Country music has never been more diverse and inclusive. Need proof? Look no further than Jimmie Allen, Mickey Guyton, and Orville Peck, the scouts on the new Apple TV+ competition series My Kind of Country.
They’ll each invite four artists from around the world to Nashville and the legendary Dark Horse Studios. After watching the contestants’ performances, the trio will ultimately decide who goes on to the workshops and then the finale for a shot at $100,000 and the backing of Apple Music. The series, which pulls from elements of The Voice and Nashville Star, comes by way of powerhouse executive producers including Reese Witherspoon and Kacey Musgraves.
As for the scouts, their credentials speak for themselves. The Grammy-nominated Allen is an ACM and CMA Award winner currently on tour performing his hits on Carrie Underwood’s “The Denim & Rhinestones Tour.” Guyton has been trailblazing within the genre as 2022 TIME Breakthrough Artist of the Year and the first black artist to earn a Grammy nomination for Best Country Album. Wearing his trademark fringe mask, Orville has been inspired not only by his artistry and songwriting but by living his truth as openly gay. The South African name continues to rise, even catching the attention of collaborators Shania Twain and Lady Gaga.
We caught up with the country change-makers on what makes the show special.
Mickey, with representation being so big, what did it mean to you to be a part of this project? Not to mention having Reese and Kacey at the helm. Some women empowerment there.
Mickey Guyton: Oh man, yes. In my own personal life, I’ve been looking for diverse country artists because I think it’s so important to the genre. To get to be a part of something like this and a part of what we were already doing on a larger scale is really satisfying and cool.
Jimmie, you’ve had experience in singing competitions with American Idol. How does this one compare?
Jimmie Allen: This is something completely different and doesn’t really compare. This one is highlighting country music but also highlighting country music as told through America, India, Mexico, really globally. It spotlights the global impact country music has had on artists. Also, what makes it different is the fact that the artists that made it to this show, we get to hear them sing, get to know their stories, and really get to know them. Rather than getting a number on their chest, go on stage and sing. Here you get a deep dive into what inspired these artists. We got to really work with them and see them really be creative.
You mention the global scale of this show. There are a handful of artists even from South Africa where you’re from, Orville. How was it working with them and helping them along? They were once in your boots.
Orville Peck: I was so proud. I feel like I have a little bit of a bias. I was the only South African country musician that I knew personally. So seeing all these people from my homeland come and bring their sound. Even among them, the South African contestants alone, there is such a diverse sound. It makes me super proud.
Talk a little bit about the process of moving the artists along in the competition. They go through different workshops where the final few perform on stage before an audience. Choosing who went on each round must have been hard.
Mickey: It’s so hard. That aspect of certain contestants moving on and the others that don’t. It’s such a hard process because they are so good. You’re critiquing people and their art, and they are all so different. For me, I looked in the heart and if I believed them. If I can hear their heart, then I’m here for it. Jimmie looks more at the energy from the business side of things. Where he can see them [in the market] right now. Orville looks for the visuals and the story. We all collectively go through this journey. We don’t get as much time with them as we’d like as the time clock is always ticking. But when you’re sitting there and conscious of who these people are, we want to respect that. It’s just a really hard process because they are all so good.
Everyone is so talented, but whoever wins, receives this career-making opportunity.
Jimmie: We don’t know who the winner even is at this point. We film the finale in two weeks. Whoever the winner is will have access to all the exposure from Apple that a lot of artists on labels like myself fight to get because there are so many artists. They get this exclusive platform. The good thing is every artist on this show has great songs. So whichever one wins, they can choose one of their greatest songs and new songs and put it out there. They have a bright future.
Mickey: We look at who shows the most growth. Having all that access. Who can grow within the process [will win].
My Kind of Country premiere, March 24, Apple TV+