After several years of hard touring, Chely Wright broke through to become a chart-topping star on the contemporary country scene. Born Richelle Renee Wright in Kansas City in 1970, she grew up in the small town of Wellsville, Kansas, and fell in love with country music before she'd even started school. She took piano lessons starting at age four and began singing in groups at 11, also playing trumpet in her school band. At 14 she started performing in local clubs with a backing band called County Line, which featured her father on bass. The summer after her junior year of high school she performed in the long-running Ozark Jubilee show, and as a senior she successfully auditioned for a job impersonating female country stars at Nashville's Opryland theme park. She moved there permanently in 1989 and spent the next three years working at Opryland and an assortment of day jobs. Eventually, she landed a publishing deal on the strength of her songwriting, and a record contract with Mercury/Polydor followed.
Wright's debut album, Woman in the Moon, was released in 1994 and attracted positive notice from some critics and the country music community, earning her a Top New Female Vocalist award from the ACM. Unfortunately, neither it nor its follow-up, 1996's Right in the Middle of It, sold very well. Wright asked for her release from Polydor and moved over to MCA, where she had the opportunity to work with the commercially savvy producer Tony Brown. Though it wasn't a smash, Wright's 1997 label debut, Let Me In, did make the country Top 40 and gave the singer her first Top 20 hit in "Shut Up and Drive." Moreover, her constant touring was paying off in the form of a growing fan base, setting the stage for her breakthrough with 1999's Single White Female. The album's title track became Wright's first number one hit, and the following year she and Brad Paisley performed a duet on their co-composition "Hard to Be a Husband, Hard to Be a Wife."
Her next album, Never Love You Enough, became her first to break the country Top Ten, and she reached the Top 30 with the title track and "Jezebel." In 2004, after leaving MCA, she released Everything, a collection of leftover session material not included on her previous releases, on her own Painted Red imprint. In 2005 Wright moved over to Dualtone for The Metropolitan Hotel. After a long tour, Wright took an extended break from recording, and finally re-emerged in 2010 with Lifted Off the Ground on Vanguard, as well as the written memoir Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer from Random House. In May of 2010, Wright came out as gay in a People magazine profile on her album and autobiography. Over the next five years, Wright worked on various philanthropic causes -- and her coming out was chronicled in the 2011 film Wish Me Away -- but she stayed away from music. Wright finally returned to recording in 2016 with I Am the Rain. ~ Steve Huey