meta-scriptA Brief History Of Black Country Music: 11 Important Tracks From DeFord Bailey, Kane Brown & More | GRAMMY.com
Kane Brown performing in 2023
Kane Brown performing at the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas.

Photo: Denise Truscello/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

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A Brief History Of Black Country Music: 11 Important Tracks From DeFord Bailey, Kane Brown & More

While the world anticipates the arrival of Beyoncé's 'Act II: COWBOY CARTER' on March 29, revisit these 11 songs by influential Black country musicians throughout history, from a Charley Pride classic to a Mickey Guyton statement piece.

GRAMMYs/Mar 22, 2024 - 10:24 pm

In February, Beyoncé added to her record-breaking legacy by becoming the first Black woman to top Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart with her single "TEXAS HOLD 'EM."

"I feel honored," she shared on Instagram in a countdown post to her RENAISSANCE sequel, Act II: COWBOY CARTER, out March 29. "My hope is that years from now, the mention of an artist's race, as it relates to releasing genres of music, will be irrelevant."

Since she first dabbled in country music with "Daddy Lessons" in 2016, the icon has received consistent backlash about whether she belongs in the genre. That same year, audiences campaigned for a boycott against the Country Music Awards for her performance of the track alongside The Chicks, later resulting in its erasure from promotional advertisements. And eight years later, the conversation returns as radio listeners question if her music should air on country stations.

Ironically, if you look back through music history, you will quickly discover that Beyoncé isn't the first (and certainly not the last) Black musician doing country music. 

In fact, the genre plants its sonic roots in negro spirituals and field songs, written on slave plantations. African American Vernacular English continues to influence contemporary chart-topper's lyricism and vocal twang. The banjo, which descends from the West African akonting lute, remains one of the quintessential instruments of the genre. Whether Beyoncé or the many artists who came before her, nothing sits at the heart of country music more than Black art.

To understand the full scope of Black creatives' impact in country, GRAMMY.com examines some of the influential tracks and moments of those who have made their mark on the genre and the music industry — from DeFord Bailey's Grand Ole Opry debut in 1927, to Darius Rucker's post-Hootie & The Blowfish country foray in 2008, to Breland's 2021 fusion of country and hip-hop.

DeFord Bailey — "Pan American Blues" (1927)

Before there was Mickey Guyton, Darius Rucker, or even Charley Pride, there was DeFord Bailey, the "harmonica wizard" from Tennessee.

After performing locally, another musician introduced Bailey to Nashville powerhouse radio station WSM's manager, George D. Hay, who later invited him to join the Grand Ole Opry — making Bailey the first Black member. He quickly rose to become one of the program's highest-paid players at the time, largely thanks to his iconic instrumental tune, "Pan American Blues," which imitated the sounds he heard from the railroad during his childhood.

As of press time, the only other Black inductees in the Grand Ole Opry are Rucker and Pride.

Lead Belly — "In The Pines" (1944)

"My girl, my girl, don't lie to me/ Tell me, where did you sleep last night?/ In the pines, in the pines/ Whether the sun don't ever shine/ I would shiver the whole night through," Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter questions in the Appalachian folk song, "In the Pines."

Though Lead Belly isn't the original writer of the song, his chilling vibrato on the recording inspired singers for years to come, including Kurt Cobain, who later covered the track in Nirvana's 1993 MTV Unplugged performance under the title "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" and named the '40s country blues legend his "favorite performer."

Linda Martell — "Color Him Father" (1969)

In "Color Him Father," Linda Martell narrates the heartfelt tale of a stepdad who embraces his new paternal role to a widowed mother and her seven children. It's also the song that propelled her to stardom, landing her a historic performance as the first Black woman on the Grand Ole Opry stage and later opening the door for debut album, Color Me Country.

After the project was released, Martell stepped away from the limelight, but her impact lived on. She was the inspiration for contemporary luminaries like Mickey Guyton: "The fact that she was there was groundbreaking ... She gave me the courage to be here," Guyton told Rolling Stone in 2020.

Charley Pride — "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" (1971)

Through his nearly seven decades-spanning career, Charley Pride became a certified hitmaker and one of the most renowned pioneers of his time. By 1987, he amassed more than 50 Top 10 hits on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, with 30 peaking at No. 1 — including his most notable single, "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'."

After Pride passed away from COVID-19 complications in 2020, the response to his death highlighted the magnitude of his legacy, receiving condolences from Dolly Parton, Billy Ray Cyrus, and perhaps the most personal from Darius Rucker.

"I couldn't have done what I do, I don't think, if there hadn't been Charley before me," Rucker said in an essay for Billboard. Pride served not only as an icon but also as a mentor to Rucker, and his kindness ultimately gave Rucker the courage to do the same for the next generation.

Cleve Francis — "You Do My Heart Good" (1992)

As a cardiologist and songwriter, Dr. Cleve Francis certainly knew a "good heart."

In his 1992 track, "You Do My Heart Good," Francis sings about a budding love that shows him how to see life in a beautiful light. The song eventually became the second single from his Liberty Records debut LP, Tourist in Paradise.

Francis later founded the now-defunct Black Country Music Association in 1995 to foster an inclusive environment in the Nashville music scene and provide resources to aspiring singers. Under his advisory, the BCMA, with the help of Warner Bros., produced From Where I Stand, a record book of Black artists' contributions to the genre.

Darius Rucker — "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" (2008)

Before 2008, many knew Darius Rucker better as Hootie, thanks to his remarkable '90s run as frontman of jangle pop band Hootie & the Blowfish. But with his second album as a solo act, 2008's Learn to Live, the world met Darius Rucker, the country artist.

Fittingly, he chose a heartbreaking ballad for his first country single — "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," a heartbreaking ballad about a man who wonders what could have been in a previous relationship. The choice resonated with country listeners:  "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, making Rucker the first Black country artist to have a chart-topper since Pride in 1983. 

