"I would meet someone, and I started realizing that I shouldn't be hiding how I feel," the country singer tells PEOPLE about her decision to live life openly
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Gina Venier grew up knowing how her life would probably play out. After college, she would become a sideline sports reporter or maybe score a job in radio somewhere. And if those dreams didn't come true, she could always work at her family's much-loved, small town jewelry store.

But never did she would be doing this.

"There are many times where I just wonder how I got here," says Venier, 32, during a recent interview with PEOPLE. "Where we are is never where we expect it to be."

And where Venier currently finds herself is within the country music industry, making her way as a queer alt-country artist in a genre whose boundaries have long limited so many before her. But with the release of her new single "Nora Jane," Venier has found a way to create the sweetest of radio-ready proclamations that just might turn country music upside down… finally.

Gina Vevier
Gina Vevier
| Credit: Emma Golden

"'Nora Jane' is as personal as it gets," Venier says of the song she began writing back in 2017 that tells the story of a woman coming out to her family. "It's as vulnerable as it is raw. Every line in there sparks an emotion that is very real to me. And I think that's what makes it so accessible and so bold to people. The song is making them feel something."

It was over a decade ago when Venier started feeling something too.

Gina Vevier
Gina Vevier
| Credit: Emma Golden

"I would meet someone, and I started realizing that I shouldn't be hiding how I feel," remembers Venier, who was born and raised just about 100 miles outside of Chicago, and then moved to Nashville in 2014. "It just didn't seem right. It suddenly started to feel very inauthentic, especially when it came to my family. I found myself craving the chance to say, 'I met someone who's really cool, and she happens to be a girl.'"

And it was one of those girls that Venier sings about on "Nora Jane," a song that comes directly from a real-life relationship she had 10 years ago and a song with soul-piercing lyrics such as 'I'm afraid everyone I love won't love me the same.'"

"I think that line hit me the hardest too," she says quietly about the lyrics she wrote alongside songwriters Savana Santos and Summer Overstreet. "I feel like other people are relating to it and, and while it's a bit of a departure for me, I still feel so strongly about how true this was for me."

Gina Vevier
Gina Vevier
| Credit: Emma Golden

However, like her coming out journey, Venier admits that it took her a while to get comfortable with sharing her story in the confines of a song.

"I had this title and this person in mind for years, long after the relationship was done," explains Venier, who says her family has been nothing but supportive from the very start. "It was more of a summer fling than anything, but that's kind of beside the point."

She pauses. "That feeling I had that summer for the real person behind 'Nora Jane' ended up changing everything."

Gina Vevier
Gina Vevier
| Credit: Emma Golden

But there was another reason why she held it so close for so long.

"I wanted to wait until I was confident," says Venier, who was signed to Warner Chappell and Red Light Management in their new joint venture, Red Door Music Group, last year. "I wasn't ready to just come out and share my story and be out as an artist. Instead, I wanted people to like the music, like me as a person and then learn a cool component to my story after that."

She pauses for a moment.

"It was considered a pretty taboo topic up until a few years ago, you know?"

And while she still stays somewhat in touch with the real 'Nora Jane' via social media channels such as Instagram, Venier says she has moved on to a new relationship with a woman she has been dating for almost two years.

"I'm in a very solid, happy relationship," she concludes. "In a way, the story of "Nora Jane' feels a bit far away, but I still feel so strongly about that story and those feelings."