Country singer-songwriter Ty Herndon is kicking off LGBTQ Pride Month by giving one of his most beloved hits a fresh, forward-thinking shine.
HuffPost got an exclusive first look at the music video for “What Mattered Most,” viewed above. The new version boasts a contemporary arrangement of the haunting melody introduced in Herndon’s original. This time, however, he’s replaced all of the female pronouns with their male equivalent, in an effort to reflect his life as a gay man.
The Alabama-raised artist, 57, told HuffPost he wanted to show LGBTQ youth that “Nashville and the country community have come a long way” by revamping the ballad, which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s country songs chart in February 1995.
“I can’t tell you how many times I hear them say, ‘We want to like country music ― we just don’t think it likes us,’” he said. “I was diffidently looking for a way to celebrate the song’s birthday. So this seemed like the perfect idea.”
For fans, the new version of “What Mattered Most” is the first taste of Herndon’s forthcoming album, “Got It Covered.” Slated for an Aug. 23 release, the album is the singer-songwriter’s first since 2016’s “House On Fire,” and his second since publicly opening up about his sexuality in 2014.
Though Herndon acknowledges that “there is still a lot of truth” to the perception of country music as traditionally conservative, his influence can be felt across a growing number of performers and personalities within the genre. In 2017, Country Music Television (CMT) personality Cody Alan came out as gay on his social media channels, telling fans he felt “happier and healthier than I’ve ever been.”
Last fall, singer-songwriter Brandon Stansell (with whom Herndon has performed in the past) recalled his own coming out experience in the video for “Hometown,” the first of his singles to receive CMT airplay. And in March, independent artist Cameron Hawthorn scored a viral hit with the video for his song, “Dancing in the Living Room,” in which he canoodled lovingly with a boyfriend.
Calling himself “somewhat of a counselor to the community,” Herndon credits stars like Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris, as well as legends like Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire ― all of whom court sizable LGBTQ fan bases ― with “helping to change things pretty rapidly.”
As for the new version of “What Mattered Most,” he hopes it will appeal to both fans who have been following his work since the original as well as new audiences who may not have heard the song before. The song will be a part of his set Thursday when he takes the stage at Nashville’s Wildhorse Saloon for the Concert for Love and Acceptance, an annual event he’s co-hosted with GLAAD since 2015.
Whether listeners approach the song as a newbie or with knowledge of the 25-year journey that inspired the redux, Herndon is just happy it will now be heard “with the emotion and story that I intended.”