Kane Brown — "Heaven" (2017)

Since his major label debut, Brown has possessed a unique boy-next-door charm, less "Western" than his peers. "Not laced up in a tight belt and buckle hat," but proof that "you can be who you want to be, and you can still listen to country music," his manager, Martha Earls, told Variety in 2018.

Take "Heaven," a romantic ballad with the Southern drawl and instrumentation of a classic country tune. But when you add Brown's R&B influence and natural swagger, the track invites audiences both in and outside of country.

Though Brown now has 12 No. 1 songs on the Country Airplay chart, "Heaven" is undoubtedly the country star's biggest song to date thanks to its crossover qualities and romantic resonance. And just last year, "Heaven" became only the seventh country artist in history to receive a diamond certification from the RIAA; Brown is the second Black country artist to achieve the feat, as Rucker's anthemic cover of "Wagon Wheel" reached diamond status in 2022.

Mickey Guyton — "Black Like Me" (2020)

In a 2020 interview with Rolling Stone, Mickey Guyton recalled that she wrote "Black Like Me" at a writer's retreat in 2019, thinking, "There is no way that anybody is going to accept this." But at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, there was no doubt that it was what the industry, especially the country genre, needed to hear.

"It's a hard life on easy street/ Just white painted picket fences far as you can see/ If you think we live in the land of the free/ You should try to be Black like me," she croons on the chorus.

The single made Guyton the first-ever Black woman nominated for Best Country Solo Performance at the 2021 GRAMMYs, and also helped her earn nominations for New Female Artist Of The Year and New Artist Of The Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Country Music Association Awards, respectively, in 2021..

Guyton continues to use her voice for advocacy, from speaking out on racial issues to chronicling the Black experience on her 2021 album, Remember Her Name

Breland — "Throw It Back" (2021)

Since making his debut with "My Truck" in 2019, Breland has been praised for his innovative fusion of country, gospel, hip-hop, and R&B. But beyond his sonic landscape, he's also inviting some unlikely choreography into the genre: twerking.

"If she got a shot of whiskey, she know how to throw it back/ She turn up for Elvis Presley, told the DJ, 'Throw it back,'" Breland cheers in the chorus of the trap-infused track.  "If you sexy and you know it, make it clap."

"Throw It Back" features Keith Urban, whoappreciates Breland for his confidence to go beyond the mold of country music's expectations. "He's one of the only artists I've ever met that does not care at all what something sounds like or what box it fits. If he likes it, if it catches his ear, he wants to be a part of it in some way," Urban explained to Taste of Country in 2021.

The War and Treaty — "Blank Page" (2022)

The War and Treaty are making the most of their "Blank Page."

The husband-and-wife pair — Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter — began their musical journey together in 2016.  Seven years later, thanks to their first major label EP, 2022's Blank Page, they also started making history. The War and Treaty became the first Black duo to receive a nomination for Duo Of The Year at the 2023 Academy of Country Music Awards, where they also delivered a stirring performance of the EP's title track, a heartfelt song about a new slate in love. 

Six months later, they made history again as the first Black pair nominated for Duo Of The Year at the 2023 Country Music Association Awards; they took the stage there as well, performing"That's How Love Is Made" from their 2023 album, Lover's Game

They added to their growing legacy at the 2024 GRAMMYs as well,  receiving their first GRAMMY nominations. "Blank Page" earned the duo a nod for Best American Roots Song, and they also were up for the coveted Best New Artist.

Tanner Adell — "Buckle Bunny" (2023)

When Beyoncé dropped "TEXAS HOLD 'EM" and "16 CARRIAGES" in February, country newcomer Tanner Adell readily tossed her cowgirl hat into the ring to become Queen Bey's next collaborator. "I hope Bey decides to sprinkle me with a dash of her magic," she pitched in a tweet that has now garnered more than four million views.

Adell's music is reminiscent of Beyoncé's own empowered narratives, particularly the 2023 single "Buckle Bunny," which even declares that she's "Lookin' like Beyoncé with a lasso." Like Breland, Adell brings a hip-hop flair to country music, exemplified by the thumping beats and rap-inspired singing of "Buckle Bunny."

As artists like Adell, Breland, Kane Brown, and more continue to push the boundaries of the country genre, they'll also remind listeners of its rich lineage in Black culture — past, present, and future.

Why 2024 Is The Year Women In Country Music Will Finally Have Their Moment

Chapel Hart, Reyna Roberts, Camille Parker, Breland, Julie Williams, Kentucky Gentlemen
Top row: Chapel Hart; Middle row: Reyna Roberts, Camille Parker, Breland; Bottom row: Julie Williams, Kentucky Gentlemen

Photos: Top row: Catherine Powell/Getty Images for CMT; Middle row: Terry Wyatt/WireImage, Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images, Jason Kempin/Getty Images for BRELAND & Friends; Bottom row: Catherine Powell/Getty Images for Black Opry, SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

interview

What's The Future For Black Artists In Country Music? Breland, Reyna Roberts & More Sound Off

With a wave of talented Black acts shaking up the country music scene, the genre is reaching new heights. Six rising stars unpack country music's complicated past, celebrate recent victories, and predict what's next.

GRAMMYs/Jun 24, 2024 - 01:29 pm

Shaboozey's "A Bar Song (Tipsy)" is flipping country music on its head. His genre-bending hit, which interpolates J-Kwon's 2004 hip-hop smash "Tipsy," replaced Beyoncé's "TEXAS HOLD 'EM" atop Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in April — marking the first time that two Black artists held the No. 1 spot back-to-back on the chart.

The history-making feat — and the massive success of "A Bar Song" — is a major win, especially given how Black artists have historically been shut out from country music, even in the last 10 years alone. In 2016, for instance, Beyoncé and The Chicks' CMA Awards performance of "Daddy Lessons," a country-leaning tune off the Houston native's sixth album, Lemonade, caused an uproar within the country music community, with many fans boycotting the show. Beyoncé later hinted that the backlash birthed her country-tinged 2024 LP, COWBOY CARTER, as she "did a deeper dive into the history of Country music and studied our rich musical archive."

