The Story Behind Apple TV+’s Country Music Reality Show ‘My Kind Of Country’
For years, the country music industry has been dominated by the same type of artists: male, cisgender, white, and straight. But a new Apple TV+ show is seeking to shake up the industry and bring much-needed diversity to the forefront. My Kind of Country debuts on March 24, and it features three trailblazing artists—Mickey Guyton, Jimmie Allen, and Orville Peck—searching for the next great country music star, one who will continue to change the business for the better.
The show introduces 12 musical acts, and they quickly jump into challenges, including performing country covers of hit songs, collaborating with one another, and showing who they are visually—all the things they’ll need to do in their careers. All this effort is in the pursuit of winning global support from Apple Music, which could change the life of one future star. That prize is potentially more meaningful than a record deal that will result in one single that’s not promoted and then being dropped, as is the case with so many other shows like this.
The concept for My Kind of Country was sold to Apple before March 2020, but it took longer than expected to make. Covid slowed down the production of the show for a number of reasons, including the fact that producers wanted an audience for the musicians to perform for, instead of an empty room.
According to the producers, the idea for My Kind of Country stemmed from a conversation Reese Witherspoon and Kacey Musgraves had back in 2018. They discussed the lack of diversity in the genre, and after talking, Witherspoon continued to think about it for some time. Eventually, the Oscar-winning actress decided to use her Hello Sunshine production company to do something about it. Now, both Musgraves and Witherspoon are set to appear in the yet-to-be-unveiled finale as judges.
None of the contestants in My Kind of Country fit the traditional country music mold. They’re from all around the world, with Mexico, India, South Africa, and, of course, the US represented. They’re different races, they speak different languages, and in one special moment, two of the scouts explain to Allen what nonbinary means before one contestant takes to the stage. The conversation is quick, and a perfect demonstration of how these educational chats can go into the real world and remain respectful.
For casting, the producers purposely didn’t hold regular auditions, as so many other music shows do. Instead, they used word of mouth and the internet to find talent all over that they felt was deserving. From there, they presented a group to the scouts, who all picked their four favorites.
It’s important to note that these artists didn’t apply for anything; they were selected. “If you don’t want to have the same lot that you have on every other music show,” executive producer Izzie Pick Ibarra stated during a recent call, “you need to go down a different road of trying to find people.”
“The majority of them needed to be talked into doing it because they weren’t that kind of crowd,” said Ibarra about convincing contestants to participate. She acknowledged that the decision to join the show was difficult for some, as they risked their careers by participating in a music show when they were already making their living from their art. If they didn’t do well or didn’t come off right, it could have disastrous effects for their careers.
My Kind of Country’s the aim is to diversify country music by proving that anyone from anywhere can make this kind of music…and do it in their own way. This is of particular importance to all the scouts, who have been fighting this fight for some time. When asked why they signed on to do the program, scout Mickey Guyton said, “We’re championing adding to country music… We’re already doing it. Why not do it on the show?”
Allen also added, jokingly, “And that check was crazy.”
The judges found it challenging to eliminate contestants because each brought something new to the genre, representing a group that was typically excluded. Scout Peck noted that when deciding who should leave, the judges considered the contestants’ musical ability as well as their background, but the latter could not be the deciding factor. They aim to ensure that the contestants’ identity does not define them entirely, including their skin color, gender identity, or where they came from. Peck mentioned, “We’ve also all been put into a box of what we are defining us.”
When making his choices, scout Allen emphasized talent over appearance, and not “the shell of the talent was wrapped in.”
One of the defining features of My Kind of Country is its tone. Unlike many other reality competition shows, it is respectful and does not include bad auditions for comedic effect. According to executive producer Sara Rea, “Our goal was to support them, not break them down.”
This approach has been successful with other reality programs produced by Hello Sunshine. “People respond positively to the refreshing nature of real support and camaraderie,” Rea noted. She also commented that audiences “like the positive tone, especially in the world we’re living right now.”
The absence of fighting and manufactured drama is another unique aspect of My Kind of Country. According to Rea, there is no need for such tactics, if a reality competition series is done right. “On a show like this, there’s a lot of me against myself, right?,” Rea commented during a phone interview about the show. “You already have that conflict and that tension because they are competing to win and be their best version of themselves every day.”
The eight episodes of My Kind of Country will be rolled out in two batches of three each, followed by a two-part finale that will feature the final four and judges Musgraves and Witherspoon. This plan allows viewers to binge and become invested, but also continue to come back to the Apple TV+ platform.
My Kind of Country brings something new to the music/reality competition space, which seems difficult to do after decades of these shows coming and going. Sure, it is timely and important, but ultimately, what matters most is the fun, and there’s plenty of that to go around.