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The resultant chatter is quite endearing, as she proved when sharing her views about everything from her songwriting to her life-long devotion to the Kansas City Chiefs, to her fans during her January 21 concert at the legendary Birchmere in Alexandria, Va.
"I've been sick," Chely told the crowd after asking for a tissue, using it and stuffing it in her sleeve to a chorus of good-humored groans. "I'm 40 now. That's where we put them."
Although turning 40 is traumatic for some, Chely has used the milestone as a time to free herself from secrets. It was less than six months before that birthday that Chely finally came out publicly as a lesbian. Although Chely says the aftermath has included lower record sales and even death threats, the woman who sprang into the public consciousness when she received the 1995 Top New Female Vocalist award from the Academy of Country Music, has never been happier.
"One of the things I've found is that fans who started with you, stay with you," Chely told the Birchmere crowd when introducing two long-time fans in the audience before dedicating the song 'It Was' to them. "Jan and Chris have been with me since the beginning of my career."
Another thing Chely found was that songwriting was something of a valve that released the turmoil that swirled within her after her decision to come out. That was perhaps never truer than when she wrote her current album, 'Lifted Off the Ground,' which was released last May in conjunction with her book, 'Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Singer.'
"I know the day I wrote each of them," Chely tells The Boot of the songs. "I wrote them all in my journal -- I was journaling like a mad man. I'd write a page of my thoughts and then on the next page I'd write a song. I had the foresight to date the song pages."
Chely's rendition of her past material, including her 1997 breakout single 'Shut Up and Drive,' were lovingly and powerfully performed. Yet the air came alive with something akin to magical sparks when Chely sang songs such as 'Broken' and 'Wish Me Away' and even 'Notes to the Coroner.'
Introducing a childhood friend who lives in Washington, D.C. and attended the show, Chely talked about how difficult it was to keep her secret from such close confidants.
"I love music more than ever at this point," Chely said at one point. "I'm just more and more excited about life."
She shared that excitement not just through songs and stories but plenty of opportunities to allow the fans to join in, including inviting one fan on stage so she could take a picture.
"I have been playing since I was 11 years old," Chely said before the show. "My philosophy comes from when I was 17 and Minnie Pearl shared her philosophy. She told me, 'Don't ever do the same show twice. Somebody in the audience will only see one of your shows in their life. Leave a piece of yourself in every town.'"
Pausing for a few beats, Chely continued: "I've had a lot to hide all these years," she said. "Now I've become a very open, exposed artist. I leave it all on stage now, out and open without editing. A lot of fans desire to hear what caused me to write a song, how I feel about a song now. Now I get to be completely open."
Chely's next scheduled concert is January 28 in Sellersville, Penn. For a complete list of dates and locales, check here.