meta-script5 Black Artists Rewriting Country Music: Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer & Willie Jones | GRAMMY.com
5 Black Artists Rewriting Country Music

(L-R): Willie Jones, Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton, Brittney Spencer, Jimmie Allen

Photo credit for source images (L-R): Matthew Berinato, Matthew Berinato, Phylicia J.L. Munn, John Shearer

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5 Black Artists Rewriting Country Music: Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer & Willie Jones

Despite inventing country music, Black artists have historically been marginalized in that sphere. That's all changing in the 21st century with the help of country music stars like Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer & Willie Jones.

GRAMMYs/Jul 26, 2021 - 10:30 pm

2021 has introduced a dynamic change to American life that has aggressively called into question stereotypes surrounding race, gender and culture. And there may be no better lens through which to examine this development than in country music. 

For almost a century, the Appalachia-born genre, more than almost any other subset of American popular music, has largely excluded Black artists and performers. However, the roots of country music lay in the hands of banjo-playing Black slaves and minstrel-show performing sharecroppers. 

Still, for well over 50 years, the only Black artist significantly represented in the country music industry was the late Charley Pride, who died last December. The Mississippi-born sharecropper turned All-Star Negro League pitcher's ability to navigate his way around a country song led to four dozen-plus top 10 Billboard Country chart hits (including the 1971 classic "Kiss An Angel Good Morning") and worldwide appeal.

Today, in an era partly defined by reparational justice toward African-Americans nationwide, country music contains numerous performers whose tireless efforts in the genre are now being rewarded. Of the growing crowd, Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer, and Willie Jones have all received Pride-level applause for their successes within country music.

Read More: For Charley Pride, Black Country Music Was A Self-Evident Truth

Country's Next Great Torch Singer: Mickey Guyton

From Patsy Cline to Carrie Underwood, country music has a tradition of white female vocalists whose impressive vocal control and electrifying histrionics elevate superb songwriting to award-winning levels.

Comparatively, warm, soulful singers like Linda Martell and Rissi Palmer have opened doors for Black female country performers.

For those looking for a marriage of the two, Mickey Guyton—a veteran country artist buoyed by the pained yet profound inspiration of the Black Lives Matter movement—married her multi-octave superstar vocal instrument to the poignant ballad "Black Like Me" and has soared to top-tier country acclaim. Her new album, Remember Her Name, drops on September 24.

Country music is often maligned because of its inability to address issues of race and gender in a manner that befits the tenor of progressive times. However, Guyton's now-signature song overcame the genre's historical slights against marginalized communities. What's more, it reflects country music's slow, continued moves toward justice for them.

A "Worldwide Beautiful" Superstar In The Making: Kane Brown

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Kane Brown is the type of artist as comfortable making modernized trap-style country ballads (2020's "Be Like That," featuring Swae Lee) as he is covering the neo-traditionalist Randy Travis' classic "Three Wooden Crosses."

His head—frequently topped with an adjustable trucker hat—has growing ears, eyes and music-biz savvy. Recently, the trailer-park-raised Chattanooga, Tennessee, native launched a new label, Sony-backed 1021 Entertainment—plus a song publishing company, Verse 2 Entertainment. 

However, if looking for the accurate measurement of Brown's cross-cultural reach, "Worldwide Beautiful" drives home why Brown is a star of note, with an extraordinarily passionate social media following to boot.

When he sings, "At every show I see my people/They ain't the same, but they're all equal/One love, one God, one family," his rich tenor conveys a unifying message that supersedes today's American frustrations and antagonism.

The Hometown Hero: Jimmie Allen

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Country music loves stories of self-made small-town boys with humble dreams that shine under Music City's downtown Broadway lights.

To wit, rising country star Jimmie Allen is a native—and still, proudly a resident—of Milton, Delaware, a town populated by a hair below 3,000 people. His new album, Bettie James Gold Edition—an expansion of his Bettie James project—dropped in June.

Within the first five years of his country career, Allen's achieved two platinum-selling, number-one Billboard Country Airplay chart singles (2018's "Best Shot" and 2019's "Make Me Want To"), plus recently became the first Black artist to win the New Male Artist of the Year award at 2021's Academy of Country Music Awards.

It's also notable how Allen carries forth Charley Pride's legacy. In a 2020 interview for Holler, the vocalist noted that the Country Music Hall of Famer taught him that if he made the music he loved, "It'll land on the ears and hearts of the people who are supposed to hear it."

"[That advice] clicked," he replied. "Ever since, I really got the confidence to just kind of fall in my groove of what I do."

Your Favorite Singer/Songwriter's Favorite Singer/Songwriter: Brittney Spencer

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Baltimore, Maryland's Brittney Spencer writes from a place of deeply ingrained spiritual inspirations, and her style is borne from years spent as a churchgoing Episcopal church choir member and musical arranger. 

Equally, it's inspired by having a friend introduce her to the music of the Chicks as a teenager. Just like the band whose 1998 song "Wide Open Spaces" is a crossover country classic, Spencer's music is cut from the same cloth.

On songs like the 2020 Compassion EP single "Sorrys Don't Work No More," lyrics like "I called you up in August, hoping I could be honest/But you never let me speak" hurt more than they rhyme—which is a rare talent. 

That skill is not only apparent in Spencer's forthcoming material, but in writers' rooms with the likes of a diverse slate of country performers including Allen, Maren MorrisBrandy Clark and Jason Isbell.

Overall, it's simply a case of if—and not when—Spencer's acclaim will grow.

