Women saw some big wins at the Grammy Awards this year, including the album of the year honor for country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves. But there are still some glaring omissions in the industry, specifically when it comes to country radio and female artists.
This week, for example, only three women appear in the top 25 on Billboard’s Hot Country song chart — an indication the genre is still dominated by men. And winning a Grammy doesn’t necessarily transform into radio airplay.
Trisha Yearwood, for one, is fully aware of how the industry works. She got her start in country music in the early 1990s, and although she has had hits through the years and has appreciated her time on radio, she sees how women are often left off traditional airwaves. In a recent interview at Build Series, she said she thinks “women are still absolutely getting the raw end of the deal at country radio.” She blames it partly on “old, antiquated ways of thinking.”
“I want to go, ‘Who says that’s the way it is?’ Like, you don’t play two female artists back to back and you make sure you play four guys before you play a girl? Like, whose rules are those?”
Yearwood, though, predicts the tide may soon turn for radio programmers.
“I think they are about to get a rude awakening, because women are rising up. We’re going to start marching to your radio station, and you’re going to be afraid not to play our records, I think. I would do that march!” she said, imagining what it would look like. “There are 20 angry women in the parking lot. Let’s play some Trisha Yearwood. I feel like it could happen!”
She said people need to take action ― not just talk ― to make some real change. “Everybody says, ‘This is what we want.’ But you gotta really do it,” she said.
Still, Yearwood was thrilled to see Musgraves swoop up four honors at the Grammys: album of the year and best country album for “Golden Hour,” best country song for “Space Cowboy” and best country solo performance for “Butterflies.”
“Her album was one that she purely made because she’s saying, ‘I’m an artist. This is what I want to say.’ I don’t think she was concerned about all the things that come up after you make the record. We have to be. We’re marketing. We want to sell records,” Yearwood said. “But if you’re going to call yourself an artist, your first love, your first priority has to be making sure you take care of that music and do what you feel in your heart and you hope you’re going to connect with somebody out there. … So I think that’s what Kacey did with the record, and I think that’s why she’s being recognized. People can tell when you follow your heart.”
Follow her heart is something Yearwood has aimed to do since the start of her career. She landed her first No. 1 country single in 1991 with “She’s in Love With the Boy” and has been a force on the country music scene ever since. These days, though, she doesn’t try to put too much pressure on herself. She said she has Garth Brooks to thank for that.
“I have to credit my husband with that because I am competitive,” Yearwood revealed. “I’m always analyzing myself and my career and everything I’m doing. And he’s the one who said, ‘You need to realize you don’t have to prove anything to anybody. Just do you.’ And that’s what I needed to hear. … It doesn’t mean you don’t want those things. I want to have a No. 1 record on the radio. I want to sell records. I want to be successful currently. I don’t want to be just known for what I did and what I’ve done. But at the same time, I’m good.”
Good enough that she just released an album mostly of songs recorded by Frank Sinatra, one of her musical heroes. Called “Let’s Be Frank,” the collection finds her doing versions of standards, including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Come Fly With Me.” It is her first full-length release since 2007 ― and it won’t be her last. She recently recorded a country album featuring a batch of new songs largely written or co-written by women.
“I’m not chasing anything. I’m not trying to be some trendy things. I think when you hear this record, you’ll go, ‘Oh, this is Trisha,’” she said about the album, expected out this fall. “I don’t know if it’s the freedom of being 54 and life is too short. I’m just going to have fun and do what I want to do.”
Check out the full Build interview with Yearwood below.