Then, in 2018, Billboard controversially removed Lil Nas X's GRAMMY-winning, Billy Ray Cyrus-featuring smash "Old Town Road" from the Hot Country Songs chart as it was poised to claim the top spot, because it didn't "embrace enough elements of today's country music." Lil Nas X's comment on the dispute perfectly depicted the ongoing debate around what qualifies as country music: "The song is country trap. It's not one, it's not the other. It's both. It should be on both [charts]."

Mainstream country music has long been a white, straight, cisgender male-dominated genre. But in recent years, an influx of Black country artists have been challenging the traditional norms of what country music looks and sounds like. In turn, they're helping the genre become more accessible and appealing to a broader audience — and it's forcing even some naysayers to pay attention. 

Along with Shaboozey, many rising artists are incorporating hip-hop and R&B elements into their country music. Tanner Adell's viral hit "Buckle Bunny" features rap-inspired verses and thumping bass; a guitar-fueled rap cadence carries BRELAND's "My Truck"; and Blanco Brown's "trailer trap" helped his line dance smash "The Git Up" top the Hot Country Songs chart for 12 nonconsecutive weeks in 2019. Several artists are leaning more into the traditional sound, too, as evidenced by the latest singles from Tiera Kennedy ("I Ain't a Cowgirl") and Chapel Hart ("2033").

Trailblazers like Darius Rucker, Kane Brown and Mickey Guyton have been pivotal to disrupting the scene and opening doors for marginalized acts. Rucker's "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," from his 2008 country debut, Learn to Live, earned him a No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart — the first Black artist to celebrate such an achievement since Charley Pride's "Night Games" in 1983. With 2017's "Heaven," Kane Brown made history twice: he was the first artist to top all five Billboard country charts simultaneously, and the first Black country artist to earn RIAA Diamond certification with an original song. Guyton's history-making feat came at the 2021 GRAMMYs, where she was the first Black woman ever nominated for Best Country Solo Performance, for her autobiographical "Black Like Me."

As country music continues to evolve, how will it make more room for boundary-pushing Black artists? GRAMMY.com tapped six rising stars — BRELAND, Chapel Hart, Kentucky Gentlemen, Camille Parker, Reyna Roberts, and Julie Williams — to discuss the future of a genre that has historically lacked diversity, the undeniable impact of Beyoncé's COWBOY CARTER, and the artists that inspire them to push forward.

Quotes from these interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Shaboozey's "A Bar Song" and Beyoncé's "TEXAS HOLD 'EM" are among 2024's biggest songs regardless of genre. What do you think are the key ingredients for making a great country song? How has it changed?

Brandon Campbell of Kentucky Gentlemen: All the best country songs have authenticity and truth. From the feel-good jams to the heartbreak, it's all about relatability and people being able to see themselves and what they've experienced in those songs. 

BRELAND: A great country song tells a linear story in which all of the lyrics relate back to a central concept. My favorite country songs also include elements of wordplay where a word or phrase is flipped, usually at the conclusion of the chorus.

I think the structure of country songs is about the same as it was 20 years ago, but there has just been some changes sonically. I've noticed fewer country songs have bridges, and the songs tend to be shorter now in general, which is consistent with trends across the music industry as a whole.

Reyna Roberts: It's about the instrumentation, lyrics and heart that's put into the music and how authentic it is. I personally love slide guitar, banjos, fiddles, harmonicas, and acoustic guitar, so those are key instruments in my music. I always make sure the foundation of classic country music is there and build upon that. Storytelling is equally as important; I pour my everything into the melodies and lyrics in every song I write.

Trea Swindle of Chapel Hart: The instrumentation has changed so much. Now there's the electric guitars and 808s. I think whenever Jason Aldean did "Dirt Road Anthem," it introduced 808s to country music and set off the whole bro-country moment. 

And, the thing about country music is it's all about the story, and it's all about the experience of creating music that has heart and soul and an impact. It's not like an AI-generated song with country buzzwords like truck, snake, boots, hat. That's not what it makes it country, and sometimes, it's not in the instrumentation that makes it country. You can hear a Vince Gill song, and it doesn't have a single guitar in it. It's all piano, but it's country at its core.

Camille Parker: I'm constantly referencing music that has lasted decades and speaks to people in a real way. The best country songs make people feel seen regardless of where they're from. I grew up on traditional country songs like "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" by Charley Pride and "You Don't Know Me" by Ray Charles. Those songs have evergreen lyrics, amazing production, and make you feel something real every time you hear it.

Julie Williams: All my favorite country songs pull me in with the storytelling and transport me to another place — either a memory of some place I've been or to an imaginary world. These stories can be raw and vulnerable or fun and lighthearted. Another core piece is a great melody, one that makes you want to jump in and sing along and gets stuck in your head. But we're in an exciting time in country music where we're hearing more types of stories like Mickey Guyton's "Black Like Me" and Brittney Spencer's "Thoughts and Prayers." 

Like most genres and sounds, the origins of country music are largely Black — why do you think it's been difficult for its roots to be widely acknowledged? Do you feel that's changing?  

BRELAND: Country music is undeniably influenced by Black musicians and Black culture, as with all American musical genres. But from the beginning of country music's popularization, there has been a concerted effort to separate it from its Black roots. In the '50s and '60s, country songs by white artists were considered country songs and hillbilly music, and country songs by Black artists were labeled and marketed as race records and eventually the blues. Since then, both genres have evolved in different directions, and their shared history is only now being discussed.

Williams: Mainstream country music has evolved into a genre rooted in patriotism, conservatism and general pro-America sentiments. For there to be an acknowledgment of the erasure of Black country music pioneers, there would have to be a wider acknowledgement — or, more specifically, a reckoning — that America hasn't always been so great. And, for some, that feels threatening.