The Country-Trap Iconoclast: Willie Jones

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No artist in the pop-country realm more uniquely highlights the diverse presentations allowed when welcoming more artists of color into the mainstream conversation than Shreveport, Louisiana's Willie Jones.

Suppose a Venn diagram space existed wherein early 2Pac's blend of earnestness and braggadocio blended with Kenny Chesney's desire to kick off his shoes and relax with a drink. In that case, the 26-year old singer-songwriter would occupy it.

From one side of his mouth emerges "American Dream," his critically-acclaimed 2021 civil rights anthem that includes the lyrics, "When you're livin' as a Black man/It's a different kinda American dream."

However, on the other side of the coin, you've got "Down By The Riverside," his Southern, countrified 2021 party track about corn, cotton and crawfish.

Let Me Play The Answers: 8 Jazz Artists Honoring Black Geniuses

Johnny Cash in 1994
Johnny Cash in 1994.

Photo: Beth Gwinn/Redferns

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10 Ways Johnny Cash Revived His Career With 'American Recordings'

On the 30th anniversary of Johnny Cash's 'American Recordings' — the first of a six-part series that continued through 2010 — take a look at how the albums rejuvenated the country icon's career and helped his legacy live on after his passing.

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2024 - 05:05 pm

It's fair to say that the 1980s hadn't been particularly kind to country legend Johnny Cash. Once considered the Don of the Nashville scene, the singer/songwriter suddenly found himself dropped by Columbia Records, recording terrible parody songs (remember "The Chicken in Black"?), and addicted to painkillers after a bizarre accident in which he was kicked by an ostrich.

But as the new decade approached, Cash's reputation gradually started to recover. A 1988 tribute album, 'Til Things Are Brighter, alerted a much younger indie generation of his catalog of classics. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. And then arguably the biggest band in the world at the time, U2, invited him to take lead vocals on Zooropa's post-apocalyptic closer "The Wanderer." The scene was set for a triumphant comeback, and on 1994's American Recordings, the Man in Black duly obliged.

The Rick Rubin-produced album was far from a one-off. Cash delivered three American follow-ups in his lifetime (1996's Unchained, 2000's Solitary Man, and 2002's The Man Comes Around). And two posthumous volumes (2006's A Hundred Highways, 2010's Ain't No Grave)  further bridged the gap between his statuses as country outlaw and elder statesman — and helped further his legacy as one of country's all-time greats.

As the first American Recordings installment celebrates its 30th anniversary, here's a look at how the series deservedly rejuvenated the career of an American recording legend.

It United Him With A New Muse 

Best known for his pioneering work with Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy, Rick Rubin seemed an unusual fit for a sixty-something country singer whose glory days were considered decades behind him. But left spellbound by Cash's performance at a Bob Dylan anniversary gig in 1992, the superproducer offered to make the Nashville legend a superstar once more.

Cash took some persuading, but eventually agreed to join forces on the assurance he'd be in the creative driving seat, and a new unlikely dream team was born. Rubin lent his talents to all six volumes of American Recordings — co-producing the middle two with Cash's son John Carter Cash – and won the first GRAMMY of his career for his efforts. The Def Jam co-founder would also later work his magic with several other '60s heroes including Neil Diamond, Yusuf and Neil Young.

It Saw Cash Lean Into Contemporary Music More Than Ever

Cash had never been averse to tackling contemporary material. He covered Bruce Springsteen's "Highway Patrolman" in 1983, just a year after it appeared on The Boss' Nebraska. But the American Recordings series saw the Man in Black embrace the sounds du jour like never before, whether the grunge of Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage," electro-blues of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," or most famously, industrial rock of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt."

On paper, this could have been nothing short of a disaster, the sign of an aging artist desperately latching onto a much younger musical generation in a transparent bid for relevancy. But instead, Cash elevates the Gen X classics into modern hymns, his sonorous voice injecting a sense of gravitas and Rubin's production stripping things back to their bare but compelling essentials. Far from an embarrassing grandad act, this was the sound of a man respectfully making the source material his own.

It Returned Cash To The Charts 

Cash had reached the lower end of the Billboard 200 in the '80s as part of supergroups The Highwaymen and Class of '55. But you had to go all the way back to 1976's One Piece at a Time to find his last entry as a solo artist. The American Recordings series, however, slowly but surely restored the Man in Black to his former chart glories.

Indeed, while its first two volumes charted at numbers 110 and 170 respectively, the third peaked at a slightly more impressive 88 and the fourth at 22, his highest position since 1970's Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. The posthumous fifth entry, meanwhile, went all the way to No. 1, remarkably the first time ever the country legend had achieved such a feat with a studio effort (live album At San Quentin had previously topped the charts in 1971).

"Hurt" also became Cash's first solo US country hit in 14 years in 2003. And while it only landed at No. 56 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, it remains Cash's most-streamed song to date with over 600 million streams on Spotify alone.

It Included Masterful Collaborators 

As well as handing over the producer reins to Rubin, Cash also surrounded himself with some of the rock world's finest musicians. Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, and Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood all lent their considerable talents to Unchained. Sheryl Crow and Will Oldham did the same on Solitary Man, while Nick Cave, Fiona Apple and Don Henley joined him in the studio on The Man Comes Around.

But Cash also kept things more traditional by recruiting fellow country legend Merle Haggard, 'fifth Beatle'Billy Preston, and "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" songwriter Jack Clement, while the presence of wifeJune Carter Cash and son John made the third American Recordings something of a family affair.

