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Apple TV+ is premiering “My Kind of Country” on Friday and enlists the talents of Jimmie Allen, Orville Peck and Mickey Guyton – all of whom are known for breaking barriers in a genre overrun for decades of White men.
Co-produced by Tennessee native Reese Witherspoon and ace singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves, “My Kind of Country” gives blasé singing competitions a globe-trotting twist by recruiting artists from South Africa, Mexico and India.
Guyton — who, like Allen, is Black – faced her own battles in the industry for a decade, and actually considered quitting music just four years ago, when she was “made to feel disposable” and “everybody was trying to fit me into a box of a white woman with blonde hair. … Even when I released my [breakthrough] song ‘Black Like Me’ and I was sending it to different record executives, it took them, like, days to get back to me.”
Throughout the eight-episode season, a dozen contestants work with the coaches in Nashville. In turn, eliminations take place until the season finale, when the trio crowns a “My Kind of Country” winner.
“The great unifier is music, the love of country music,” says Allen, who in 2019 became the first Black man to reach No. 1 on country radio with a debut single (“Best Shot”).
Country music has a new look and sound
Guyon, Allen and Peck recruit artists like The Congo Cowboys, a South African trio blending Americana with African influence; Dhruv Visvanath, an Indian picker with subtle indie-pop touches; and Ismay, a nonbinary American rooted in bluegrass music.
“The cool thing is watching and hearing some of these artists take the country music they know and infuse it with their culture, bring their own flavor to it,” says Allen.
USA Today reports the contestants work with judges at Dark Horse Recording, a studio where Taylor Swift, Alan Jackson and Reba McEntire have recorded.
“The thing that was really inspiring to me – and I think all of us – was watching these 12 artists travel across the globe and put themselves out there and be vulnerable,” says Peck, a masked, gay country singer raised in South Africa.
Peck stated he was “told with no hint of kindness, many times, straight up in my face, that I would never be successful as an openly gay man in country music — that it would never, ever work, that I could never wear the mask I wear that I wear, that people would think I was a fool. In Nashville, people thought I was nuts when I first started banging on doors. But I don’t know, I just had the determination.
“I knew I had a seat at the table, and I wouldn’t take no for an answer,” says Peck.
Speaking on the opportunity for up-and-coming country musicians, Peck added, “(They) just get thrown into this crazy mix. And us asking them to show us who they are? It’s just so brave.”
For its globe-trekking efforts and innovative outreach, it’s still a competition. As heartbreaking as it may be for those on the show, someone must exit each episode until there is only one remaining.
“We don’t call them contestants, we call them artists – because they are,” says “Black Like Me” hitmaker Guyton. “We did get really, really close to them. It was so hard sending people home.”
“My Kind of Country” is now available on Apple TV+.