Nashville’s musicians are distancing themselves from those with different political viewpoints, while artists have habitually engaged in cultural disputes, both online and onstage.
“It really is weird right now,” one anonymous country music manager told Rolling Stone. “Country music has always been this kind of neighborhood where everyone gets along. We had everyone’s back. But it doesn’t feel that way anymore. The heels are dug in more than ever. It’s pretty heavy.”
The manager said backstage distance between artists and online public feuds has slowly pulled the industry apart. The standoffish interactions, the manager claimed, are unquestionably the result of opposing ideologies and societal beliefs that have embroiled the U.S.
“I’ve always enjoyed seeing people in the hallways backstage,” he said. “But it’s not like that. You tend to avoid people because everyone talks politics backstage. Everyone used to leave their dressing room doors open. The doors are shut now.”
Romeo Entertainment Group President R.J. Romeo agreed that the industry is “not immune” from the concerns of the larger country.
“There’s more divisiveness in the country now than ever before. That’s going to show up in opinions on music and everything,” he said.
Most notable entertainers go through extensive media and public relations training. Often, their responses are controlled and measured, but the temptations of social media and heated discourse have led artists to show more of their true selves, or “less polished” selves, as Romero described it.
Several controversies have embroiled the country music scene over the last year, sometimes pitting entertainers against one another.
Last August, Jason Aldean’s wife, Brittany Aldean, posted on social media, “I’d really like to thank my parents for not changing my gender when I went through my tomboy phase.”
Singer Cassadee Pope and Maren Morris slammed Brittany for the comments and claimed it was “transphobic.”
After Aldean released the song “Try That in a Small Town,” he was met with backlash from other artists as well as some members of the media industry.
“Dare Aldean to write his next single himself. That’s what we try in my small town,” songwriter Jason Isbell tweeted.
Romero admitted that he and his team recently expressed hesitation when they considered booking a liberal country singer in a sector of California that leans conservative. While these ruminations rarely occurred in years prior, Romero said it “factors into the conversation now.”
The unnamed manager similarly expressed that the culture wars impact decisions related to booking artists “more than ever.”
“Are we going to get along with these people? And what are they going to put on their socials that might affect the tour? What are they going to put on Twitter where all of a sudden you’re on CNN having to defend them or not? You have to be careful who you associate with now,” he said.
The iciness between country music fans and artists has permeated to festivals, including the famous multi-day concert Gulf Coast Jam, which takes place in Panama City Beach, Florida.
The festival’s producer, Rendy Lovelady, said the concert 10 or 15 years ago used to be filled with people of all demographics sitting in circles and joining together to pull out their instruments and sing old country songs. Today, that “comradery has definitely lessened.”
“They tend to stay in their own community,” Lovelady said.
The producer also claimed artists avoid mentioning fellow entertainers in the lineup they wish to avoid.
“Nobody said, ‘I don’t want to be around them because I don’t agree with what they’re saying.’ But they kind of just do it,” he said.
Despite the contention, Lovelady said he does not believe the culture wars and politics have interfered with his business. In his opinion, selling tickets is paramount. He does not care if they hate each other. Everyone has a place on stage if they can keep their problems to themselves.
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