Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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Making Myself Useful: A Note From Dale

I just got handed a bushel of lemons, so I’m about to host a lemonade-making party. Here’s the story:

A year ago, I called Cindy Emch with an idea for an online magazine that would serve LGBTQ fans of country and Americana. My question for her: was I crazy?

Cindy was one of the only queer folks I knew who was into country music, which was why I asked her, and also why I thought I might be crazy: were there enough of us to make it work? Other reasons I might be crazy: I had never published an online magazine; I had a full-time job and two school-aged kids; and I didn’t have any cash.

She did not think I was crazy. (Possibly she was wrong.)

My way around the time constraints was to pay Cindy to edit the magazine. I also wanted to offer CQ merch, so I spent some dough on a sweet logo and high-quality goods (Michael and Justine at Designed By Monkeys set me up perfectly). The idea was that the day job was gonna fund it until it could reach liftoff velocity. This plan worked so well that by the end of the year, I had racked up a pretty fair debt. Oops.


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

But along the way something really beautiful happened: we found each other. You and me and Cindy and Margie Neely (cheerleader, confidant, and live show champ) and a bunch of other badass country queers. We listened to you as closely as we could and, within the constraints we had to work with, tried to give you what you wanted. Connection happened!

As spring approached, Cindy needed all her extra time for rolling out her new album, and since I was bleeding money at an unsustainable rate, we agreed amicably that I’d take over the editor role. (I cannot overstate the debt of gratitude I owe Cindy: CQ would quite literally not exist without her.) By mid-March, I had nearly paid off all my debt.

Well, we all know what happened in mid-March.

Y’all may have noticed a weeks-long fallow period from CQ at that point, as I sat at home, without an editor, no content in the pipeline and no clue how to get it, merch and ad sales dead, event tabling cancelled, day-job hours – and pay – cut by two-thirds, trying to manage my no-longer-in-school kids: scared, and frankly…kinda paralyzed. I questioned whether there was any point in me continuing to do CQ.

So I asked you.

I put it out on Twitter. And I got back an emphatic, humbling, deeply touching show of support. Not only kind words but vital, sustaining merch sales and even a small, but very meaningful Venmo donation (thanks, Ronnie!).

I’ve undertaken and then abandoned more than one career path in my pursuit of meaningful work. When I saw your response to my rather freaked-out question, I realized that right in front of me there was meaningful work to be done. (I, in fact, adopted a new life motto: “Make yourself useful.” I like to say it to myself in a mom voice.)

So I dived back into CQ and started figuring it out. For the last few weeks, thanks in part to stalwart contributors like Annalisha Fragmin, Rachel Cholst, and James Barker, we’ve been publishing high-quality pieces at a rate of three a week – more than ever before. We’ve connected with a bunch of new readers and followers. We published an interview with one of my favorite artists. We sold another ad (thanks, New West Records!). And we’ve even seen a modest but steady trickle of merch sales. (All this, by the way, has done absolute wonders for my head. “Make yourself useful.” It works.)

And that brings us to the bushel of lemons.

I just got off the phone with my day-job boss. My hours have been cut to zero. I have no idea when unemployment will be kicking in, or how much I’ll be getting. (Haven’t even gotten my damn stimulus check yet.)

Not long ago, when it dawned on me that this day was likely coming, I promised myself I would find a way to make this, Country Queer, my next day job. To amplify more queer voices in country and Americana, to connect more of us, to help us claim our space. To make myself more useful.

So I’m gonna try my damnedest.

If I can make this my day job, I’ll publish at least four pieces a week – reviews, previews, interviews, think pieces. I’ll add a calendar where artists can promote their live shows and their releases. I’ll upgrade the look’n’feel of the site, so it will be more readable. And – believe me, this will make a huge difference – I’ll upgrade to a new content management system (the underlying tech for the website.) It’ll be a real magazine, not a glorified blog.

But of course, for this to be my day job, it has to pay the bills. So I’m hereby inviting you to the lemonade-making party.

At this point, every dollar comes from ad or merch sales. Ad and merch sales, in turn, depend on reaching more people. I figure we’re currently reaching less than 1/10,000th of the country queers out there in the world.

If you’re into our mission of raising up LGBTQ voices in country and Americana, and want to help keep the CQ train a’rollin’, there are a bunch of options. Just pick one and go:

Crazy or not, I’ve gotten more from this journey than I could have imagined, and I got it all from you: I got to make myself useful. Now I just want to do it more.