Brooke Eden, left, and her wife Hilary Hoover.
Coming out as queer isn’t easy in country music, but it was worth it for Brooke Eden
JENNY BLOCK | Contributing Writer
When queer country music singer/songwriter Brooke Eden met her now-wife, Hilary Hoover, “It was so clear to me that she was ‘the one,’” Eden said. So much so, she added, that Eden wanted to shout from the rooftops about her newfound love.
But, she said, “I was told that I could either be in an [out] relationship with Hilary, or I could be a country singer. But I couldn’t be both.”
It was not an easy time for Eden. “I went to a Baptist school growing up, which taught me that gay people go to hell,” she recalled. “It was a lot to unlearn.”
Eden, instead, had to learn to accept herself, as well as wrestle with her childhood religious trauma and pressure from the country music industry to stay in the closet, which she did for five long years.
Part of what helped her on her journey was reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle. “There was a paragraph about integrity. I realized I was living my life with no integrity, and that hit home for me,” she said.
It was then that Eden knew she had to come out. “Luckily, at that point, my team fully supported me and my decision to be my most authentic self,” she said. “I hope that me being myself helps others feel more invited to be themselves.”
Eden, 34, is a West Palm Beach, Fla., native and a graduate of University of Florida with a bachelors in business. Her interest in music began to show when she was just 4 years old, having been raised in a very musical family. Her dad has long played drums in a local country line-dancing band called
The Persuaders in Eden’s hometown. But it was another’s relative’s musical performance that lit a fire under Eden.
“My cousin was in a production of Annie and I went to see her perform,” said Eden. “My parents said I came home singing all of the songs from the show.”
It wasn’t long before her father’s band invited her to start singing when them in the local honky-tonks when she was just 5.
“It all grew from there,” Eden said. “It made me realize how much I love performing, and it inspired me to keep going, to keep learning about music. He still plays in that band to this day.”
But Eden’s musical lineage goes back even further than that, actually: Her grandparents used to sing country music on the radio. “It was always live when they sang, and they harmonized with each other,” Eden said.
She was only 12 when she got her first paid gig, opening for Alan Jackson at her local amphitheater in West Palm Beach. “My set was 90 minutes, which felt so long at the time,” Eden said. “I still remember learning a bunch of new songs for that show. And the outfit — my mom and I made my outfit for that show.”
Beyond writing, performing and recording, Eden has also joined in a partnership with the Recording Industry Association of America called “Music Matters with RIAA.” The multi-event-driven campaign was created “to show how music can enable our authentic voice, give us purpose and give us strength and courage to navigate life’s challenges.”
Eden’s success story is an impressive one. She has had the opportunity to share the stage with Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Tim McGraw, Kane Brown and Keith Urban. She was nominated for both a CMT Music Award and 2023 GLAAD Media Award for “Outstanding Breakthrough Artist.”
American Songwriter, Billboard, Buzzfeed, The Gay Times, MTV News, People, Popsugar, SheKnows, Them, Vogue, Wide Open Country, and Young Hollywood have all praised her work, including her performances on the Today show and at the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Music is the one thing she could always turn to, Eden said, when times were hard. “I struggled with mental health as a child, and music pulled me out of dark places and reminded me that I wasn’t alone,” Eden said. “It was kind of like a friend I always had to help me express myself. I feel most confident when I’m around music and musical people and when you find that comfort, you keep searching for that.”
Eden just released the EP Outlaw Love and was recently in Germany performing a number of shows.
And the biggest news of all: She’s writing toward a full-length album.
“There’s so much to talk about from the Outlaw Love chapter of my life. I had to heal/unlearn and then learn so many things and I just want to dive deeper into the reality of that journey,” Eden said.
It all comes down to one thing really, Eden said. “Learn your voice.” That goes double for musicians just starting out on their journey. Ask yourself, “What do you stand for?” she said. “Once you find that out, stand firmly, and don’t waiver for other people. You know you better than any record exec. Your authenticity is the key to your success.”