Kentucky Gentlemen break barriers as Black, gay country artists in Nashville

WSMV's Lydia Fielder reports.
Published: Mar. 5, 2023 at 9:19 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Twin brothers Brandon and Derek Campbell perform under the name “The Kentucky Gentlemen” and said they are fighting on two fronts to improve diversity and inclusion in country music.

“Our goal is honestly just in all realms of performing and writing is just staying true to our authentic selves, surrounding ourselves with like-minded people who also embrace authenticity,” Brandon said, “and we take that, and that’s where a lot of our music comes from – just combining so much of what you love and knowing who you are.”

The Campbells are openly gay, African American country artists in Nashville. They told WSMV4 those two characteristics can make the journey to country music stardom difficult.

“It’s a lot for people to witness two grown Black men – who happen to have some muscles and look good – walk in a room and stand in their truth,” Brandon said.

Both brothers said they have been taken off show lineups at the very last minute, among other struggles in the industry.

“Within our 10 years it has taken us a long time for us to find our community because we haven’t really been accepted as quickly as our counterparts or even our like close friends who are white and play country music,” Derek said.

They released their debut EP in 2022, and upbeat blend of pop, R&B and the 90s country they grew up on. It earned them a spot as one of the five artists in the Black Opry’s “Artists To Watch” Residency. They are also featured in a new Country Music Hal of Fame exhibit on the Black Opry.

The duo said they are trying to blaze a trail in a traditionally white, heterosexual genre.

“As much as we face that, we know the music speaks for itself, for sure. And people feel that. I think people feel that through our music,” Derek said. “Honestly, waking up and going at it being who we are every day is no different than waking up our whole lives being Black and gay in America, so it’s not anything that we aren’t used to. So we just stay in the face of it every day, keep riding, keep getting through it.”