Country singer Brooke Eden is in love and she wants the world to know.
Eden describes her new single “Sunroof” as “the promise of spring and summer” after a cold, dark winter. In the music video, she and her partner take a joy ride in a “candy apple” colored Mustang with palm trees and a beach in the background.
The song also reflects a part of her life as an LGBTQ woman that she was forced to stay silent about until now. “Sunroof” is about Eden’s relationship with her partner of five years, Hilary, a promotions director at her record label.
“I didn’t believe in love at first sight, but it was just this overwhelming feeling of peace — like I exhaled,” she says. “And that was about as close to love at first sight as I’ve ever felt.”
Weeks after the couple started dating, Eden says some industry folks and people on her team found out about the relationship before she could tell them. And their response wasn’t what she had hoped.
People told her, “If you want to keep your career, you need to keep this relationship hidden,” she says. Being forced into secrecy impacted both Eden’s relationship and her health.
Two years into the relationship, Eden started getting sick before shows. She found out she needed to stop touring in order to heal ulcers in her small intestine.
Suppressing an important part of her life was physically, mentally and emotionally damaging, she says.
“This is no normal love, I mean, this is the love of my life,” she says. “And our love meant so much to me and was such a huge part of who I was and just bottling that up every single day, I definitely think that that can cause health issues.”
When Eden decides to live her truth, she says she received support because people could see how “madly in love” she and her girlfriend are. And fans tell her that they can see themselves in her relationship.
But some people “try to hide their homophobia behind Bible verses” — something Eden says she knows all too well having grown up in a religious household and spent a decade attending a Baptist school.
“I grew up around that same hatred that I do not believe is God. I think that God is love,” she says. “And I think that humans have interpreted his word in a really messed up, unhealthy way.”
Country music culture is changing: Earlier this year, T.J. Osborne, the lead vocalist for the country duo Brothers Osborne, came out publicly and fans largely seemed to embrace him.
But around the same time, TMZ published a video of one of country’s biggest stars, Morgan Wallen, using the N-word while outside of his home. His label and talent agency dropped him, his music was suspended and he has since apologized. But his digital sales soared as fans bought his music out of protest.
The genre has taken “two steps forward and one step back,” Eden says. She points out that Wallen acknowledged that he needs to improve himself but his fans continue to buy records despite that.
Before the video of Wallen surfaced, Eden says she saw country music following “a beautiful trajectory.” Grammy-nominated artist Mickey Guyton, one of Eden’s best friends in Nashville, released her hit song “Black Like Me” about being a Black woman in America last year, for example.
Guyton is the “queen of Nashville” with her face on billboards throughout the city, Eden says, and she’s one of many Black artists coming to the forefront of the genre.
“I do know that we’re going in a better direction,” she says. “It’s just slowly.”
For aspiring country artists, Eden says to stay true to who you are and people will embrace that authenticity.
“Slowly but surely there’s not going to be a traditional mold anymore,” she says. “We’re creating this space that is open and free for everyone.”
Ciku Theuri produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Allison Hagan adapted it for the web.