It Went Back To Basics 

While American Recordings was, in many respects, Cash's most forward-thinking album, it wasn't afraid to keep one foot in the past, either. For one, the star recorded most of its first volume in his Tennessee cabin armed with only a guitar, a throwback to his 1950s beginnings with first producer Sam Phillips.

Cash also trawled through his own back catalog for inspiration, re-recording several tracks he believed had unfairly gone under the radar including 1955 single "Mean Eyed Cat," murder ballad "Delia's Gone" from 1962's The Sound of Johnny Cash, and "I'm Leaving Now" from 1985's Rainbow.

It Proved He Was Still A Masterful Songwriter…

Although Cash's unlikely covers grabbed most of the attention, the American Recordings series showed that his stellar songwriting skills remained intact throughout his later years, too. "Meet Me in Heaven," for example, is a beautifully poignant tribute to the older brother who died at just 15, while the folksy "Let the Train Blow the Whistle" added to Cash's arsenal of railroad anthems.

"Drive On," meanwhile, is worthy of gracing any Best Of compilation, a powerful lament to those who came back from the Vietnam War with both emotional and physical scars ("And even now, every time I dream/ I hear the men and the monkeys in the jungle scream").

…And Still A Master Interpreter 

As well as putting new spins on his own songs and various contemporary rock favorites, Cash further displayed both his interpretive and curatorial skills by covering a variety of spirituals, standards and pop hits first released during his commercial heyday.

The likes of early 19th century gospel "Wayfaring Stranger," wartime favorite "We'll Meet Again," and Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" may have been firmly in Cash's wheelhouse. But more leftfield choices such as Loudon Wainwright III's offbeat morality tale "The Man Who Couldn't Cry" proved that even when outside his comfort zone, he could stamp his own identity with aplomb.

It Made Him An Unlikely MTV Star 

Cash was 62 years old when American Recordings hit the shelves — not exactly a prime age for MTV play. Yet thanks to some inspired creative decisions, the career-reviving series spawned two videos that received regular rotation on the network. Firstly, "Delia's Gone" caught attention for two major reasons: it was directed by Anton Corbijn, the man renowned for his long-running creative partnership with Depeche Mode, and it starred Kate Moss, the world's biggest supermodel at the time, as the titular victim.  

Then nine years later, Cash picked up six nominations — winning Best Cinematography — at the MTV Video Music Awards thanks to Mark Romanek's emotionally devastating treatment for "Hurt." Interspersing clips of the clearly fragile country singer at the rundown Museum of Cash with footage from his earlier days and artistic shots of decaying fruits and flowers, the promo perfectly embodied the transient nature of life. And it had the capacity to reduce even the hardest of hearts to tears.

It Added To His GRAMMY Haul 

Cash won almost as many GRAMMYs with his American Recordings series as he had during the previous 40 years of his career. The Man in Black first added to his trophy collection in 1995 when the first volume won Best Contemporary Folk Album. This was the first time he'd been recognized at the ceremony for his musical talents since the June Carter Cash duet "If I Were A Carpenter" won Best Country Performance for a Duo or Group with Vocal back in 1971  

Three years later, Unchained was crowned Best Country Album. And after picking up a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, Cash won 2001's Best Male Country Vocal Performance for "Solitary Man," then again in the same Category for "Give My Love to Rose"in 2003. He posthumously won two more GRAMMYs for Best Short Form Video, in 2004 for "Hurt" and in 2008 for "God's Gonna Cut You Down." In total, the American Recordings series won Cash six more GRAMMYs, bringing his overall count to 13. 

It Was A Powerful Epitaph

In 1997, Cash was told he'd just 18 months to live after being misdiagnosed with neurodegenerative condition Shy-Drager syndrome (later changed to autonomic neuropathy). He ended up outliving this prognosis by a good four years, but during this period, he lost the love of his life and was forced to record his swansong in-between lengthy stints in the hospital.  

Little wonder, therefore, that the American Recordings series is defined by the theme of mortality: see "The Man Comes Around," a biblical ode to the Grim Reaper ("And I looked, and behold a pale horse/ And his name that sat on him was death, and hell followed with him"), Death Row anthem "The Mercy Seat," and funeral favorite "Danny Boy." As with David Bowie's Blackstar, Cash was able to reflect on his impermanence in his own terms in a sobering, yet compelling manner that continues to resonate decades on. 

8 Artists Bringing Traditional Country Music Back: Zach Top, Randall King, Emily Nenni & More On Why "What's Old Becomes Beloved Again"

Wyatt Flores Press Photo 2024
Wyatt Flores

Photo: Matt Paskert

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Wyatt Flores On Speaking His Truth & Using Fame For Good: "I Want People To See That I've Gone Through It"

On his new EP, 'Half Life,' Wyatt Flores tackles everything from mental health to his complicated relationship with fame and religion. Ahead of his Stagecoach Festival debut, the rising country star discusses expressing "wherever I am in my heart."

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2024 - 03:42 pm

When Wyatt Flores released his second EP, Half Life, on April 19, he ended his celebratory Instagram post with one simple wish: "I hope these songs make you feel something."

That's been Flores' mantra since the rising country singer first began releasing music just three years ago. Hailed as one of the genre's most honest new stars, Flores speaks his truth in his red dirt music, on stage, and on social media. As Half Life showcases, he's unafraid to broach life's toughest topics, from suicidal thoughts on "Devil" to a complicated relationship with religion on "I Believe In God."

