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Hunter Kelly’s Proud Radio Ep. 20 Preview

This week on Proud Radio with Hunter Kelly on Apple Music Country, Semler joins Hunter to discuss topping the Christian charts, faith and Queer Time. Lilli Lewis also stops by to talk about her newest album, Americana.


On the science of Queer Time
Hunter: When I heard you talk about the science of Queer Time, I was like, “Yes. This is something that I think needs to be studied even more.” (laughs)

Semler: Uh, yeah. I saw it on TikTok. There was a TikTok poem, a reflection that just found its way on my “For You” page, and it resonated with me so much about how sometimes your first kiss as a queer person won’t literally be your first kiss. But you’ll go back to those butterflies and all those feelings that you have heard about when your friends were maybe, you know, 12 or 13 and having their first kisses. And maybe your first kiss happens when you’re 26. But your first kiss, romantic attraction. And that doesn’t make it any less valid. It just means that our timeline and our framework is a little bit more different. And I absolutely relate to having kind of a stunted adolescence and, you know, going a little crazy when I was in my 20s and when some of my friends were aging out of that and looking to settle down, I was, like, “Should we all start getting tattoos, seriously, right now?” And they were like, “We’re looking to buy homes.” And I was like, “Well, that sounds like a you problem. I’m looking to get tattoos.”

On “Hallelujah (In Your Arms)
That’s exactly how I felt all the years that I was presenting as a good, conventional Christian daughter. I was the furthest from God. And as soon as I started being myself and being true to who I’ve always known I was created to be, was when the whole world started to crack open and the mystery of the divine and God and scripture and my place within all of it became accessible to me for the first time. Because how are you gonna talk to the way the truth and the life when you’re living a lie? I couldn’t do it, you know? So I wanted to have an anthem about sort of this defiance, and how I found my queerness has only brought me closer to God and so there’s that lyric in “Hallelujah” which is like, “And if I’m broken.” Which you always hear that we’re broken sexually or whatever. “Why am I free?” Because I experienced true freedom. Why am I speaking in tongues, like revival is near, like the Author of all said there’s nothing to fear? Because when I was coming out, I never experienced that. I experienced just the opposite. And a richness in community and in curiosity. So I wanted to have a song that reflects that. There are so many songs about the pain, and I think that’s valid and important also, but I wanted to have a song of just praise. And that’s what “Hallelujah” is. And I think it goes really hard. I’m really proud of the arrangement on this song.


On “Piece of Mine”
I was on a road trip, and I was sitting in the passenger seat. And I got this vision. I just got this vision of this woman walking in the mountains and like just walking and walking. And then she stared at me in the face and she told me this story of being in the Antebellum South, falling in love with a woman, and having that love met but only met halfway, because nobody believed in gay stuff…[she lost] her mind over it and murdered her woman, you know and now she has to carry this through eternity. She’s like an unrested spirit. I remember thinking that the ways in which people around me felt that they had to be closeted, and just being aware of all of the ways in which that impacts your life, like all these layers that you don’t even think about because you think you can get away with compartmentalizing. But even that attempt causes this schism that can break us, you know. And thank goodness there’s not as much of that going around these days. But it’s still tough, you know. And I’m like, lest we forget. It was only six minutes ago, y’all. You know?

On what she hopes people take away from Americana
What I have found in my own personal trauma work and at this point, I think I see us all as needing to do trauma work, right? What I have experienced is that transparency lends itself to agency. And that those two things, those two words have been life-savings for me. And so I hope that bringing a sense of transparency and bringing an availability to agency, could do the same for my America. My mother somehow raised a patriot. On her side of the family, I can trace us back to being free and Black on this land before there was an America. So, our story is fascinating and real. And it’s just as real as my father’s side of the family who were raising cotton and sugar cane, you know, who had been enslaved and then were sharecroppers and then managed to buy the land that they grew up working. You know, at some point, they had bought over 200 acres and now it’s down to maybe 83 acres. In the seventh poorest county in the country, they managed to graduate military kids and, you know, ivy league kids and doing this… Like, my father failed the fifth grade because he had to pick cotton. He couldn’t go to school ’cause he, and he still managed to get two degrees from Princeton. You know, advanced degrees from Princeton. So it’s like, all of these stories are American stories. Right? The ones where we’re ostracized or homeless or two-spirit or, like, all of it, we’re all here together. And until we figure out that there’s no escaping one another, we’re all gonna be super vulnerable. Our wellness, our well-being is gonna be imperiled. Right? And so, my conversation is very much an inclusive one. I’m not all that interested in preaching to the choir although I’m so very thankful for the choir. But it’s like I wanna remind the not-choir that we’re actually still family. I’m sorry. We’re your cousins. You know?

Ep. 20 will air in full this Sunday (Dec. 5) at 2pm PT / 4pm CT / 5pm ET or listen afterward on demand at on Apple Music Country.