Country music was once associated with the deep south, beer and bad news. In recent years, the genre has come a long way from the songs that spawned the stereotypes.
What country is defies definition now, but the stars themselves believe it’s about truth and authenticity. Faith Hill has been quoted as saying “Country music is the people’s music. It just speaks about real life and about truth and it tells things how they really are.” Taylor Swift has her own definition, “My definition of country music is really pretty simple. It’s when someone sings about their life and what they know, from an authentic place.” Country stars of years past have a slightly different take on what country music is. “Country music is three chords and the truth,” says Harlan Howard.
Pop crossover act Shania Twain has this to say about it, “Country music is still your grandpa’s music, but it’s also your daughter’s music. It’s getting bigger and better all the time and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Country music has had a strong influence on mainstream rock. Obvious examples are southern rockers the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. But there’s also the influence of Johnny Cash who has been covered by everyone from Tom Petty to Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor.
The meteoric success of shows like American Idol and The Voice have helped bring the genre north. The Voice judge Blake Shelton talks about the influence of the show on contestants, “The good part about it is, they’re all getting so much exposure that they can all go on from the show and be several steps ahead of where they would have been.”
American Idol winner Scotty McCreery talks about the his musical influences over time, “I don’t think you’d call me a traditionalist. But you can say I have an old soul, because I grew up listening to Conway Twitty and Hank Williams.”