Thursday, August 8, 2013

August 8

With a side of denim:

Shane McAnally

38-year-old Shane McAnally is a Nashville anomaly – an openly gay country songwriter, singer and producer. Writing scores of songs a year to wild success, McAnally has written or co-written hits for Kenny Chesney, Lee Ann Womack, The Band Perry, Miranda Lambert and Kelly Clarkson, among many others. As well, he has penned songs for the hit ABC television series "Nashville".

According to McAnally, success finally landed on his doorstep after he came out. “My career really took off when I came out. When I stopped hiding who I was, I started writing hits.”

Shane has a definite propensity for mega-hit songs. Since November 2010, he’s co-written seven No. 1 country singles and dozens of other hits for the likes of Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Reba McEntire and Kacey Musgraves.

McAnally writes chart-topping country songs from an office on the grounds of the Nashville home he shares with his husband and their 7-month-old twins. Last September, Shane married his partner of six years, Michael Baum, a former mortgage specialist who now runs McAnally’s production and publishing companies. The couple’s daughter and son, Dylan and Dash McAnally Baum, were born last December.

A Texas native, Shane appeared on the TV talent show “Star Search” while still a teenager. He lost, but went on to perform in Branson, Missouri, the country-music resort town. He dropped out of the University of Texas, Austin, to move to Nashville to pursue a career as a country singer. He signed a publishing deal with Curb Records and in 2000, he released his self-titled debut album. “I was sure I was going to be a superstar.” Although he shared a manager with Alabama and Kenny Chesney and opened for those acts on tour, the album flopped.

“The truth is, I probably would be dead if I had become a star, because at that point I was so closeted and so afraid of people finding out I was gay. There was no telling what would have happened.”

McAnally then decided to head to West Hollywood, the gay epicenter of Los Angeles, which blew his mind. He had never imagined that there was a place where gay men could walk down the street holding hands and kissing. From 2000-2007 he worked in Los Angeles as a bartender, all the while writing and performing under the name Shane Mack. Five “Shane Mack” songs found their way onto the soundtrack of the film “Shelter,” a gay-themed romantic melodrama. In the video for the movie’s theme song, “Lie to Me,” scenes of Shawn McAnally singing and playing acoustic guitar are intercut with clips from the movie. Have a look/listen:

McAnally returned to Nashville in 2007 to try his hand at country songwriting, but this time as an out gay man. The week he returned, country torch singer Lee Ann Womack recorded “Last Call,” co-written by McAnally with Erin Enderlin. It went to No. 3 on the country music charts and virtually established Shane’s career as a songwriter. Shane scored a number one hit in 2010 when his song “Somewhere With You” was recorded by Kenny Chesney.

McAnally has given up his youthful goal of being a country music singing superstar. “One of the greatest tools you have as a songwriter is anonymity,” Shane says. “If listeners know too much about the songwriter, they don’t get to insert their own characters. I don’t want the audience thinking that the guy who wrote the song is gay. Whether it’s a gay or straight guy or gal in the audience, I want them all to hear a song and say, ‘That’s my story.’ ”

Note: Most of the info for this post comes from a New York Times profile published in late May. I’ll wrap up this post with “Fade into You,” a duet written by McAnally for the ABC television series “Nashville”, renewed last month for a second season.

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