"I like to keep it very based on what I felt, and just try and go for that emotion," Flores says of his music. "If you can somehow captivate [listeners] in the story and make them feel the emotion through the song, then you've done your job. I guess that's all I'm after."

His unabashed vulnerability has made his music resonate widely — and fast. In 2023, Flores went from playing for hundreds to thousands in a matter of months, garnering more than 325 million global streams and more than 13 million TikTok likes along the way. He consistently uses his rapidly growing platform to champion self-care and mental health, even taking a brief tour hiatus in February to get himself back on track.

Two months later, Flores assures that he's feeling rejuvenated and healthier than ever, sparking some happier tunes that even caught him by surprise (more on that later). He'll spend the summer playing a mix of headlining shows, festival stages and a few supporting slots for Mitski, first kicking things off with his debut at Stagecoach on April 26.

As Flores gears up for tour, he sat down with GRAMMY.com during some time off in his native Oklahoma to chat about his remarkable rise, the complexities of being so vulnerable, and how he feels like he's getting the "best of both worlds."

Do you remember the first show that you were like, "What is happening?"

Yeah, it was Asheville, North Carolina. It was either the last week of April last year or the first week of May, I can't quite remember. But that was my first ever sold-out headline show. I think the venue cap was like 550, and they were screaming so loud that I got off stage and I was like, "Did anyone feel like there was a trash can going off in their ear?" And then my bass player, Bill, was like, "No, that's the last time you'll hear that frequency." 

That was where everything changed. It kind of started making me realize how real this was getting. Then, everywhere we went, [it was a] sold-out crowd, and they're excited as all get out. I literally thought that I was living a dream. 

I played at, you know, the s—iest hole in the walls you could ever imagine. I just thought I was gonna be there forever. Honestly, I was still having fun doing that. But I just couldn't believe the dramatic change that happened.

At what point did it actually feel real?

It was probably when we played Dallas [in December of] last year. That was the biggest room that we'd ever played. I was like, 3,000 people bought tickets to show up to my show. And then I just kind of had to kind of process like what was actually going on. I kept questioning it for the longest time, but that night it was just different.

We had just played in Fort Worth, like, three months [before that], and that was 600 people. So when we played Dallas, that was when I just looked at the crowd and I was like, Okay, this is it.

That's interesting, because you had to cancel a stretch of shows not long after that. Was that kind of all correlating — taking it in, but being overwhelmed from all of it?

Yeah, because there's a lot of things that went on in my life that I never took the time to process, and that was one of the first things — being like, This is my life from now on. And I think that's what I liked about the Life Lessons project so much, was giving listeners an inside view on what it looks like to be on this side of the fence. Because everyone thinks that it's gotta be the most wild thing to be an artist, but I don't think they realize what comes with it. 

I'm still sitting here going, I shouldn't be on this interview with you. I don't deserve it. Like, I don't have the cool style, I show up in sweatshirts and s—ty Adidas shoes. I don't put myself on a pedestal.

I've never wanted to become something I'm not, and that's kind of been the hard point. Because, you know, you got folks from the hometown [saying], "Don't forget who you are!" And then all of a sudden you get lost in all of it. And then you're sitting there going, Do I even know who I am? 

Making some healthier changes kind of opened up some other wounds that I bottled up. I never processed my grandpa's death, and at the same time that that was all going down, I was also firing management — which, they say in Nashville, the manager should be the one person that you do trust. 

I took one week off so I could come back for [my grandpa's] funeral, and had to delay some shows there. And then I was homeless for two weeks from another situation. But I was like, Nope, I'm just gonna work my ass off. I'm just gonna show up, do what I need to do. And I never took the time to actually look at anything that had happened. And that's kind of where the falloff went, because I was just trying to survive the chaos.

I'm sure it's hard being in the spotlight period while  going through so much  at the same time.

For a while, there were certain things that I did not like about myself. [I felt like I was] changing personalities. I know most people can't see it, but that was something that I was struggling with. Everyone was seeing how happy I was through social media — because I'm not afraid to post the silly s— that goes down on the road; me being a jackass in the van or something like that — but then people expected that from me. 

I had to fully come to terms with, wherever I am in my heart, that's who I am right there in that moment. I don't have to portray this image that people see just because we post it on social media.

I also think it's amazing to have the platform you do and be so honest about how you're feeling. Because it's probably healing for you, but also going to be healing for the people who see it — even if it's challenging and really personal to admit.

I put down my phone for a really long time, which was one of the best things ever. [Laughs.] I came back and I went through my DMs. People were like, "Thank you for saying something because I finally had the encouragement to say something to my wife" or something else. I'm glad that it gave people the encouragement to speak up, because if I don't, then how will they? 

I look at my fans, and I'm blessed. There's no better fan base, they're the sweetest people ever. They are diehard fans, but they talk to me like I'm their friend, like they've known me forever. For them to trust someone enough to say something [about] how they feel or what's going on in their lives, that means the absolute world to me.

Clearly that means that what you bring to the table is what your fans are also going to bring to the table for you.

One of the things that I've been trying to work through, is realizing that I can listen to their problems, but I can't take their problems with me. And that was something that I had to learn. I was like, I can't do that to myself, or I'm gonna plummet.

There was a time when we were in Colorado, and someone had sent me these messages [about this girl], and I ended up looking [her] up. She was an eighth grade girl, and the last video she had posted on TikTok was of "Please Don't Go." She'd committed suicide a month after she had posted that. Her mom was trying to raise attention towards bullying and things like that. 