Derek Campbell of Kentucky Gentlemen: There's a long history of people being unaware or not fully acknowledging Black efforts and contributions across many different genres. That's changing largely due to the fact that so many new people are discovering their love for country music. Those same people have joined in on important discussions while deep diving into its roots. They've had an incredible curiosity for acts like us who have been working in the genre all these years. 

Parker: More people are discovering missing pages in country music's history. For some, it may be difficult to challenge what they thought was a complete story, but it's important to acknowledge the past so we can all move toward a more informed and honest future.

Swindle: Since country is cool now, audiences far and wide are finding people they like and all these subgenres of country, or even some of the old-school, tried-and-true stuff. Every other genre has branched out, and I'm so glad that country is finally joining the party.

We all tell the same stories. Like Toby Keith's "How Do You Like Me Now?" for instance. How is that different from [rapper] Mike Jones' "Back Then"?

Danica Hart of Chapel Hart: When we were on "America's Got Talent," I said "Country music doesn't always look like us." And I think, for so long, country music has done what has made country music billions of dollars. Country music has never had a Black superstar, but that also takes a lot of money for a label. The industry has just been working the formula that has worked for them for hundreds of years.

With social media, everything's just right at the tips of your hands. Back in the day, you had to go on a radio tour, you had to go do the arena tour — you had to get in front of somebody before you would reach a million people. Now you can get on TikTok and be like, "Go stream my music" and get a million followers. There's an evolution going on that's really in favor of all artists.

Read More: Beyond Country: All The Genres Beyoncé Explores On 'Cowboy Carter' 

How has "the Beyoncé effect" helped thrust country music even further into the mainstream and make it more inclusive? 

B. Campbell: It's been great to see so many of us Black country artists gain visibility, and it's been even better seeing more broad audiences feeling more comfortable being country music fans. In all of our years doing this for a living, we've never seen more Black people and people of color in the audience dancing and singing back at us. It's been truly incredible and game-changing.

BRELAND: Beyoncé is helping to evolve country music because she brings with her a diverse group of millions of non-traditional country music listeners into the format. For decades now, country music has felt, to a lot of Black people, as a white space, so few Black artists and fans have felt safe and accepted in it. But now, the demographics are changing, and they have been in the years leading up to COWBOY CARTER.

If Beyoncé's fans and all of the other people inspired to broaden their musical horizons as a result of her album are willing to continue supporting Black artists in country, and the genre in general, this can be a really powerful and sustainable development in country music.

Swindle: It piqued the interest of people who may have naturally gravitated toward hip-hop or R&B. Now that Beyoncé decided to do a country album, it forced a lot of other platforms to say, "Okay, Beyoncé's doing it, but look at all these other artists," so it just shined a brighter light — and that, I appreciate.

Roberts: My numbers have grown exponentially over social media and DSPs. A lot of fans that don't typically listen to country music are now listening to my album and experiencing my art. (Editor's Note: Roberts was featured on COWBOY CARTER track "BLACKBIIRD" with Brittney Spencer, Tanner Adell, and Tiera Kennedy; she also offered background vocals for "TYRANT.") 

My goal has always been to reach people within and outside of the genre, and that's what's happening now. Many people didn't entirely see my vision before, but now I feel like people can see it clearly.

Parker: I feel so confident creating across genres and blending sounds because of artists like Beyoncé. She's shown us that you become the mainstream by creating art that resonates. COWBOY CARTER lets people imagine new possibilities in collaboration and expression. I love that she made this record so intentionally, and it's been a gift to witness people all over the world fall in love with a genre so many of us were raised on.

Williams: There are many folks that might not have felt like country music was a genre that they enjoyed, or even felt safe engaging with, so they might not turn on a country music radio station or go to a country music festival. And the country music industry gatekeepers that control those means of music discovery haven't historically played artists of color.

What's incredible about the Beyoncé effect is that people are going around those middlemen. Fans are discovering new Black country artists directly on social media.

In putting out COWBOY CARTER, Beyoncé has put a spotlight on Black country. I have personally seen an increase in my numbers on streaming, social, and press hits. Black country artists have been out here for a while hustling and trying to be heard, but as a driver of culture, Beyoncé helped elevate the movement to an international stage. 

Where do you think diversity within country music stands these days?

Roberts: I feel like it's changing by artists like myself, and others who are acknowledging the history of country music and the true legends behind the genre that most people don't know about. Of course, I'm speaking about Linda Martell, Leslie Riddle, Tee Tot Payne and so many others who created what we consider to be classic country, and who taught Hank Williams, Jr., Johnny Cash and so many other phenomenal artists that we uphold today.

Parker: I've experienced firsthand some of the progress that's been made, and it's truly special.  I think fans are connecting to our authenticity, and it's exciting to see more people from different walks of life at the shows and supporting us online.

Country music has such a powerful opportunity to make our space even more supportive of art and the people that create it. We're seeing all kinds of artists fall in love with country music, and I'm excited to see more collaborations. 

BRELAND: Diversity within country music is at a very pivotal inflection point. We're seeing more Black artists on the Billboard charts, and women like Lainey Wilson finding unparalleled success. There are finally more conversations about diversity that are happening within the genre.

However, many of these Black artists are not getting played at country radio, are not able to secure significant opening tour slots, and are not being given the same opportunities to sign record deals and release music at a higher level. All of those things need to continue to change for us to see sustainable careers of these diverse acts.

Swindle: I feel like the diversity has definitely changed. It's taken leaps and bounds, but in my heart, I just can't wait until we get to the point where people won't have to say, "She's a great Black country artist." No, she's just a great country artist. That's the goal. Because at the end of the day, it's about the music regardless of who's singing it.

Wiliams: It's getting better, but we have a long way to go before country music is [fully] welcoming and safe for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. A big part of that is not only diversifying the artists that are on stage, but also the people behind the scenes: industry folks, producers, engineers, musicians, photographers.

Read More: How Queer Country Artists Are Creating Space For Inclusive Stories In The Genre 

In what ways can the industry do a better job at championing Black country artists? 

