Gina Venier came out as gay with the March release of “Nora Jane,” the autobiographical song of familial acceptance, and in a subsequent interview with People magazine.
“It’s an opportunity to show my hometown what I’m doing,” said Venier, 32, and well into year eight of her Nashville apprenticeship in the country music business. “And that I’m still growing and learning every year . … It’s an honor to be invited back.”
Friday’s show comes after her most visible booking yet — being on the main stage Sunday for the Nashville Pride Festival. She played in the afternoon before Tanya Tucker delivered the closing set.
And she’s performed at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe, another rite of passage for aspiring artists.
“Nora Jane” has more than 91,000 plays on Spotify. Co-written by Venier, Savana Santos and Summer Overstreet, the song’s first lyrics were penned in 2017.
Releasing it was about timing, artistry, deeply held convictions, collaboration, and as she told People, confidence about her own identity.
In an interview last week, Venier spoke about all that coming together.
“Sort of a natural next step in my personal confidence and my personal journey,” she said. “Not like it was ever hidden. I’m at a place where I’m more confident. If you are sitting on a song from 2017 like ‘Nora Jane,’ you do have to hold onto those raw experiences and treat them with precious care until you are ready to see how other people will respond.”
Venier, who is with Red Door Music Group, has been writing songs and honing her performances. She came to Nashville playing backup percussion. She’s collaborated on material for Lexi Hayden and Chris Young, but most of her songwriting is for herself. She has a set list that includes the groovy “Take Me There” and another unreleased song, before she rolls out the heartfelt “Nora Jane.”
Venier says she’s been pleased with how “Nora Jane” has resonated, and not just with the queer-alt crowd. She said a mixed-race couple said its story matched their experience. A music studio head commended her for her fearless songwriting chops and its crossover potential. In fact, the single is now being played on country channels for satellite streaming services.
The music industry is hungry for songs like “Nora Jane,” she said.
Venier has found places to nurture her artistry in Nashville. Peers, collaborators, an accepting parish (she’s a practicing Roman Catholic) and growing acceptance for the queer community in country music’s capital city.
Venier won’t be traveling alone — her stage crew will be with her. Showing off Dixon is part of the fun. She says from past experience her fellow artists comment on the wholesomeness of the town and its people, that it “makes sense” this was where she was raised.
“Excited to hear there is a new yoga studio. Looking forward to hitting all the dive bars,” she said.
Most of all though, the Petunia Fest booking means connecting with family. “The family is the main reason. The stage is wonderful, but the family is the first reason.”
As the closing chorus confirms: “And I found everyone I love still loves me the same when I tell ‘em your name, Nora Jane.”