A couple of years ago, Ty Herndon decided to go beyond the typical fan club party and launch a truly all-inclusive event. That became the Concert for Love and Acceptance, which enjoyed a successful debut year in 2015.
As Herndon enthusiastically points out, he had so much fun the first time that he couldn’t wait to do a follow-up. And now, that’s a reality. The 2017 Concert for Love and Acceptance takes place Thursday, June 8, at the Wildhorse Saloon and features a star-packed lineup that includes Billy Gilman, Thompson Square, Mickey Guyton, Lorrie Morgan, Runaway June, Michael Ray, Ryan Kinder and many others.
Herndon, as many fans know, broke significant ground in 2014 when he became the first male country star to come out as openly gay. He inaugurated the Love and Acceptance show in 2015 to raise funds for at-risk youth. “I was having my twentieth fan club party that year,” Herndon begins, “and I thought, let’s figure out something we can do that is a little more special. So, that’s how this was born.” The 2015 show at City Winery in Nashville sold out weeks in advance and convinced Herndon that he was easily on the right track.
This year, the “What Mattered Most” singer is partnering with CMT and GLAAD for the event. “There is a lot of interest in what we’re doing,” Herndon says. “We needed more space this year and we have that. The thing that is important to me is that we engage Nashville. For us, this concert represents the heart of Nashville.”
Also new for 2017 is the red carpet, which will be located inside the Wildhorse for full viewing comfort. Stars will begin walking the red carpet at 5:30 with the show kicking off at 7:30. “We’re opening up the red carpet this year in front of the stage,” Herndon explains with a smile. “If you have your tickets and you want to come early, you can enjoy that before the show.”
And a show is what fans will see. Herndon emphasizes that the event is void of any political agenda, soapbox speeches or sociological lectures. “Love” stands as the operative word.
“I ask the performers to pick at least one song from their musical arsenal that is just about love,” Herndon says. “That is the common thread. I don’t ask anyone to bring any agenda to the stage. It’s not about that. The only agenda is trying to raise money for at-risk youth, which is very important to me. When I came out, or as I like to say when I let people see the authentic side of myself, the one thing that broke my heart was the statistics for suicides for at-risk kids under 14. At any age, that is a horrible thing. But for someone who has their whole life ahead of them, and to see them living under a bridge or don’t have enough to eat, that to me is an epidemic.” The force behind the concert remains Herndon’s desire to encourage young people to live to their fullest potential.
Herndon has grand plans for the Concert for Love and Acceptance beyond its Nashville home base. “We hope to take this brand out on the road the next couple of years to some other major cities,” he notes. He’d work those in with his regular concert stops, which are happily filling up his plate at the moment. “We’re doing about 120 dates a year,” Herndon, a youthful-looking 55, says. “Lots of fairs and festivals and casinos. I got in really good shape a few years ago and I’ve been able to maintain that schedule. The only thing that will bother me is if I don’t get enough rest in between shows.”
For this year’s Love and Acceptance show, Herndon will no doubt draw from his catalog of hits like his 1995 debut No. 1 “What Mattered Most,” along with “Living in a Moment” and “It Must Be Love.” He’ll likely perform tunes from his latest album “House on Fire” as well, including the title track and the single “That Kind of Night.”
Naturally, he’s excited about the upcoming Nashville show, taking place during CMA Music Festival week. “We have a lot of great talent,” he says. “They’re all coming together to celebrate love and acceptance in Nashville.” And that’s a cause worth celebrating.
Ty Herndon’s 2017 Concert for Love and Acceptance will be held at the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville Thursday night, June 8. Floor seats are sold out but tickets are still available. For more information, please visit Herndon’s official website.