Williams: Right now, the industry does a great job of championing Black country artists around Black History Month and Black Music Appreciation Month. But I would love to see more love from the industry throughout the year.

Folks can make sure when they are organizing festivals or radio hours that they include Black artists, and also make sure when including those artists, they don't just give them the worst spot and call it a day. When putting together tours and support slots, booking agents can consider Black artists to add to the lineup and help introduce them to fans that might not discover them otherwise.

Roberts: The industry can have us perform at award shows that's within country music — and outside of country music, like the GRAMMYs — while putting the same amount of resources, attention, promotion, and money into us as other artists in the genre, as well as playing our music on country radio and radio stations outside of country. Black artists who have impacted the country legends also deserve formal recognition by organizations like the Country Music Hall of Fame.

BRELAND: The industry has to understand that positioning Black artists in this genre isn't going to work the same ways it would for a white artist. Our stories and our struggles are unique, and trying to erase our race from that narrative doesn't benefit anyone.

On the flip side, none of the Black artists I know in this space want their Blackness to be the only aspect of their story that gets told, either. And unfortunately, since 2020, it seems like most of the opportunities that come up for Black artists in country are addressing exactly that. So, the industry has to better understand the nuances of our existence in this space and work with us to find the best ways to support. 

The music industry is going to have to be more willing to play Black artists on country radio, book more Black artists on festivals and opening tour slots, and support Black artists editorially and on playlists. We need all of the same opportunities as our white peers, and additional support to push back against the systemic obstacles that have been put in our way.

B. Campbell: Placing more resources behind Black country artists is needed. Also, expanding the idea of what country music looks like can help continue to open doors. When you expand that narrow idea of what country music is to what reflects reality, then more of the world will be ready for us and our music.

Hart: There are artists that labels lose money on every day of the week. I think the way to change is to take a chance on a Black artist. The money's got to be lost anyway.  

Now that we see there's Black people that exist in this space, let's throw some money behind it and see what happens. That takes a conscious, bold, and brave effort, but it also requires a little digging and getting educated about who's out there. When they're playing their shows, are people showing up? Are they selling out theaters?

I think consumers forget that the people have the power. We saw that when someone called a country radio station and requested Beyoncé's "TEXAS HOLD 'EM." Everybody flooded that particular station until they finally were like, "Fine, we will play the song." There's a charge to the fans and the consumer to be more proactive in helping to promote Black artists.

What do you make of how Black artists have been standing out within the country community as of late?

Parker: It was exciting to see so many Black women enter the country space a few years ago — it was a big part of why I moved to Nashville to start my career. I've noticed the more brave you are, the more likely you are to create real, lasting change. Our industry is changing, and there are so many of us who want to serve music fans in new, creative ways.

D. Campbell: It's been such a blessing to have so many new fans searching for our music, coming out to shows while we're on the road, and asking to hear more of us. We can't wait to see how this carries us moving forward.

BRELAND: The Black artists in country music right now are incredibly talented and all have great stories and approaches to their craft. And I've done everything in my power to elevate them, whether it's bringing them on tour or out with me at my annual BRELAND & Friends benefit, collaborating on songs with them, or just keeping an open dialogue going with them. We have a great community of Black artists that all have the potential to be very successful, and I love to see it.

Williams: It's incredible that Black country artists have been standing out in the country music community — and long overdue! To see Shaboozey killing it with a No. 1 song and a packed CMA Fest stage, it gives me hope. Any win for a Black country artist is a win for the whole culture.

What contemporary artists have you seen break barriers? And who are some newcomers that are doing the same?

D. Campbell: We humbly name ourselves; showing up as our entire selves is daring in a genre that for decades proved it didn't believe we belonged, but we do it anyway. When you see the barriers being broken, it makes it easier to get up and do what you were born to do each and every day because you know it's possible. Also, Brittney Spencer's vulnerability and versatility have been breaking barriers for a while now. 

Williams: Mickey Guyton has been in Nashville for years, putting out incredible music, playing the game, and fighting for her voice to be heard. But in 2020, she put out "Black Like Me," a song that was unapologetically her and has inspired a new wave of artists to be our authentic selves despite what have been told is "commercial" or "acceptable" in country music.

BRELAND: Mickey revolutionized this space by talking about her experiences at a time where she was one of the only ones doing it. Her GRAMMY nomination [for Best Country Solo Performance for "Black Like Me "in 2021] inspired so many artists, including myself, to believe success was possible here. 

I also think about artists like Nelly, who for the last 20-plus years has blurred the lines of where country music fits into the larger conversation of Black culture. I've been inspired by how seamlessly he weaves between the hip-hop and country worlds.

Artists like Brittney Spencer, Shaboozey and Tanner Adell have all been bringing a new energy into the genre and all of their debut projects are very strong. Seeing Shaboozey's chart topping success with his single, Tanner's movement as an independent artist, and Brittney finally getting her flowers after over a decade in Nashville — all of those artists motivate me to keep going. 

Williams: Brittney Spencer is such an incredible songwriter and an even better artist and performer — I was lucky to write my song "Big Blue House" with her. I appreciate how she uplifts those around her. She is such a force! 

Rissi Palmer started Color Me Country Radio on Apple Music to highlight artists of color in country music and educate folks on the history of country music. She also awards Color Me Country grants to help smaller, independent artists fund their projects.

Denitia Odigie is another artist you cannot miss. Her voice is otherworldly and her blend of classic country sounds with modern twists is so fresh and unlike anything I'm hearing out of Nashville.

Swindle: Darius [Rucker], who first dominated the world with Hootie & The Blowfish, then he said, "I'm going back to my South Carolina roots, and I'm going to sing what I want sing from my heart," even though he didn't look like what most people were expecting country music to be.

That authenticity shines through every time. It's undeniable, and that's with anything. I've seen some artists try something because they think it's trendy, but the minute they just start being themselves, that's when it sticks. 

Where do you think country music is headed in 2024 and beyond?

