In a recent interview with GQ, Alan Jackson chatted in depth about the ins and outs of cowboy hats, his new bar in Nashville and the current state of country music.
As a fan of traditional country music, Jackson has plenty of thoughts and feelings when it comes to today’s pop country which receives top awards and gets airplay. He starts off by saying that readers “probably don’t want me to get on my soapbox about it,” but the slant towards a pop sound isn’t anything new. “It’s been going that way for years now, and I don’t know if it’ll ever come back,” Jackson told GQ.
Since Chris Stapleton is often regarded as the savior of country music with his artistic depth and incredible voice, Jackson says he doesn’t see Stapleton rescuing traditional country since his style has evolved.
“I love Chris, he’s authentic. A real writer. Musician. He opened for me for awhile before he hit so big. I’m a big fan of his. He was a bluegrass singer and has written bluegrass stuff. But what he’s making now really isn’t real country: It’s more like bluesy, Southern rock kinda stuff. I love it, it’s great, but he’s the closest thing to country out there,” Jackson said in the interview.
But Jackson also believes that there’s room for a traditional country singer to break into pop dominated radio play because there’s a strong audience for it.
“I’ve got guys that work for me or young guys that I know in their 20s that listen to the old stuff, older than me, because there’s nothing new to listen to. It’s just sad. I’m not bitter and I don’t expect radio at all to sound like Hank Williams in the ’50s, but there oughta be room for all of it out there. Because there’s fans for it out there,” Jackson concluded.
Jackson’s comments reflect country music’s ongoing identity crisis. There’s clearly a disconnect between traditional country fans and the majority of what’s played on commercial radio. But his comments also beg the question: what is “real country”? Can it ever be truly defined? No matter how you feel about Jackson’s statements, most listeners would agree that country radio is clearly in need of much more variety. As Jackson says, there’s room for more than just one flavor.