Jaime Wyatt Brings Queer Country to Denver | Westword

Jaime Wyatt Brings Queer Country to the Bluebird

"I did time, yes; I was a heroin addict, yes. I had a lot of problems, and yes, I'm gay."
Country artist Jaime Wyatt released Feel Good in November 2023.
Country artist Jaime Wyatt released Feel Good in November 2023. Jody Domingue
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Musician Jaime Wyatt crafts soulful tunes that sound like classic country — fiddle melodies, chocolate pie, sweet potatoes and mournful laments of the countryside. But hit replay, and honest lyrics that describe queer love and an intensive battle with drug addiction emerge from the weeds with a vindictive force.

The artist's brutally transparent energy doesn't fade in interviews. Wyatt openly shares the nitty-gritty details of multiple unsuccessful detox attempts and stints of sobriety that ended after strained familial relationships came to a head. The story of Wyatt's attempt to rob a heroin dealer, which ended with the musician serving an eight-month sentence in an L.A. County jail with a felony conviction, takes the term "outlaw country" to a literal level.

"All the shame that comes with the habit of sweeping things under the rug or keeping secrets or hiding my past...it's reinforced a message that I'm bad and I should hide," Wyatt says. "What I've learned over the years is that most drug addiction is a symptom of other issues. And for me, it was a number of things in childhood, but also the internalized homophobia that kept me in the closet for many, many years.

"Somebody told me [my sexuality] was a phase when I was 22, and that shit held me back for like, six years, but I was very impressionable when I was getting sober," the singer-songwriter adds.

Now 38, the country musician knew by age nineteen that the "straight" label didn't fit by age nineteen. But Wyatt didn't come out as a lesbian publicly until 2020, a move toward authenticity that "didn't help my career, I'll be honest. That doesn't matter to me because I'd rather be healthy, but if I were into winning, I would not have done so," Wyatt says with a small, ironic smile.

"Usually the M.O. in pop country is that you're allowed to be gay but...you never mention it. That's what I see with a lot of the artists," the musician adds. "I understand playing it that way, but I was personally not able to separate business from my life because my mindset all along has been to talk about it."

The singer's 2017 debut record, Felony Blues, doesn't shy away from addressing Wyatt's struggle with addiction. The seven-song album, with songs such as "Your Loving Saves Me" and "Misery and Gin," is a catchy glimpse into the musician's storied past that radiates with the authenticity of an autobiography.

Wyatt's third album, Feel Good, produced by Black Pumas member Adrian Quesada, was released in November 2023. Although Feel Good exchanges the artist's alt-country roots for a neo-soul soundscape, it continues the musical storytelling streak Wyatt established in 2017.

In such romantic tracks as "Love Is a Place," Wyatt sings, "She's freed me from a lifetime of pain," detailing the euphoria of uncovering what real queer love can feel like. And for Wyatt, who spent years steeped in internalized homophobia, this discovery was revolutionary proof that you can't "live without love."

Some tracks dive into the broiling emotions that surround Wyatt's history with drugs, turning the artist's personal experiences into a widely relatable tale of grief, longing and loneliness. The song "Where the Damned Only Go" is a melancholy, defiant reflection dedicated to all of the souls who are abandoned and forgotten by society. These forgotten souls include the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women whose cases don't receive the same media attention as the cases of white women, a coverage gap coined "missing white woman syndrome" by the late journalist Gwen Ifill. Wyatt's "Where the Damned Only Go" was inspired by the Murder in Big Horn documentary series, which covers the epidemic of missing Indigenous women in Montana's Big Horn County.

"More than just being enraged by that, I really felt a connection to that grief," the singer says, reflecting on the documentary. "Because to be forgotten, or disposed of, or condemned, is something that I've experienced on a much smaller scale by way of drug addiction and incarceration."

Composing the song was a way for the musician to make space for pain and personal grief as well as the anguish families of the missing Indigenous women feel. "I have a reference point for that kind of guilt, that kind of grief. Just being an addict and out there on the streets, or out there just gone. And then the people that I love have been taken by addiction or mental illness," Wyatt explains. "So to disappear is more than just disappearing physically."

The singer's first headline tour, the Feel Good Tour, kicked off on January 17 in West Hollywood. On Friday, January 26, Wyatt, accompanied by Montana-based singer-songwriter Riddy Arman, will grace the stage of Denver's Bluebird Theater, performing hits from Felony Blues, Neon Cross and Feel Good.

In the meantime, audiences can expect Wyatt to continue pushing the envelope in the name of authenticity. "I did time, yes; I was a heroin addict, yes. I had a lot of problems, and yes, I'm gay. It makes people uncomfortable in country music sometimes," Wyatt says. "I don't find as much resistance in other genres. Therefore, it's really important that I be here and make people a little uncomfortable."

Jaime Wyatt, 8 p.m. Friday, January 26, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets are $25. 
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