Hayden Joseph Says 'They Still Play One-Dimensional Country Music' as He Speaks on His Journey

The openly gay artist speaks to PEOPLE about his new song, "Out"

South Carolina native Hayden Joseph was on a New York subway car on the night he was inspired to write this relatable song.

"The light in the subway was flashing on and off, and I started thinking about the lights going out and then every kind of word that associated with the word 'out' started coming to mind," the openly gay pop-country singer tells PEOPLE about his uplifting new single "Out." "It was one of those things where the song kind of wrote itself when I started trying to do it that way."

And although the song — which he wrote in just 20 minutes that night — has been enthusiastically embraced by members of the LGBTQ community, Joseph says it's actually about so much more.

"I wanted to tell that part of my story, but I also wanted to do it in a way that was a little bit more open-ended," says Joseph, 27. "Even if you hadn't had a similar experience, you could still find meaning in the song. I want to write songs for everybody."

Hayden Joseph
Libby Danforth

"So, I want people that are gay to hear something in my songs that they haven't heard from straight artists, but I also want people that are straight to listen to the song and say, you know, this is not a uniquely gay experience," he adds.

But for all those who can see themselves in Joseph's lyrics and his story, the song has become quite a special one, especially because it's coming from a gay man within country music who has found his way in a typically close-minded genre.

"I grew up on what I consider the country music greats that came from what I see as the renaissance of country music, when country music started to really become mainstream for the first time," recalls Joseph, who grew up singing and dancing to VHS tapes of Shania Twain. "But I'm not going to tell you that my dream was always to be a country music singer."

In fact, he had other things in mind, including coming to grips with the fact that he was, in fact, gay.

"I grew up in the middle of the deep South in a relatively religious and conservative family, so I grew up in an area of the country where I kind of thought it would never happen," says Joseph about coming out. "And I really didn't admit to myself that it needed to happen until I moved away and went to college."

Hayden Joseph
Libby Danforth

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After college, Joseph took an 80-hour-a week corporate job, the same job he was coming home from when he wrote "Out." As music continued to tug at his soul, he took a job working at a record label focusing on the business side of things. But in doing so, Joseph began to realize that with a click of a button, the world could hear his songs. And so, he began tearing through the songs he had written throughout the years.

"People recognize the country music has become too one-dimensional on many fronts," Joseph says. "I think people recognize the need for sonic diversity and lyrical diversity and just traditional diversity of who's singing the music."

"Unfortunately, mainstream country radio is still controlled by a couple of conglomerates, and they still play one-dimensional country music, all signed by a boy's club that looks and sounds the exact same," he adds. "And unfortunately, that is where you have to get to if you want to build a sustainable mainstream career in country music. There is still very much a block in that world, and I don't think anyone's figured out exactly how to solve it."

So, Joseph says he's just going to keep singing, keep speaking out and keep keeping the faith that

"I'm going to try to and break music that is palatable to everyone, but also stays true to me. I'm going to prove that there is a market beyond what's being played on country radio."

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