Roberts: I believe it's going to be a blending of genres. I call my music Country Plus, which is country, hip-hop, rock, and pop. My vision is to create music that is innovative, and to do collaborations that bridge the gap between other genres and country music. I want to work with artists that have inspired me outside country music, including Megan Thee Stallion, Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, Ariana Grande, and Rival Sons.

B. Campbell: With the idea of country music expanding, there are more voices that are going to be heard and more stories that are going to be told. So many more people are seeing themselves in our music and this genre.

BRELAND: Country music is just getting started. It's the final frontier for really well-written songs, which the listening public is desperate for more of, and I think it's going to continue getting more diverse in the process.

Devyn Hart of Chapel Hart: Country music is about to do some things, and I don't know if everybody's ready for it, but it's happening already. There are so many subgenres — country-pop, country-soul, country-hip-hop, country-rock. It's like a melting pot.

Parker: Country music will always remain because of its power to tell stories. My hope is that, in the future, we will see more art that tells our stories more authentically, creatively, and uninterrupted by anything that doesn't push us toward the future. 

PRIDE & Black Music Month: Celebrating LGBTQIA+ & Black Voices

Tanner Adell Press Photo 2024
Tanner Adell

Photo: Chase Foster

interview

Tanner Adell's Big Year: The Country Newcomer Talks Stagecoach, "BLACKBIIRD," & Meeting Her Childhood Idols

As Tanner Adell continues making waves in country music, she shares some of the most monumental moments from her career so far — from featuring on Beyoncé's critically acclaimed 'COWBOY CARTER' to making space for Black women at the CMT Music Awards.

GRAMMYs/Jun 6, 2024 - 02:48 pm

With one bold tweet, Tanner Adell's life changed.

"As one of the only Black girls in the country music scene, I hope Bey decides to sprinkle me with a dash of her magic for a collab," she wrote, minutes after Beyoncé premiered "TEXAS HOLD 'EM" and "16 CARRIAGES" during this year's Super Bowl in February.

At first, Adell was mocked for her pitch. "You're trying too hard, love," one user said. Another chimed in, "Baby, that album is finished with all the songs cleared. I don't know about this one. Maybe, open for the tour," another user remarked.

But she wasn't bothered by the chatter: "Those people said I look desperate, I'm like, 'You must not know me, b—!" Adell reveals to GRAMMY.com with a hearty laugh. 

Confidence is the inner core of the Tanner Adell ethos. And her boldness paid off because shortly after when Beyoncé approached her to feature on COWBOY CARTER.

In Adell's first music release of 2024, she appeared alongside Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts in Beyoncé's cover of "BLACKBIIRD" by The Beatles. It was a full-circle moment for Adell in more ways than one, as her father used to sing the song to her as a child. Little did she know, decades later, she would popularize the track's backstory — the plight of Black women in the American South — alongside one of her heroes.

But before Adell became one of Beyoncé's songbirds, she was also the Buckle Bunny. On the 11-track mixtape, Adell traced the provocative tales of an acrylic nail-wearing, lasso-wielding heartbreaker. But for every Black girl that listens, it's more than a country project. It's also a reminder that it's okay to be feminine and girly, just like Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift.

Among her rodeo of exciting firsts, Adell tacks another on June 8, when she makes her debut at Nashville's Nissan Stadium during CMA Fest. She'll perform on the Platform Stage at the stadium; the next day, she'll play a set at the Good Molecules Reverb Stage outside of Bridgestone Arena.

Below, hear from Adell about her most memorable firsts thus far, from having her debut daytime television performance on "The Jennifer Hudson Show" to bonding with Gayle King behind the scenes at Stagecoach Music Festival.

Seeing Her Breakthrough Single, "Buckle Bunny," Have A Second Life

I released "Buckle Bunny" on the Buckle Bunny EP in July 2023. I actually teased it on social media first. Almost nine months before that, I had gone super viral with it. It was doing incredibly well, so my plans were to release it in January or February of last year. But, I ended up signing a record deal in December of 2022. There were plans for it at that time, but the timeline kept getting pushed back. It turned into a fight to get that song back into my hands, which was what prompted me to go independent. Eventually, I was able to work with my label, shake hands, and mutually part ways.

I started this year as an independent artist with this song that everybody loves. It's become a huge part of my brand, but it's really my life story. People might think it's a dumb song that was easy to write, but I was called a "buckle bunny." As a teenager growing up between Los Angeles and Star Valley, Wyoming, I was into glam country, and "Buckle Bunny" is the pinnacle of that. 

"Buckle Bunny" was my first single that charted. I felt like I finally had broken through that invisible box that Nashville put me in as a country musician. It was me saying, I'm not going to follow any rules. I'm going to be as true to myself as possible.

We, as Black women, have been fighting our whole lives. We've been fighting for space. I'm purposely trying to bring softness into the picture, allowing women who listen to my music to know that it's okay to feel that way. We don't always have to have our walls up.

"Buckle Bunny" is aggressively confident, but I think that's the door to softness. You have to be self-assured to let your walls down. My newest single, "Whiskey Blues," is my next step into that. I have another song on my social media, "Snakeskin," that people want me to release. "Buckle Bunny" is like the girl who protects those softer moments.

In a way, I look at all of this as a relationship between Tanner Adell, the artist, and Tanner, the person. For me, Tanner Adell is the buckle bunny. Then, you have Tanner, who's on the inside, writing all of these songs.

Serving A Bold Fashion Statement On Her First Major Red Carpet

I wore Bantu knots! I've always loved Bantu knots in all styles, the really small ones and the larger ones. There were ideas about whether I should do a certain number of them that was significant to me in some way.

I work very closely with Bill Wackermann, who was the CEO of Wilhemina Models. He does a lot of styling and has a close relationship with my manager. So, my manager was like, "You would love him!" At the time, I was trying to hone in on what myself is. What's the message I'm trying to convey through my fashion, hair, and beauty? 

