Country’s Hayden Joseph Honors Tradition (And His Truth) With A Joyous Queer Anthem
Updated: Jun 23, 2022
“Backwoods Bougie” is a song that “plays into country music stereotypes, but also stays true to me,” said the Nashville musician.
Nashville’s Hayden Joseph is out to reimagine the tropes of country music in ways that reflect his authentic self.
The rising singer-songwriter makes a splash with his friends in the video for his new single, “Backwoods Bougie,” unveiled earlier this month. Together, the group enjoys the kind of “low-budget good time” that’s been depicted in countless country music videos over the years, complete with drinks by a backyard pool.
In this particular version, however, the revelers are raising White Claw spiked seltzers instead of Budweiser. And as suggested by the rainbows printed on their tank tops and swim trunks, this group includes queer men and their allies.
Catch the “Backwoods Bougie” video below.
The song was born out of Joseph’s frustration with “bro-country” ― loosely defined by Rolling Stone as the “explosion of songs about trucks, beer and women” ― that began to sonically dominate mainstream country around 2010 or so.
“For obvious reasons, I am never going to be able to write to that template and feel remotely authentic,” the 27-year-old South Carolina native, who is gay, told HuffPost. “As a form of subtle protest, we crafted a song that plays into country music stereotypes, but also stays true to me. And the result is a ton of fun.”
As playful as “Backwoods Bougie” is, Joseph felt the sting of homophobia during its inception. He said that one straight performer had planned to appear in the video before becoming aware of its context. The performer became uncomfortable on set and asked that his scenes be removed in the end because the tone “didn’t align with his brand,” Joseph said.
Joseph recalled that painful experience in a teary TikTok video that’s been viewed nearly 100,000 times since he posted it last month. He’s not interested in dragging a fellow artist ― and has never publicly revealed that person’s identity ― but wants to remind fans that country music still has a long way to go before true parity for LGBTQ artists is achieved.
“I’ve written off veiled remarks for years about my appearance, sound and lyrical content,” Joseph said. “But this was, unfortunately, a situation where I couldn’t do that. I was surprised, though, that this came from an artist several years younger than me, rather than an old-school exec.”
“I was upset for a few days but have moved past it,” he continued. “I love how the video turned out, and we were able to edit him out of the final cut seamlessly.”
“Backwoods Bougie” is Joseph’s first new song since his 11-track debut album, “Different,” released in February. He plans to continue unveiling new singles and videos for the remaining months of 2021, followed by a sophomore album.
Joseph is, of course, grateful that country music has become visibly more diverse, thanks to stars like Brooke Eden and TJ Osborne, both of whom came out as LGBTQ this year. As far as music is concerned, however, he’s largely inspired by Taylor Swift and Shania Twain, and is quick to point out the differences between Eden’s and Osborne’s professional trajectories and his own.
“It’s a step in the right direction for labels to support their artists after they decide to come out, but another entirely for a major label to sign an out and proud artist,” Joseph said. “I’m hopeful it will happen soon, as I think it will be a nonissue once people have a chance to hear the music.”
“Is country ready? Maybe not,” he added. “But I’m not ready to quit trying.”
Curis M. Wong