So far, 2013 has been a year of celebration for country singer Beccy Cole. She’s just turned 40, she’s marking 20 years in a notoriously fickle music business with a greatest hits album, and she’s feeling more free than ever, thanks to a warmly received episode of Australian Story last year in which she came out as gay.
“It’s been a really interesting process. There are popular songs of course, and then a couple of more selfish choices on there,” Cole told the Star Observer of compiling the career-spanning collection, titled Beccy’s Big Hits.
“Listening to the older songs and remembering where I was at when I wrote them has been interesting too. There’s one on there called Clown Song, and I realised listening back that I wrote that song from the closet. I put it on there because I feel so free these days now that I’m out. It’s nice to see how far I’ve come.”
Cole’s decision to come out seemed especially brave given the nature of her fan base. Did she brace herself for a Dixie Chicks-style backlash from conservative country fans?
“I was shitting myself. It’s uncharted territory to be someone who works mainly in regional Australia as a touring artist [and come out]. My fear was that people wouldn’t understand. I was really stuck on the idea of the fella who lives on a farm and cleans himself up to drive into town because he knows I’m playing – is he going to be alright with this?” she chuckled.
“I used to think, I’m honest with myself, I’m just not honest with the crowd, but looking back, I wasn’t honest with myself. Now I know the true meaning of freedom.”
That freedom had already taken effect in her songwriting, with Cole hard at work on another studio album and busy writing lyrics from the heart.
“I think people will understand my lyrics a little bit more now. I was really looking forward to coming out, but I had no idea how amazing it would feel. Coming out is the gift that keeps giving.”
Of course, there is already a rather bold love song to a woman in Cole’s back catalogue – the gorgeous duet Millionaires, which she performs with Kasey Chambers. It’s a strictly platonic love song though, detailing as it does their lifelong friendship.
“We’ve been best friends for many years and kept each other’s secrets along the way. There’s nothing personally that we don’t know about each other; she was the first person I told I was gay back when I was 26,” Cole revealed, instantly shredding any notion her coming out had been a mid-life revelation.
“It’s funny, since I’ve come out, so many [gay] people have said to me ‘Welcome’, and I say, ‘I’ve actually been here for a long time!’”
INFO: Beccy’s Big Hits is out now. For tour dates visit beccycole.com