The 36-year-old musician founded the soulful country-rock duo with his brother John back in 2012. Since then, EMI Records Nashville signed the group and the brothers were determined to create unforgettable music and history. After seven Country Top 40 singles, three studio albums, five CMA Awards, and seven Grammy nominations – the band continues to make history, as T.J. became the first-ever openly gay artist signed to a major label.
Now, the trailblazer is using the power of music and his pride to remind young aspiring LGBTQ+ musicians and fans that they have a place within the country music scene. The hitmaker took to the stage at the 55th Annual CMA Awards on Wednesday night (Nov. 10) to perform his vulnerable track “Younger Me” at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Before bringing the audience to tears, the singer-songwriter sat on a simple stool and thanked the people of country and his fans for accepting him for him. However, he also took a trip down memory lane and thought about the young boy he once was – who was intimidated to show his true authentic self.
“Being up here on this stage, there were so many things that were so many hurdles for me. And I always felt, truthfully felt, like it would never be possible because of my sexuality to be here. And I just wish, I wish my young me could see me now,” says T.J. before sharing his moving melody.
Earlier in the star-studded evening, T.J. told the Associated Press that it was an honor to represent the LGBTQ+ community in the country space and what it means to bring his influential lyrics to the legendary stage. “The fact that we get to play a song that is so meaningful, particularly to myself, at a country music award show, it’s one of those things that just kind of transcends the awards itself, money itself, fame,” he shared.
With the weight off his shoulders, he rolled into the affair with his longtime boyfriend on his arm. Before accepting the 2021 CMA Award for “Vocal Duo of The Year,” the artist shared a kiss with his significant other, Abi Ventura.
As T.J. held the CMA Award in hand, he told the audience what the prestigious accolade meant to him this time around. “I’ll tell you, every time we have won this award, it has never ceased to be extremely shocking,” shared the chart-topping artist who has won “Vocal Duo of The Year” four times. “Thanks to everyone who voted for us. It’s been a crazy roller coaster of a year for us in so many ways, especially for me emotionally, and to have you all support me, it really does feel like love wins tonight, thank you.”
You can view all of our CMA Awards coverage here.