Country Queer

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Brooke Eden Lives Her Truth

by Will Groff, Staff Writer

Photo Credit: Ford Fairchild

Brooke Eden is in her “sunshine and rainbows” era. That’s how the singer puts it when we speak over Zoom about the new Dave Audé remix of her song, “Got No Choice,” which arrives just in time for end-of-summer dance parties.

“It was just such a celebration, which was what the song was always intended to be,” Eden says of the remix. “It was just this celebration of love.”

Eden released the original version of “Got No Choice” back in May, as the third in a trio of “reintroduction” singles after a four-year hiatus. Like “No Shade” and “Sunroof” before it, “Got No Choice” is a breezy, pop-tinged ode to self-acceptance and finding joy in queer love. 

When program directors from stations in the U.S., Europe, and the U.K. reached out to express interest in playing a remixed version of the song on pop-friendly formats, Eden and her team jumped at the chance. Eden said she was familiar with Audé’s work dating back to her time in college, and knew immediately that he was her guy. His version ups the tempo and adds a chugging synth line and insistent beat, transforming the song into a club-ready banger.


You can't pair a wine with an album...can you?

The music video for the remix is a slightly altered version of the original, placing a soft, rainbow-tinged filter over shots of Eden and fiancée Hilary Hoover enjoying a day on the water. Hoover, who works as a promotion director for artists including Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, also appears in the videos for “No Shade,” “Sunroof,” and the original mix of “Got No Choice.”

Eden tells me that she wrote “Got No Choice” around four and a half years ago, shortly after she and Hoover started dating. At the time, members of Eden’s team pressured her to keep the relationship — and her identity as a queer person — a secret.

“I was being told that I could either keep my relationship or keep my career in country music,” she says. “And it was just like, ‘I can’t.’ I can’t stop the music, and I also can’t stop loving this person.”

The two decided to make their relationship public on social media around a year ago, with Eden officially coming out in an Instagram video in January, a month before she released “No Shade.” As the summery sounds and vibrant visuals of this era suggest, Eden found coming out incredibly freeing. She says she’s now able to write from a place of truth — the key to great songwriting, especially in country music — and she no longer worries about using female pronouns, or otherwise explicitly referencing her own life.

In our interview and elsewhere, Eden’s story mostly hews to this familiar, comforting narrative: coming out makes things better. But I was curious about the ways in which being an openly queer country singer has proven difficult. She admits that there are some in the industry who have denied her opportunities because she’s gay, but she’s careful to point out that being queer has also opened certain doors for her, including an appearance at Nashville Pride next month.

“There’s going to be people who don’t want to listen to me because I’m queer,” she says. “But at the end of the day, that’s kind of their problem. And I don’t really want those people at my shows.”

Photo Credit: Ford Fairchild

Eden has been inspired in this regard by Mickey Guyton, a longtime friend whom she met during American Idol auditions in 2008. Guyton released “Black Like Me” last June, amid protests over the murder of George Floyd, after nearly a decade of failing to gain traction in the country music industry. She made history this year as the first Black woman to earn a Grammy nomination for Best Country Solo Performance, but has also been forced to endure a barrage of racist attacks on social media and a continued freeze-out from country radio.

Last February, shortly before the COVID-19 lockdown, Guyton visited Eden at her home and gave her an early listen to “Black Like Me” and “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?,” a song that addresses systemic racism and sexual assault. Guyton implored Eden to speak her truth as a queer woman in country music, and to use her platform to help others who have been marginalized, a message that Eden took to heart.

“It was really encouraging for me to see Mickey being as honest as she was,” Eden says, adding that “this is just the beginning of paving that path to acceptance and equality for everybody.”

Eden has also found an ally in Trisha Yearwood, who joined her during a performance of “She’s in Love with the Boy” at the Grand Ole Opry in June. According to Eden, it was Yearwood’s idea to insert Eden’s and Hoover’s names into the song and change the words to “She’s in love with the girl” in a nod to Pride Month and the couple’s engagement. Eden was nervous going into the night, but she says the crowd’s response was heartening.

“Anytime [Yearwood] brought up Pride or our engagement, anything to do with being an ally, the crowd actually cheered,” Eden says. “To have that allyship within such a classic country music venue meant so much because it meant we were actually moving in the right direction.” 

The night was a triumph, for Eden as well as for country music itself. As she heads back into the studio, Eden says the next batch of songs will delve into the darker side of her journey, the “road to sunshine,” as she puts it.

This road is something she alludes to in a postscript to the original “Got No Choice” video, which offers resources for those who are struggling with their sexuality and gender identity: As happy as we are now, it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, the message reads. If you’re not there yet, it’s ok – you’re not alone! There’s a loving community waiting for you when you’re ready.

Will Groff is a freelance writer and the author of Sidewinder, a biweekly newsletter that offers an irreverent (and queer!) perspective on today’s country music.