Bill sat down with me, and I told him I wanted Natalia Fedner to do my dress, which is that stretchy chain metal dress. Originally, I thought I would do my long blonde hair, but Bill was the one who told me, "This is your first major red carpet as an invited artist. Think about what you want your hair to say." As a Black woman, our hair tells 1,000 stories with whatever it is, and the lightbulb went off in my head.

I knew I wanted my hair to say everything I needed to say without having to say anything at all. I also knew there would be a lot of people who didn't know the significance behind it or just thought it was some extreme hairstyle.

I've looked very deeply into my heritage. It turns out I have a bit of Bantu heritage in my DNA. I thought that was so cool because I do love the knots so much.

The CMT Awards were a big thing at my school, Utah Valley University. Everyone would get together in the dorms and watch the show. It's crazy that a couple years ago, I was watching it, and I'm here now. I feel very respected and loved. People I've looked up to would come up to me, and I was like, "I'm a huge fan." And they're like, "No! I listened to you."

I got to meet Gayle King, who I absolutely love. I remember watching her from afar while she was doing "CBS Mornings." She saw me from across the room, and I kid you not, in the middle of her interview, she started walking towards me. She was like, "I just want to tell you that you're so beautiful. The Bantu knots are stunning." That was my favorite moment of the night.

I also had the chance to see Tiera Kennedy. She's so sweet. We got matching blackbird tattoos before that. Being on the red carpet for the first time, it was comforting to see a familiar face. It really reinforces that idea that I belong here.

Being A Part Of COWBOY CARTER

So, I'm adopted. I have four siblings. We're all biracial, but our adoptive parents are both white. Obviously, my dad is a white man with five Black children. My parents always wanted me to understand that I am a Black woman, and he was very educational when it came to music. He taught me about the Black female power players and the buzz in the industry. But The Beatles were his favorite. So, when I finally told them the news, my dad immediately got choked up. He told me that "Blackbird" was one of his favorite Beatles songs.

My dad isn't the best with words when it comes to expressing his emotions, especially in front of people. He's a quiet, reserved dude. So, he eventually texts me, sending me screenshots about the meaning behind "Blackbird." The reason why it was his favorite song was because he had Black girls, and he told me, "This is special. This is not a burden to carry, but it might be a bit of weight on your shoulders. Keep your head up high and walk knowing that this is why he wrote this song."

I can remember going to a recital as a kid and being so nervous, but my dad was so confident and excited about my abilities. Was that strategic? Was it quiet strength? Maybe. It feels like this song has been a part of my whole life. So, to be on it, on such a massive album, feels very divine.

The whole process was a surprise. It took a few weeks to set in. But I always knew I would work with [Beyoncé], and I always said it's a matter of "when," not if. 

On the day of the Super Bowl, I saw that black-and-white picture of her, and I thought it looked a lot like a photoshoot that I took the week before. Let me make a tweet, just to put it out there. I don't know — she's magical! She has her way of knowing everything that's going on all the time. 

I think that tweet has almost 10 million views. It was fun to go back to that tweet to see the people who were supporting me. And also getting to say "I told you" to the people who didn't. It kicked off a Renaissance — pun intended.

Performing At Her First Stagecoach Music Festival

I have bad social anxiety, and I get nervous in front of crowds and people. So, festivals were never something that interested me, but Stagecoach was always one I felt like I could go to. And I was not disappointed.

I had the first slot of the day, which is a s—ty slot for anyone, but you have to pay your dues in country music. It's how you build your cred with these festivals, to show you're a hard worker and will perform like you're at a sold-out show in Madison Square Garden. And I did.

Mentally, I prepared for no one. I told myself it was okay if nobody came, and I'll perform like I always do. I'll figure out where the camera is and perform it for the jumbotron, so if no one comes to the pit, the people watching the livestream will have a great show. 

Well, I didn't have an empty pit! People showed the f— up and out. I heard people in line thought they were going to miss it because the gates opened late. Within the first 10 minutes, the VIP pit was half-filled with people screaming and running in their sweet little cowboy boots and hats. That never happens at Stagecoach or Coachella, but it's a testament to the relationship I built within my listeners. It was eye-opening for me. I don't think I'm ever going to play to a dead crowd again.

Before, Levi's reached out and said I was the first artist they wanted to collaborate with for Stagecoach. So, they custom-made my outfit. I told them I have these ribbons, inspired by my mom, who was a rodeo queen. I also told them if they can't incorporate them, I probably won't do it. But they loved it! And it was special because it came back to my mom. She was a winner, so when I wear the ribbons, I'm also a winner.

My mom has competed in over 1,000 competitions and probably places in half of those. In Wyoming, we had a big wall, covered in those IQHA (International Quarter Horse Association) ribbons. She gave me a strong sense of competition.

Making Her Debut On Daytime TV

I have overcome very serious, debilitating stage fright. I don't get nervous anymore, and performing live is my favorite thing. But I was not prepared for what a television show taping looks like.

We had a soundcheck, and there were a bunch of suits in groups of threes and fours standing everywhere. There were all these cameras and lights. Then, I start realizing I'm about to meet J. Hud, who I made little custom Crocs for. It was a dream come true.

I know a lot about her story. We have very different upbringings, but we're similar in the sense of trying to stand on ground that isn't steady. I see her as someone who is a great example. She's reached so many different avenues. For me to be able to sit down with an EGOT winner is a great honor. 

I kind of like to keep my manifestations as quiet as possible. I don't tell anybody anything, but an EGOT is something I wouldn't mind having, you know?

I look at her as a woman who exceeded greatness. So, it was just amazing — and for my first television debut. I felt like this is right for me.

Why 2024 Is The Year Women In Country Music Will Finally Have Their Moment

Michael Sticka, President/CEO of the GRAMMY Museum, Lauryn Hill, and Jimmy Jam
(L-R): Michael Sticka, President/CEO of the GRAMMY Museum, Lauryn Hill, and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Sarah Morris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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6 Key Highlights From The Inaugural GRAMMY Hall of Fame Gala Honoring Lauryn Hill, Donna Summer, Atlantic Records & Many More

The Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum celebrated music's legacy with tributes to Charley Pride, Wanda Jackson, Buena Vista Social Club, and more, featuring performances by Andra Day, The War and Treaty, and other musical greats.

