Flamy Grant Swings through Texas before Headlining Wild Goose Festival This Summer

By Melanie P. Moore

Flamy Grant, the first drag queen musician to top the iTunes Christian Music charts, will perform on the main stage at the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina in July. A self-described “shame-slaying, hip-swaying, singing-songwriting drag queen from western North Carolina,” Flamy Grant is a talented musician with a powerful message that shines a bright light on the queer spiritual journey. Their debut album, Bible Belt Baby hit the top spot on the iTunes Christian Charts and was nominated for Best Pop Album at the San Diego Music Awards. Here in Texas they are a winner of the 2023 Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Competition. Their original songs demonstrate remarkable music and lyrics in the tradition of 1990s singer songwriters (think Lilith Fair). The success is no fluke or gimmick—this music and voice are the real thing. Flamy’s drag name is, of course, an homage to Amy Grant, “the undisputed queen of Christian music,” according to flamygrant.com.

They first performed at Wild Goose in 2021 as part of their Heathen podcast and they return this summer as their second album releases amid tours across the U.S. and Europe, including eight shows in Texas during April and May. Starting in Dripping Springs April 27, they’re part of the New Folk Winners Tour visiting New Braunfels, Wimberly, Houston, Austin, Kerrville, Fischer, and San Antonio. On May 24 they’ll be at the Kerrville Folk Festival. After more U.S. shows and the Wild Goose Festival, they head to the U.K. for the Cambridge Folk Festival and the Greenbelt Festival. The new album will release this summer. A single, Fortune Teller, came out last fall.

While this star was bound to rise, the trajectory was accelerated last summer when Sean Feucht, a failed Republican congressional candidate and Trump ally, using the app formerly known as Twitter, told Flamy that “hardly anyone listens or cares what you do.” The message, according to The Guardian, “…accidentally inspired the growing movement of ‘exvangelicals’ – those who have left the Christian right – whose love for Grant’s music (and disdain for Maga persecution of drag performers) drove their album and song to the No. 1 spot.” Feucht also called Flamy’s collaboration with Christian rock star Derek Webb a sign of “the last days,” giving Flamy and Webb the title for their 2024 “End of Days Tour,” which wrapped up earlier this month. Since last summer, in addition to The Guardian, Flamy Grant has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Today.com, People, Baptist News, Newsweek, and Paste among other media outlets.

Of their first appearance at Wild Goose in 2021, Flamy said, “My (Heathen podcast) cohosts and I all went. We turned what we had been doing during the pandemic into a livestream concert—Heathen Happy Hour. I would show up in Drag. It was fun. There wasn’t a spiritual element other than being together. At Wild Goose that year, someone on the main stage cancelled and we got bumped up to the main stage. I was barely doing drag; we were barely a thing. We did “Testify to Love,” by Avalon, and  (Amy Grant’s) “Baby Baby.” It was a fun experience. It introduced me to a lot of the people in my world now, people in the deconstruction movement. I didn’t have a foot in that world until Wild Goose.”

Last fall, a Kickstarter to fund the new album exceeded all expectations.

“The Kickstarter was insane,” they said. “I’ve done a few over the years but nothing like that. It funded in two days. It was the biggest goal I’ve ever done. I was scared to death—it was three times what I’d ever done. We rented a Nashville Studio with musicians. I got to make the record I’ve always dreamed of making and I had the resources to do it.

“I’m releasing it in the Christian genre. If there’s a theme running through the record, it’s that I’m here to dismantle evangelicalism. The thesis is this: if there’s a God, I need that God to be able to love better than I can. Otherwise, that’s not a God. It’s something we’ve created. A God has to be closer to the source of love than I am. I’ve been through it and I’ve been able to figure out ways to love my enemies—what Jesus said, to have compassion and love people who want to hurt me. If I can do that but the evangelical God can’t, if he needs some retribution, some atonement, then I’m sorry, that’s not a God I want anything to do with. I need a God whose love is bigger than my own.”

Flamy Grant is using their drag voice and exceptional talent to create authentic music, which is different from the Gospel Drag genre many may be familiar with.

“The gospel drag brunches are so fun,” they said. “(gospel drag performers) are playing with the traditions of actual church and putting a fun/drag spin on a lot of the conventions. What I feel like I’ve stumbled into is much more connected to my own upbringing and what faith and church and spirituality were like for me, which was nothing like a big gospel Sunday.” Brought up in the ultra-conservative Plymouth Brethren (interestingly, the same sect author, speaker, activist, and public theologian Brian McLaren was raised in), Flamy was taught to be ashamed—as everyone in the church was.

“We met weekly literally to remind each other how bad we were, this hour-long ShameFest. The men would take turns standing up, saying a prayer or a hymn or a few words around the communion table. The whole thing pointed to that sacrifice, that substitutionary penal atonement requirement. Otherwise, we’re just worms. One man in particular would stand up and, within three seconds of speaking, dissolve into a blubbering mess. He carried so much shame, he couldn’t speak. It was a lifelong thing for him.

“Coming out of that world, I’ve had to do so much work to not feel ashamed, and not just about my queerness. My drag is about that liberation from shame for myself and others. As I’ve been doing it, the stuff that’s worked for me has the capacity to do that work for others and can open up space for other people.”

The Wild Goose Festival, July 11-14 in Union Grove, N.C., is also about opening up space for other people. The festival tag line is “Spirit, Justice, Music, Art,” Director of Sponsorships Tim Kerr said. “You can bring your whole self to the festival—be yourself, celebrate everyone else being themselves, avail yourself of all these people giving of their time and knowledge,” he said.

“There will be about 12 different venues and the majority of the speakers are co-creators who self-select to present at the festival,” Kerr said. “That’s part of the fabric that makes it up. They are passionate about a subject or have a lot of experience or expertise in a field.” Kerr said attendees have to manage FOMO (fear of missing out), “because you can’t do everything.

“The body of the festival opens Thursday night,” Kerr said. “Friday and Saturday are the meat of the festival with 10-15 big tents as venues running 50-minute programs in each one from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Then Friday and Saturday nights are main stage nights.”

“Last year we were at 1700, which includes volunteers and attendees,” Kerr said. The festival started in 2011 and had steadily grown. “2019 (pre-pandemic) was our golden year,” he said, “we were around 3,000. Of the mainline churches involved, there is strong support among the Episcopalians, Presbyterians (PCUSA), and the United Methodist Church. “It’s not the national bodies,” Kerr pointed out, “but we have tents for each of them and the Welcoming Baptists are coming this year. We’re trying to spread our wings. Our theme this year is Connections and that’s the beauty of the festival to me—the weaving of all the threads. People are just there and very accessible, no superstars.

While the festival is an energizing experience for attendees, Kerr said the goal is for people to take that energy back home and spread it.

“Go be the Wild Goose in your town,” he said. “None of us can live on the mountaintop. We have to go back, but keep that Wild Goose mentality. The wind blows where it will, the goose goes where she may. Take that with you.”

For those who want to attend the Wild Goose Festival, readers of Practicing Presence can use the code ABBEY at checkout to save 20 percent off registration cost.

Editor’s Note: It took a long time to write this piece because I, too, need the healing message of Flamy’ Grant’s music. As a queer Christian, much of my writing examines my journey from the church I grew up in to an embodied faith where I can bring my whole self to a spiritual community. Also, I played their music in my car nonstop just as I did in the 1990s with Indigo Girls, Michelle Malone, and, yes, Amy Grant. I had to work through my own Flamy fandom before I could be quasi-objective in this piece. I may not have succeeded. I remain a Flamy Fan and, full disclosure, was a contributor to their Kickstarter last fall.

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