Shane Stevens loves his gal pal, music and Jesus on
Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys (all photos courtesy of Sundance)
What could a self-proclaimed ‘Jesus Freak’ and a country music singer possibly have in common? Thankfully, being the gay BFF to a lovely lady crosses all boundaries – even the Bible Belt – and on the new season of the Sundance Channel’s Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, one of the four couples we meet on the reality series is Shane Stevens and Sherrie Austin.
Shane is an openly gay successful songwriter (he wrote the Lady Antebellum hit ‘American Honey’) and just launched his solo pop project. Sherrie is an Aussie singer/actress who has penned country hits for Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton and is now launching a solo-career comeback. Together these two talented artists are going through the same life struggles with career, relationships and more.
While last season, the series looked at gay men/gal pal relationships in the New York City area, the show has taken the plunge deep into the Bible Belt in Nashville, Tennessee. During a recent trip to New York City, AfterElton.com sat down with Stevens, who was in town for a Human Rights Campaign event, to talk about the relationship between his faith and being gay, being gay in very un-gay world of country music and how his own relationship worked its way into the show.
AfterElton.com: How did you get involved with the show?
Shane Stevens: They came to us, actually. Sherrie, my partner on the show – she’s my Grace, I’m her Will…or maybe I’m her Charlotte and she’s my Carrie Bradshaw…she’s a country star making a comeback and someone randomly contacted her publicists and asked if she had a gay best friend and she said “Uh, yeah! Of course I do!” They asked, ‘Would he be interested in being on the show with you?’ and she said, ‘Oh, that could be fun.’ They came to Nashville, met us and here we are!
The cast of Girls Who Like Boys 2: Shane/Sherrie, Peter/Kristin, Jared/Tenisha and Brent/Olivia
AE: Was there any trepidation about being out on camera?
SS: Yeah, because I’m a country music songwriter and Sherrie is a country star and she always says we’re unbuckling the Bible belt. It was a little scary but it’s something that needs to be done. I’m the first openly gay songwriter in Nashville and country music. There are a lot of closeted gays or some people know they’re gay but they’re not really out.
AE: Talk to me about that. There aren’t a lot of gay C&W artists. You hear about them once in awhile but they never seem to get very far.
SS: There have been a few men that have come out of the closet in the past 20 years or so but their careers end in country music, unfortunately. Same with the lesbians, as well. It’s a very religious place.
AE: Do you feel, then, that you have to work a little harder just to make sure people are being fair with you and not just writing you off for your sexuality?
SS: Well, I’m not a country artist so that’s good. I’m a pop singer kinda like George Michael. It’s actually not hard in the music business for me. I have a lot of friends and it’s a really close community. Everyone kind of really loves each other. I don’t find it hard being a gay songwriter with business people. It’s just more so a little scary with country music fans and incredibly religious people.
Shane and Sherrie making beautiful music together in the recording studio.
AE: You’re also quite religious…
SS: I’m a Jesus freak. A full-on Jesus freak.
AE: Tell me about how your faith might conflict with being gay. How has your journey been?
SS: I was raised in church. My Dad was a leader and he was also an alcoholic, schizophrenic, bi-polar and a child and wife abuser. Until I was about 30 years old, God represented hate and hurt and I was damned and going to hell [laughs]. I decided I was lonely and I needed some real love and thought if he was going to show up I needed him to show up in a real way. So there was this day crying out and begging for it and he showed up through an actual pastor here in New York City. The man randomly walked over and asked if he could pray for me, which was a huge thing because no one ever asked for permission, not in my experience. He knew things about me that only God knew and it got my attention and I was like, “Okay, you’re real…and you love me.” My Dad was an abused man and so that’s all he knew. Nobody loved him so he didn’t know how to love and I understand that.
AE: Is your Dad in your life now?
SS: My Dad died on Father’s Day in 2006 when I was on the phone with him. I called to say Happy Father’s Day and his girlfriend handed him the phone and he died. He’s in heaven and that’s good and we had a lot of healing before he passed away. He apologized and asked for his forgiveness.
AE: That’s some heavy stuff to write songs about!
SS: My parents used to tell me ‘You’re going to write Christian songs and you’re going to be a country music songwriter.’ I said, ‘No I’m not. I hate country music! What’s wrong with you people? I want to be Mariah Carey!’
AE: You and Sherrie are said to be opposites. Is that what makes your friendship work?
SS: Yes! Sherrie is very private and conservative and I am fireworks and unicorns and rainbows and Jesus. [laughs] I’m pulling her out of her skin…
AE: Was it good for her to be on the show and open up?
SS: It was really good for her. It’s going to be good TV.