GRAMMYs/May 23, 2024 - 12:34 am

Many years ago, veteran CBS journalist Anthony Mason lost his entire record collection when it disappeared in transit as he moved from one place to another. Mason was inconsolable, and you could still hear a tinge of sadness in his voice when he recounted this painful story at the inaugural GRAMMY Hall of Fame Gala, held on May 21 at the Novo Theater in Los Angeles. The evening’s eloquent and entertaining host, Mason was making a point with his personal anecdote of lost records: music is priceless, one of our most treasured possessions — both as individuals and as a community. Preserving its legacy is essential.

It’s been over 50 years since the GRAMMY Hall of Fame was established by the Recording Academy's National Trustees to honor records of deep historical significance that are at least 25 years old. This year, the Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Museum paid tribute to 10 newly inducted recordings (four albums and six singles) by artists including De La Soul, Lauryn Hill, Buena Vista Social Club, Donna Summer, Guns 'N Roses, Charley Pride, Kid Ory’s Creole Orchestra, the Doobie Brothers, William Bell, Wanda Jackson, and Atlantic Records, the annual Gala's inaugural label honoree. 

The first Hall of Fame Gala was a dazzling event presented by City National Bank, complete with guest speakers and performances by Andra Day, The War and Treaty, William Bell, Elle King, and HANSON covering some of the inducted works. The event underscored the sumptuous variety that continues to define popular music, spanning the sounds of hip-hop, rock, country, R&B, disco, and even the venerable Cuban dance music of decades past.

Here are six takeaway points from an evening marked by celebration and transcendent musical memories.

Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” Has Lost None Of Its Edge

Studious music fans are well aware that “I Feel Love” — written by Donna Summer with visionary Italian producer Giorgio Moroder and British songwriter Pete Bellotte — is a shimmering disco gem, a futuristic precursor to the entire EDM genre. What was stunning about the Gala performance of the track by singer and actress Andra Day is how edgy and fresh the 1977 track still sounds today. Day’s ethereal reading was appropriately hypnotic, with live drums, nebulous synth textures and glorious, three-part vocal harmonies.

The Future Of American Music Is In Good Hands With The War and Treaty

Formed by husband and wife Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter, The War and Treaty were rightfully nominated for Best New Artist at the 2024 GRAMMYs earlier this year. The duo’s electrifying combination of Americana, gospel, and rock is especially effective on a live stage, and the pair delivered a memorable rendition of Charley Pride's inducted Hall Of Fame country hit, “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” recorded in 1971. The War and Treaty also received a standing ovation later in the evening for their performance of Ray Charles' classic, "What'd I Say," released in 1959.

26 Years Later, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Is Still Ahead Of Its Time

Released in August 1998, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill sold more than 10 million copies in the U.S. alone, and became the first hip-hop artist to win Album Of The Year at the 1999 GRAMMYs. At the Gala, Andra Day delighted the audience — including Lauryn Hill and her family — with a soulful version of hidden track “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” originally a Frankie Valli hit from 1967. Day's performance was marked by brassy accents and funky bass lines, creating an unapologetically lush rendition that mirrored the sonic richness of Hill's original take.

Read more: Revisiting 'The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill': Why The Multiple GRAMMY-Winning Record Is Still Everything 25 Years Later

Atlantic Records Transformed The Face Of Global Culture

Celebrating 75 years of inaugural label honoree Atlantic Records in the span of a few minutes loomed like an impossible task, but the Gala producers paid tribute to the legacy label well. Beginning with a short video, the event segment highlighted the miraculous roster assembled by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson that included Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, ABBA, Phil Collins, and Bruno Mars — to name just a few. But it was the actual performances that highlighted the label’s hold on pop culture: Ravyn Lenae’s breathy take on Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song” made a case for considering the 1973 hit as one of the most vulnerable recordings of all time. On the other side of the dynamic spectrum, the epic rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” by alt-rock quartet Shinedown was appropriately intense.

The Wondrous Legacy Of Stax Records Should Not Be Underestimated

The home of such legendary artists as Otis Redding, The Staple Singers and Carla Thomas, Memphis-based Stax Records developed a rich, ragged sound with gospel, blues, R&B and luminous pop as its foundational pillars. Currently the subject of an HBO documentary series, "Stax: Soulsville USA," the record label defined American music during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Memphis singer/songwriter William Bell was one of its most prolific artists, and he regaled guests with a performance of his Hall of Fame inducted debut 1961 single, “You Don’t Miss Your Water.” At 84 years of age — and the winner of a Best Americana Album at the 2017 GRAMMYs — Bell was in rare form, and the band backed him up seamlessly, reproducing the sinuous organ lines of the original.

Read more: 1968: A Year Of Change For The World, Memphis & Stax Records

Future Editions Of The Gala Will Continue To Surprise And Delight

The inaugural GRAMMY Hall of Fame Gala set a high standard for future celebrations of iconic recordings. The event proved to be fertile ground for the creation of indelible music moments, showcasing the beauty and authority of music across genres and generations. Other honored Hall of Fame inducted recordings including De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising, Guns’N’Roses Appetite For Destruction, the Buena Vista Social Club’s debut, Wanda Jackson’s “Let’s Have A Party,” Kid Ory’s Creole Orchestra’s “Ory’s Creole Trombone” and The Doobie Brothers’ “What A Fool Believes.”  

As we look ahead, the excitement for future Galas grows, with each event promising to honor more historic recordings, and uphold the tradition of celebrating excellence in music's rich legacy.

Explore The 2024 GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Inducted Recordings: Lauryn Hill, Guns N' Roses, De La Soul, Donna Summer & Many More

Explore The 2024 GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Inductees

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