It was hard for us. But we had to look at it through a new perspective. And it's like, we can't change someone's decision, as badly as you want to. And we try and look at it from this perspective of, How long did that song keep them here? Time is valuable, and even if it was for another month, at least it kept them here just a little bit longer, kept them through the fight. Even though you don't always win.

We're not just out here playing music. I still love the party songs. "West of Tulsa" is always fun to look out in the crowd, and they're having a great time. But we're not just playing music because we're here to distract people from their problems. We're lucky enough that we do get to save lives, and we get to do it through music. But it's also one of those things where I'm sitting there going, I'm a 22-year-old kid from Oklahoma, and I have this power. Am I going to use it correctly?

Now that you know that your music is so powerful to so many people, has it changed the way that you approach your songwriting?

A little bit. You know, the songs that I write are songs that I feel. I'm ADHD as all get out, so when I show up to write, it's whatever I'm feeling that day. But yeah, there's a little bit in the back of my head that says, Watch out for something like this, you don't want to say the wrong message here

I want to write these songs that are sad, that are very dark, and lost is kind of the feeling. Because I want people to see that I've gone through it, so that way, they can get a better understanding that they're not the only one. 

My inspiration was to be the artist that had those songs that kind of pulled me through my stuff. There's all sorts of jokes and like memes about when the song doesn't hit you hard enough the first time so you play it again, or, like, when you're sitting in a vehicle after you've already gotten home but you sit there until the song ends. That was always kind of a goal for me. I was like, I want to be that song that kind of helps them get through the next day. 

That's the way I kind of look at it when I play these shows. And I sit back and I look at the crowd, and I'm like, I get to be a part of y'all's lives every single day, and that is the coolest thing that I've ever done.

It's funny, there's always that interview question like, "What are your goals?" but it sounds like you've already accomplished the main one. 

Oh, absolutely. I've been having to find new goals because I've lived my dream. Like, if I died tomorrow, I'd hang my hat proudly. I've helped people, I've played all the venues — well, I guess I haven't played Red Rocks yet. That's coming up, though.

I'm still thinking, because it's just now finally hit me that, like, You've kind of done the damn thing. So it's like, What do you want to do now? I have all these wild ideas. I usually throw out some out of pocket s— and then I let someone else come up with if it's gonna work or not. My business manager hates me. [Laughs.]

Were you raised to be so connected with your feelings, or was it just kind of an innate thing for you?

I think I always felt out of place wherever I was. I was always kind of the weird kid. My friends hated me because I started talking about sappy s—. I'd want to have deep, meaningful conversations and sometimes they'd be like, "Would you just shut up?" [Laughs.]

But what I realized is that I'm very big on connection. At some point, not fitting in and being different kind of all changed for me. I was like, I can't change it, so I might as well be it.

Have you ever questioned how honest you're being in your music? 

For the most part, I don't try and hold back. In some ways, it is scary, but in other ways, it's kind of just telling your truth so people don't get shocked by something that you do.

For the first time, I'm writing happier songs. And I'm skeptical to see how people take that. I mean, I've had Life Lessons and stuff like that, but yeah, this is definitely a weird time in my life where I'm like, I'm writing happy songs, and I don't even know how to feel about it. Now, I'm like, How do I share happiness? How do I contain that idea, and that emotion, and put it into a song so it comes out to the listener and they feel it?

You're allowed to be happy! And with everything that's been happening for you lately, I'm not surprised you're happy.

[Fans] always say "We made the right person famous." It's been two short years of really doing this thing. And we're blessed.

I freakin' love playing live, I just had other things going on in the background that I never took time [to process]. For a while, I wanted to blame a lot of things that wasn't it. And then, I went to Onsite [Workshops, a therapy, counseling and wellness retreat center in Tennessee] for like a week and got my head back to normal. 

Playing live is what makes it all worth it. I knew that I was going to have to work for this, and I'm getting to see the fruits of my labor. I'm finally getting some time off. I'm getting to actually spend some quality time, but I at least now know how to have quality time in the healthiest way. Because for a while, I couldn't shut the other brain off. I'd come home and I was still somewhere else. 

I can't believe that I get the best of both worlds. That usually doesn't happen where you get your cake and eat it too. S—, I might go fishing later! I get to be on the road, play to thousands of people, and then I get to go fishing? I think the only thing that's missing is I don't have a boat. Man, I just might have to weld me one.  

Meet Charles Wesley Godwin, The Rising Country Singer Who's Turning "A Very Human Story" Into Stardom

Post Malone holds and acoustic guitar and looks at the crown during his Super Bowl LVIII performance
Post Malone performs during Super Bowl LVIII in February 2024.

Photo: Perry Knotts/Getty Images

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Post Malone's Country Roots: 8 Key Moments In Covers and Collaborations

Ahead of Posty's upcoming performance at the Stagecoach Festival, catch up on the many ways he's been dabbling in country music since the beginning of his career.

GRAMMYs/Apr 24, 2024 - 07:25 pm

Editor's Note: This article was updated on May 20, 2024 with information about Post Malone's collaboration with Morgan Wallen, "I Had Some Help."

Since Post Malone burst onto the mainstream nearly a decade ago, he has continued to flaunt his genre-defying brand of musical brilliance. For his latest venture, it’s time for gold grills and cowboy hats: Posty’s going country.

