Bethany Reed JB Somers
There was a time when JB Somers thought he could wish the gay away. As the son of a pastor growing up in rural Alabama, Somers spent much of his life in the evangelical church, trying his best to avoid the feelings that were welling up within him.
"At that age, I couldn't quite put my finger on it," Somers, 30, tells PEOPLE in a recent interview. "I could just tell that there was something different about me compared to the rest of the people around me. I just didn't know how to articulate it."
So, Somers made music.
He was a worship leader in the youth group, sang up in the choir loft and he sat alongside his parents who had met and fell in love in the church. But when it came time to leave for college, Somers' internal battle between what he was feeling and what the world told him to feel continued.
Michael Cheyne JB Somers
"All my friends were dating people and getting engaged and I was just resigned to the fact that I was never going to experience that, which is so sad, right?" he asks quietly. "I was OK with it at the time, but then I moved to Nashville."
Somers says that his move to Music City in 2020 not only gave him the time to pursue the music career he had always dreamed of but also gave him a safe space to explore who he was at his core.
"It was in Nashville that I realized that this was not going away," says Somers about his sexuality. "I had some really good friends who encouraged me to open up about that aspect of my life. I mean, I had repressed things for so long."
Courtesy JB Somers JB Somers and his late sister Somers Johnson as children
At the very same time, Somers found himself going through one of the most painful times in his life when his sister Somer Johnson died following a drug overdose.
She was just 30 years old.
"I wish I would've been able to tell her that I was gay before she passed," Somers says of his sister, who had studied ballet in Paris in her youth. "I think she would've been super supportive of me. She was totally in support of people living the life that they had been made to live."
Alanah Gardner Sullivan JB Somers
"Watching him come out to the world struck a chord in me," says Somers, who was also inspired by openly gay artists Orville Peck and Brandi Carlile. "I'm not country music per se, but I live in a town that is fully saturated with country music artists. And to see a guy who finds himself in a predominantly hetero art form come out made me think, 'What in the world is keeping me from showing every piece of me?'"
Alanah Gardner Sullivan JB Somers
And this past April, the pop/alternative artist finally told his parents the truth.
"It's crazy the weight that comes off of you after you share something that you've been harboring for so long," says Somers, who recently released his latest EP They Say I've Changed. "After I told my parents and some really close friends of mine, I honestly didn't care who knew. It was just a very freeing moment."
In fact, Somers' current single "There for Me" has also taken on a new meaning for him, as he has come to appreciate all those who have accepted him for who he really is.
"It really became this anthem for me to say, 'Now that you see all of me and, you know every piece of who I am and there's nothing hidden anymore, will you still be there for me?'" he says. "I feel like I've walked more into the freedom that my truth gives me a little more each day, especially as I continue to learn so much about this community that I've observed from afar, but a community that I now truly feel a part of … finally."
And his church community?
"I don't have any ill will towards the church," concludes Somers, who will release his next single "Build This Love" in late August. "I just think there's so much work the church needs to do to bridge the gap between LGBTQ+ members and people in general. There's a lot of marks that we miss as Christians. And I hope one day I can be of help to be as a bridge for those conversations on both sides."