Amazon Music’s ‘For Love & Country’ examines the country genre through its black artists

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Amazon Music For love and country documentary, available today through the Amazon Music app and Prime Video, examines the country genre through the lens of its black artists. Directed by Joshua Kissi and produced by DPM Projects in association with Pizza Night and division7, the film shares the stories of black country singers and the struggles they faced to break into the genre.

Jimmie Allen, Blanco Brown, BRELAND, Shy Carter, Mickey Guyton, Willie Jones, Valerie June, Amythyst Kiah, Reyna Roberts, Allison Russell, Brittney Spencer and Frankie Staton are highlighted throughout the documentary with moving and revealing stories. Staton’s history of discrimination in the 1980s includes escorting police to a downtown Nashville jam session while Mickey Guyton, who made GRAMMY history last year as the first female solo black woman nominated in a country category, says she still questions her place in the genre.

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“I don’t always feel like I have a home, but I create a home and hopefully create a space for other people of color and black people to feel at home in this genre” , Guyton says in the film.

Raymond Roker, Global Editorial Director of Amazon Music, says For love and country came together when a producer on Amazon Music’s editorial team pitched the idea for a film in response to conversations and trends he was noticing in the genre. The team asked Kissi to lead after seeing his New York Times Op-Doc A Beach of Our Ownwhich focused on the black residents of Sag Harbor.

“The objective of For love and country is to amplify the personal stories of a new generation of black artists reclaiming space in Nashville — and helping to transform the genre in the process,” Roker tells me. “All of these amazing artists are looking to change the longstanding identity of country music as music by and for white audiences.

“Our hope is that this film can be seen as a moment to help change the face of the modern country by sharing these artists’ own stories and, in doing so, inspire even more conversations to expand the space for more voices in genre.”

Roker says he resonated with the story of singer-songwriter Shy Carter. Filmed at Carter’s ranch in Tennessee, the singer shares his journey as he rides his horse bareback with a mandolin in hand.

“I was struck by the familiar intersectionality of it all,” Roker says. “It’s a portrait of an artist and musician, a father, a landowner, and a black man who found his home in Nashville and country music all at once. I thought that he spoke about it in such a personal and poignant way throughout the film.

Carter, a Memphis, TN native who got his start as a songwriter writing hits for Sugarland, Kane Brown and Keith Urban, moved to Atlanta and then Los Angeles before returning to Tennessee. He admits to feeling lonely once he moved south.

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“I’ve been embraced by wonderful songwriters and have a great community in Nashville, but I had a different story and saw things differently,” Carter said. “I felt things they didn’t feel. I have experienced things that they have not experienced.

Carter, who has a white mother and a black father, admits to being discriminated against as a child. He says it’s this type of pain that he sometimes channels into his music.

“I wish there were more people of color singing the songs I was writing,” he says in the film. “There is another way the soul comes out. The experiences of being Black in America, it puts something in your soul deep in where you sing the song a little bit different.

Carter’s advice to up-and-coming black artists is to outdo everyone else. It is the proof since the singer will make his debut at the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday, April 16. A dream come true for the artist; Carter says having graced the famous stage is a major achievement. “It’s a big benchmark to know that I’m on the right track,” he says.

Brittney Spencer moved to Nashville nine years ago from Baltimore, MD, and has received significant airtime during recent performances at the CMA and ACM Awards. The singer, who started performing on the streets of Nashville, said she went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Monday for the film’s premiere and that seeing her face on a billboard on the side of the building was new and welcome. live.

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“Watching the documentary, I saw how far we’ve come in terms of inclusivity in Nashville and I see how far we still have to go,” she says. “It’s times like this where we can assess what’s happened: how do we do more of what’s working, how do we adjust, how do we keep trying to respond to the moment in a more impactful way. I think Nashville is becoming more inclusive because I think no one has a choice.

Spencer always wanted to be a singer. She credits acts like Taylor Swift, Missy Elliott and the Chicks as inspiration. In the film, she admits to having felt “other” while listening to country music when she realized that there was no one who looked like her.

“It’s not always the easiest thing to be a black artist in a world that’s still trying to figure out how to navigate inclusion,” she adds. “I keep going because I really love what I do and I love the fans I can do it for. The people around my music give me courage, they give me strength. I’m very motivated and encouraged by people who feel they have found their place in my story.

Spencer credits director Kissi for allowing the artists to share their stories in their own words. kiss says For love and country at its core has always been telling the story of country music from the perspective of the African American.

“Creating a safe space was important for the film to be truly enjoyed,” Kissi says. “At every turn of the film and the production, we really strived to be a place where people could come and be authentically themselves. My responsibility was to ensure that their stories were held in high regard.

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One of the stories that struck Kissi was Staton’s account of being escorted to a downtown Nashville jam session by police. The first person to arrive and sign up to perform at the venue, Staton waited until 2:30 a.m. to hear his name.

“The quote, ‘Sometimes you have to stay, even when you don’t want to…and I’ve learned a lot about staying’ spoke to me a lot,” Kissi says. “His strength and persistence many years ago has not been in vain as we see a new twist in the genre.”

New Amazon Original songs are also available on Amazon Music’s “For Love & Country” playlist by several artists featured in the film. Spencer praises Amazon Music for the artistry of the documentary, which is tied to the release of new music, and for bringing the difficult conversations underway to action.

“There’s a lot of light on black country artists on streaming platforms, and I think it’s so important that this conversation has been started in such a visible and productive way,” she says. “It doesn’t fail me that streaming services like Amazon Music have really taken the lead in fueling this conversation that is so important to the genre.”

Kissi adds, “My hope is that people watch this beautiful film while having a different appreciation for the country music genre and the talented black artists who so boldly choose to stand in the light. I hope this inspires other storytellers, artists, and historians to pay attention to what’s happening in the country music genre.

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