Though his musical origins are in rap, Malone has seamlessly traversed pop, R&B, and blues, always hinting at his deep-seated country roots along the way. In the last year, his long-standing affinity for country music has moved to the forefront, with appearances at the CMA Awards, a country-tinged Super Bowl LVIII performance, and a feature on Beyoncé’s COWBOY CARTER. Next up, he’ll make his debut at California's Stagecoach Festival alongside some of country music’s biggest names — and pay tribute to some of the genre greats.

While it’s unclear exactly what the Texas-raised hitmaker will be singing, his 45-minute set on Saturday, April 27 is labeled “Post Malone: Performs a special set of country covers.” After years of performing covers for and alongside country stars, the performance is arguably one of the most full-circle moments of his career thus far.

Ahead of his Stagecoach premiere, read on for some of Posty's biggest nods and contributions to the country music scene over the years — that could culminate in his own country album soon enough. 

A Slew Of Classic Country Music Covers

Malone has a history of channeling his musical heroes, often pulling on his boots to deliver heartfelt covers. He's paid tribute to country icons many times, including covers of Hank Williams Jr.'s classic, "There's A Tear In My Beer” in a 2018 fan-favorite video

During a 2022 Billy Strings tour stop at The Observatory in Los Angeles, Malone made a surprise appearance and used the moment to honor Johnny Cash alongside Strings. The pair delivered an acoustic duet of Cash's infamous murder ballad, "Cocaine Blues."

And just this year, Malone covered Hank Williams Sr. during a surprise performance at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. On April 3, he closed out the annual Bobby Bones' Million Dollar Show with a rendition of Williams' "Honky Tonk Blues." 

A Longtime Kinship With Dwight Yoakam

Malone has long collaborated with Dwight Yoakam, marking a friendship and professional partnership that spans his career. Yoakam is a GRAMMY-winning trailblazer known for his pioneering blend of honky tonk, rock and punk that shook up the country scene in the 80's with his blend of "cowpunk." 

The pair frequently joined forces on Yoakam's SiriusXM Radio spot "Greater Bakersfield," where one standout 2018 appearance features Malone covering Yoakam's own “Thousand Miles From Nowhere” as the two laugh, strum and belt out the lyrics together in perfect harmony. 

On April Fool's Day in 2021, they playfully teased fans with the prospect of a double country album release — which may not seem so far-fetched three years later.

It's fitting that Malone would find such deep inspiration in folks like Yoakam, a man who first rode onto the country scene with a new take on a traditional sound. Much like Yoakam bridged generations with his music, Malone brings a new yet familiar energy to the country scene, embodying the spirit of a modern cowboy in both style and sound.

A Country Tribute To Elvis

Malone teamed up with Keith Urban for a duet rendition of "Baby, What You Want Me to Do" during the "Elvis All-Star Tribute Special," which aired on NBC in 2019. Originally written and performed by blues musician and songwriter Jimmy Reed, "Baby, What You Want Me to Do" was famously covered by Presley and commemorated through Urban and Malone's unique blend of modern guitar-slapping country-rock charisma. 

That wasn't Malone's only country collab that night, either. He also covered Presley's "Blue Suede Shoes" alongside Blake Shelton, Little Big Town and Mac Davis.

A Celebration Of Texas With Country Legends

In March 2021, Matthew McConaughey and his wife, Camila, hosted the "We’re Texas" virtual benefit concert, to help Texans coping with that year's disastrous winter storms during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Following performances by George Strait, Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, and Miranda Lambert, Malone — who moved to Dallas when he was 10 — served as the night's final entertainer. He performed Brad Paisley's "I'm Gonna Miss Her" followed by Sturgill Simpson's "You Can Have The Crown" backed by Dwight Yoakam.

A Rousing Tribute At The 2023 CMA Awards

At the 2023 CMA Awards, Malone joined country stars Morgan Wallen and HARDY on stage to cover late icon Joe Diffie‘s “Pickup Man” and "John Deere Green." Malone's first-ever performance at the CMAs felt more like a reunion than a debut, with Malone right at home among his collaborators.

“I’ve manifested this for years," HARDY told Audacy's Katie Neal. "Slight flex here, but I started following [Post Malone] when he had like, 300k Instagram followers. I was on the 'White Iverson' terrain, like the first thing that he ever put out and I was like, ‘this is dope,’ and I've been with him ever since.” 

After the performance, Malone hinted to Access Hollywood that it might be the start of a new chapter. When asked if a forthcoming country album would be in the works, he answered, “I think so. Yes, ma'am.” (More on that later.)

A Countrified Appearance At Super Bowl LVIII

Before Beyoncé announced COWBOY CARTER in a Verizon Super Bowl ad, Malone offered Super Bowl Sunday's first country-themed clue at the top of the night with his tender rendition of "America The Beautiful." Sporting a bolo tie and brown suede, Malone delivered his patriotic performance with a characteristically country drawl while strumming along on acoustic guitar before Reba McIntire's star-spangled rendition of the national anthem. 

Malone's performance followed in the footsteps of a long line of country artists who have kicked off the national sporting event, which started with Charley Pride in 1974 and has included Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Garth Brooks

A Tip Of The Hat To Toby Keith

During a performance at the American Rodeo in Arlington, Texas, on March 9, Malone paid tribute to the late Toby Keith, who passed away in February. After pouring one out and taking a sip from a red solo cup (an homage to Keith's playful hit of the same name), Malone performed a cover of "As Good As I Once Was" for the Texas rodeo crowd.

