With so many options for music competition shows on television – “The Voice,” “American Idol” and “American’s Got Talent” among them — it’s high time the Country genre got its share of the spotlight. Enter: USA Network’s “Real Country,” a national showcase for promising artists hand-selected by panelists Shania Twain, Travis Tritt and Jake Owen, premiering Nov. 13.
It’s not the first time USA has developed a show for the country music-loving audience, and the network’s previous attempt, “Nashville Star,” had itself a successful six-season run and helped launch Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves and Chris Young. So what’s different this time around?
The talent on “Real Country” ranges from group performers to established songwriters who come into the show with years of experience, whether penning hits for some of the genre’s most prominent names or touring as working musicians. Each episode features three acts selected by the panelists, with fans in the live audience voting throughout the episode who they want to advance. The contestant that wins in the individual episode advances on to the grand finale. The show is meant to serve as a method of support for burgeoning artists, who aren’t tied to any contracts or obligations to the network when they leave the series.
“It really gives them an opportunity to not only showcase their talent in a big way on a nationally televised show, but also reap all the benefits of whatever they’re able to walk away with as a result of being part of the show,” Tritt says of the format.
Between the three panelists is 30 years of experience in the music industry, with each star offering a unique perspective. Tritt has a passion for artists embracing traditional country, while Owen carries the torch for the genre’s contemporary sound. In her role as executive producer (alongside Leslie Garvin, Nicolle Yaron and Stijn Bakkers), Twain is using her experience as a barrier-breaking artist to be a driving force for fellow artists that go against the system.
“I’m extremely passionate about bringing back more diversity to the genre,” Twain says. “It’s a personal mission for me. I know from my own experience, I’ve been an outsider in country music. The door is open to keep attracting artists that might otherwise be discouraged by the country genre because they don’t feel like they fit in. They’re not a product of our hosting or our direction, we wanted to see who the artist is raw and what they become on their own.”
The decision to film the show in Nashville was “vital” to its identity, says EP Garvin (the show was produced by Wilshire Studios). USA Network’s Senior Vice President of Alternative Series Development and Production Heather Olander points to the creation of a set that offers an authentic experience — a downtown bar on Broadway, with local Nashville vendors making up roughly seventy percent of the crew.
Adds Twain: “I would consider Nashville the Hollywood of country music. I hear a lot of fans say, ‘I don’t listen to country music anymore,’ and I’m saying you will when you see this show. They will understand through this show that Nashville has a tradition of developing talent from all over the place in many styles.”
Owen concurs, noting how “country music was built upon artists telling their stories through music; You’re able to see that on this show. This is a huge platform [for country music.] I think it’ll really paint a broad picture of what Nashville is.”