The upcoming Apple TV+ competition series “My Kind of Country,” executive-produced by Kacey Musgraves and Reese Witherspoon, is not just going to be a genre-specific knockoff of “American Idol” or “The Voice,” it’s clear from a first trailer released Friday. (Watch the new preview, below.) Fostering inclusiveness of every sort looks to be as high on the agenda as finding unknown talent, as is made apparent not just from the YouTube teaser but the previously known trio of celebrity talent scouts — Jimmie Allen, Mickey Guyton and Orville Peck — plus a just-released rundown of the dozen competing aspirants.
“The people that i love in country music, they don’t look like me,” one contestant, Camille Parker, a Black woman from North Carolina, is seen as saying. “I’m ready to show people what they’ve been missing.”
Actually, viewers of the series may already have an idea of what the genre is missing, thanks to a star trio at the show’s center that represent the rare outliers that have found success in the genre. Allen and Guyton are two of the biggest Black artists in mainstream country, and while Peck exists more on the fringes of the mainstream — he literally wears fringe over his lower face, an outsider look that still hasn’t caught on on the Row — he has made inroads with some middle-of-the-road fans as well as the enthusiastic support he gets from progressive fans as still one of the few prominent gay men claiming the genre as their own.
“My mask allows me to be more vulnerable and share my perspective as a gay country artist,” Peck says in the trailer — even as he may surprise some of his own fans by showing off more of his face than he has in the past.
It’s not just race or sexuality that define diversity on the series. Geography and even language are also viewed as boundaries to be looked past or overcome in country. “I don’t feel like i can express myself in English, so I sing it in Spanish,” says Ale Aguirre, a native of Chihuahua, Mexico, seen in the trailer. In fact, of the 12 contestants, only four are from the U.S. An even larger number, five, are from the apparent country music hotbed of South Africa, and two are from India. But Nashville and California artists are represented in the casting mix as well.
The trailer begins with the EPs having a chat, as Witherspoon says, ‘When we got together a long time ago, we were talking about how country music should stop limiting people and start opening doors.” Musgraves hits the geographical angle: “It’s music brought from all over the world. The bluegrass, the folk, the gospel — there’s so many threads woven through country music.”
As Waylon Jennings once sang, we don’t think “Idol” done it that way.
The winner, to be chosen through means not immediately apparent in the trailer, will be given “global exposure across the Apple TV+ and Apple Music platforms.”
The fellow executive producers joining masthead stars Witherspoon and Musgraves are Hello Sunshine’s Sara Rea and Lauren Neustadter; Sandbox Entertainment’s Jason Owen (who manages Musgraves, and is behind the new Broadway show “Shucked”); showrunner Izzie Pick Ibarra (“The Masked Singer”); and Done + Dusted’s Katy Mullan (“The Voice UK”). The musical director is Emmy winner Adam Blackstone (who’s served as MD for Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys as well as on Super Bowl halftime shows and the Oscars and Grammys”).
Below is the full list of contestant information provided directly by Apple TV+:
Jimmie Allen’s Artists:
Ale Aguirre | Chihuahua, Mexico
“Ale infuses herself into her music and bilingual lyrics with the mariachi, norteño, banda and other sounds she heard growing up in Mexico. At the age of 16 she taught herself how to play the guitar, and is now on the way to establishing herself as an independent singer-songwriter with a loyal following she’s gained from her popular YouTube channel.”
Dhruv Visvanath | New Delhi, India
“Dhruv, a multi-instrumentalist, composer, singer-songwriter and producer, started his musical journey at the age of seven. At age 16 his father passed away which led him to focus more energy on songwriting, allowing him to express what he was going through. He wrote the score to two independent films with Vishal Bhardwaj on ‘Sonchiriya’ and A.R. Rahman on ‘Blinded by the Light.’ With his guitar in hand and his heart on his sleeve, Dhruv is steadily building the love of country music in his home city of New Delhi.”
Camille Parker | Durham, North Carolina
“Raised by her grandparents, Camille credits her passion for music to her grandfather, who introduced her to country music. After growing up in the church choir, Camille jumped into the industry by doing session recordings for pop and R&B, before dedicating herself fully to country music. She dreams of inspiring young Black girls to achieve their dreams anywhere, especially in the country music industry.”
Justin Serrao | Johannesburg, South Africa
“Justin started out playing punk and alternative rock, but the foreign country music he heard on the radio and his father’s musical tastes introduced Justin to the music he plays today. Merging his rock sound with country influences was about following his passion, even if it meant turning South Africans into country music enthusiasts one at a time.”
Mickey Guyton’s Artists:
Ashlie Amber | Nashville, Tennessee
“A longtime singer, Ashlie worked for years before finding her way as a cruise line performer. She began singing at the age of 6, and after the tragic loss of her father when she was young, music became Ashlie’s outlet and pathway back to a better place.”
Chuck Adams | Nashville, Tennessee
“From growing up in mostly white neighborhoods to his different musical styles, Chuck never really fit in. Chuck initially found success as a writer in rap music and got signed to a label, but after he got dropped in 2011, he took it as a sign to follow his true path in the genre he loved – classic country. A perfectionist that gets hung up on every detail, Chuck is here to learn to let go.”
The Betsies – Zel and Landi Degenaar | Cape Town, South Africa
“Afrikaans sisters Zel and Landi grew up in a tiny mining town called Witbank, listening to their parents’ record collections and singing in their church choir. As they grew up they would jam together and after moving to Cape Town they started performing together. At times they felt like outsiders for being passionate about country music in South Africa, but they are passionate about embodying American culture and the music they love.”
Wandile | Johannesburg, South Africa
“Raised in a family of music lovers in East London, South Africa, Wandile was more of an athlete than musician, and was a professional rugby player before his musical journey began when he picked up a guitar in 2010. Wandile is a fan of analog storytelling, where he uses his musical viewpoint to reframe harsh memories into better ones.”
Orville Peck’s Artists:
Alisha Pais | Goa, India
“Alisha is a singer-songwriter born and raised in Mumbai/Bombay but returned to Goa, India, during the pandemic in search of solace. She has been singing her entire life, and started performing at the age of 16. Alisha writes and performs songs with an unflinching rawness and hopes her music will bring joy to people’s lives and help them connect to their most authentic selves.”
The Congo Cowboys – Julie Sigauque, Simon Attwell, and Chris Bakalanga | Cape Town, South Africa
“The Congo Cowboys are a South African group that blend country music with the music of Africa, bringing the banjo full circle and returning the instrument to its African roots. They perform in English and Lingala, the official language of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They simply hope their music brings people to the dance floor and gets them moving as their diverse sounds and cultures intermingle.”
Ismay Hellman | Petaluma, California
“Ismay is a non-binary singer-songwriter. When they’re not jamming to country and bluegrass with family and friends in the barn, Ismay tends to the family ranch in Petaluma. Musically, they struggled with fitting into typical country music, but the sound and vibes of nature are infused into their unique voice, bringing a fresh perspective to classic bluegrass tones.”
Micaela Kleinsmith | Cape Town, South Africa
“Micaela grew up watching singing competition shows and dreaming of being on stage. Bullied heavily as a child, music became Micaela’s escape and eventually became a way to make friends. She started writing songs at the age of fourteen and continued to rise as an artist, eventually landing a spot on South Africa’s Idols in 2016.”
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