His TikTok video of the performance quickly garnered over 4 million views, sparking enthusiasm among fans for more country music from him. "Sir. I'm now begging for a country album," wrote one user in a comment that has received over 11,000 hearts.

A (Potential) Full-On Country Album

His much-teased country album may not be too yonder. After confirming that a country album was in the works during a live Twitch stream on his channel, Malone has spent much of this year teasing forthcoming new work. There is no scheduled album release date as of press time, but Malone has shared snippets of new songs including “Missin’ You Like This” and dropped sneak peeks of collaborations with Morgan Wallen, HARDY, Ernest, and Luke Combs

In February, Malone posted a sample of a collaboration with Combs, "I Ain't Got A Guy For That," the first in a series of song snippets shared across his social channels. 

Malone and Wallen have been teasing a collaboration since the end of 2023. After building plenty of anticipation, they debuted “I Had Some Help” during Wallen's headlining set at Stagecoach in April. Officially releasing the track on May 10, the song didn't just prove to be a banger — it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and broke the record for most streams in a single week with 76.4 million official U.S. streams, according to Luminate and Billboard.

No matter when the album may come, Post Malone’s Stagecoach set will only up the anticipation for some original country music from the star — and from the looks of it, fans and genre stars alike are more than ready for it.

12 Must-See Acts At Stagecoach 2024: Tanner Adell, Charley Crockett & More

Tanner Adell performs in 2024
Tanner Adell performs at the 3rd Annual "BRELAND & Friends" benefit concert in Nashville, Tennessee in 2024.

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for BRELAND & Friends

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12 Must-See Acts At Stagecoach 2024: Tanner Adell, Charley Crockett & More

Before the country music festival returns to the California desert April 26-28, get to know some of the most buzzworthy artists set to take this year's Stagecoach Festival by storm.

GRAMMYs/Apr 23, 2024 - 11:28 pm

In a matter of days, some of country music's best and most promising acts will come together in Indio, California for Stagecoach Festival 2024. The annual event has spotlighted an eclectic mix of talent since 2007, but this year's impressive roster of performers helped Stagecoach earn its largest number of ticket sales in the festival's 17-year history.

Held April 28-30 at the Empire Polo Club — the same scenic desert landscape as the long-running Coachella Music and Arts Festival — this year's Stagecoach Festival offers a diverse blend of artists that spans from headliners like Miranda Lambert and Eric Church to surf-pop icons the Beach Boys, hit rockers Nickelback and hip-hop star Post Malone

Along with this diverse roster of superstars, the 2024 Stagecoach lineup is filled with a captivating list of artists on the rise. From a singer/songwriter enjoying a much-deserved comeback to a skillful 25-year-old putting his own spin on the '90s country sound, this year's crop of talent is paving the way for the future of country music.

Stagecoach Festival 2024 is completely sold out, but country fans who didn't snag their ticket in time can still enjoy all the festivities by streaming performances live via Amazon Prime all weekend long. Before you head out into the California sun or get cozy in front of your TV, take a moment to learn more about these 12 must-see acts coming to Stagecoach this year.

Tanner Adell

Since the release of Beyoncé's country-inspired album COWBOY CARTER, singer/songwriter Tanner Adell has become one of the genre's most talked about new artists. Before she was tapped as a guest vocalist on Beyoncé's cover of the Beatles' classic "Blackbird," and original track "AMERIICAN REQUIEM," Adell had already garnered a dedicated fan base online. 

Thanks to viral hits like "Buckle Bunny," the playful title track of her 2023 debut album, the Nashville-based talent has earned praise from both critics and country listeners worldwide. From heartfelt ballads to beat-driven bops made to get you on the dance floor, Adell blends elements of radio-ready modern country and rhythmic hip-hop with ease.

Adell's Saturday performance at Stagecoach promises to be a fiery and fun showcase of her polished pop-country songbook.

Zach Top

While growing up in Washington state, Zach Top forged a deep connection to the sound of traditional country music. From Marty Robbins to Keith Whitley, the influence of the genre's past is deeply entwined in every track of the talented 25-year-old's brand new record, Cold Beer & Country Music

Top's 12-track LP has earned plenty of buzz for its new take on the neo-traditionalist style that dominated country radio in the late 1980s and early '90s. With engaging vocals reminiscent of the late Daryle Singletary and thoughtful lyricism, Zach Top provides a fresh new take on a familiar and formative sound.

Brittney Spencer

Over the past five years, Brittney Spencer has repeatedly proven why she's one of the most important and captivating voices within modern country music. From her acclaimed 2021 single "Sober & Skinny'' to her celebrated collaboration with country supergroup The Highwomen, Spencer's vocals are consistently as emotive as they are effortless.

Spencer's charismatic personality and boundless energy take center stage through every performance, making her live shows a can't-miss event. Her Sunday afternoon set at Stagecoach offers a chance to hear cuts from her stellar debut album, My Stupid Life, which dropped in January.

Vincent Neil Emerson

Texas native Vincent Neil Emerson first earned widespread praise with the 2019 release of his debut album, Fried Chicken and Evil Women, earning him comparisons to influential artists like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. His narrative-driven lyrics and hauntingly raw vocals have won the hearts of country fans far outside the Texas plains.

Over the years, he's collaborated with fellow alt-country favorite Colter Wall and recruited the creative genius of Rodney Crowell, who serves as producer on Emerson's self-titled 2021 LP. With his most recent album, the Shooter Jennings-produced The Golden Crystal Kingdom, Emerson once again channels the old-school magic of the traditional country that only comes from a rare type of Texas troubadour.

