also been quickly snapped up by LGBTI organizations to perform and to speak. He has agreed to appear at 10 pride events so far this year as well as the National Gay Rodeo.
'I have always wanted to play that,' he says. 'These are my brothers and sisters out there and I'm just happy that I can finally just stand up and be a part of that family because it makes me very, very proud.'
This has been reposted from Gay Star News.