Katie Pruitt

Although Katie Pruitt has been locally lauded as among the best of Nashville's modern crop of singer/songwriters for years, her rise into the mainstream is still overdue. The Georgia native's stunning 2020 debut album, Expectations, was hailed for its raw honesty and effortless vocal intricacies. 

When she takes the stage during the final day of Stagecoach 2024, Pruitt will be armed with a brand new batch of awe-inspiring songs. Released on April 5, her sophomore album, Mantras, delivers an unpredictable, genre-bending sound that displays a sense of artistry far beyond her years. Don't miss your chance to see Pruitt's mesmerizing live set, which is guaranteed to have you dancing and maybe even wiping away a few tears.

Carin León

In just a few short years, beloved Mexican singer/songwriter Carin León has evolved from a regional hitmaker to an internationally known talent. His reflective and honest songs have connected with audiences globally, becoming one of Spotify's most streamed modern Mexican artists. 

Earlier this year, the two-time Latin GRAMMY-winner made his Grand Ole Opry debut, and will serve as the opening act for rock legends the Rolling Stones' Hackney Diamonds Tour when it heads to Glendale, Ariz. this May. (And just one week before his Stagecoach debut, he also made his Coachella debut.) Fans who catch his Friday set may be lucky enough to see a live rendition of "It Was Always You (Siempre Fuiste Tú)," his fresh collaboration with fellow Stagecoach 2024 artist Leon Bridges.

Trampled By Turtles 

Thanks to their unique blend of bluegrass, folk, country, and a dash of rock and roll, Minnesota-based outfit Trampled by Turtles has become a music festival staple — and will make their third Stagecoach appearance (and first in 10 years) on Saturday. Their high-energy live sets channel the psychedelic magic of rock's jam band scene, subbing plucky acoustic instrumentation in the place of rolling electric guitar.

The long-running band will treat fans to an array of tracks from their impressive career, which spans 10 albums, including their critically praised 2022 LP, Alpenglow. Even if you aren't already familiar with Trampled by Turtles' extensive list of releases, you're sure to be captivated by their hypnotizing performance style and positive energy that radiates from the live stage.

Charley Crockett

Texas-born talent Charley Crockett is one of few modern artists who have proven worthy enough for the coveted title of "troubadour." The seasoned singer/songwriter's appearance at Stagecoach will coincide with the release of $10 Cowboy, his soulful and synth-tinged 16th studio album.

Crockett's mix of traditional country and thoughtful folk, infused with gritty 1970s pop, creates a nostalgic charm that captivates the live stage. His descriptive story songs and distinctive twang echo the genre's early greats while expanding those classic country themes into new and surprising sonic territory. His Stagecoach 2024 set is sure to deliver a blend of fresh album cuts along with fan favorites from his already-expansive catalog.

Lola Kirke

You may know Lola Kirke as an accomplished actress in both television and film, but the British talent is also one of country music's most surprising new artists. Her stylized mix of traditional country and edgy pop-rock is refreshingly fun and tailor-made for Stagecoach's good-time vibe. 

In recent months, Kirke has shared a string of infectious singles leading up to the release of her latest EP, Country Curious. In March, she dropped a stellar take on the Paula Cole classic "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" featuring Stagecoach 2023 alumni Kaitlin Butts. Make sure you clean off your boots before Kirke's set, because there's a good chance she'll have a very special line dance lesson ready for the crowd.

Willie Jones

For nearly a decade, Louisiana-born talent Willie Jones has captivated country fans with fresh and genre-bending tracks, propelled by deep, rich vocals. Since first making waves with his rendition of Josh Turner's "Your Man" during an audition for "The X-Factor" in 2012, Jones has been paving his own path in the genre. 

He's recorded two full-length records, including his irresistible 2023 LP Something to Dance To. His Stagecoach set will certainly be a boot-stomper, offering concertgoers a chance to experience the magic captured on his latest EP, The Live Sessions, which arrived on April 5.

Sam Barber

Missouri native Sam Barber has evolved from a hopeful musician to a viral sensation with a major-label record deal. While passing the time at college, the gifted 20-year-old began recording covers of his favorite country tracks and shared them on TikTok, quickly garnering thousands of eager listeners. His down-to-earth charm, paired with surprisingly seasoned and gritty vocals, also earned the attention of Atlantic Records. 

In 2023, they shared Barber's debut EP, Million Eyes, which spawned the breakthrough radio single "Straight and Narrow." Now, fresh off the release of Live EP 001 and a string of new singles, Barber will bring his thoughtful yet edgy country sound to Stagecoach, marking another rapidfire career accomplishment.

Luke Grimes

Although you may know him best for his role as the chaotic charmer Kayce Dutton on the acclaimed television series "Yellowstone," Luke Grimes' creative talents expand far outside the small screen. A lifelong musician and lover of country music, Grimes took the stage at Stagecoach 2023 in support of his debut EP, Pain Pills or Pews. The project's raw and honest tracks earned critical acclaim and quickly led Grimes back into the studio, tapping Dave Cobb as producer for his vulnerable new self-titled LP, which arrived on March 8.

Whether you're a longtime fan of his acting or an already devoted listener, Grimes' set marks a pivotal moment in his ever-evolving musical career — and one of many can't-miss moments at this year's Stagecoach Festival.

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