In November, Kelleigh Bannen stepped to the helm of a new weekly radio show launched by Beats 1 and Apple Music called Today's Country. As the host of the new show, Bannen will use her perspective as a longtime Nashville singer-songwriter to help contextualize artists' stories beyond their current singles or latest releases.

"Honestly, when we first started talking about it, it was like, 'How do we help support the artists in Nashville?'" Bannen explains to The Boot of the project. "[We wanted to] give them a place to really tell their story and really contextualize their music, and have it be about more than a single. This is about a larger story, and that, obviously, is what Nashville does best."

To do that, Bannen teamed with Apple Music global creative director and Beats 1 host Zane Lowe. "Ultimately, what we've built is a place for artists to feel comfortable telling their story," Lowe adds. "When you come to a place like Nashville, which is the home of storytelling, the best people who can tell their story are the artists, so this is an artist-oriented space."

The debut episode of Today's Country featured Luke Combs and Lady Antebellum, and though Bannen and Lowe enjoy spotlighting artists who are at the heart of the genre's mainstream, they're also excited to shine a light on those at its fringes, and those who are shaping the future of the country genre.

"I think, also, it's a first for the kind of music that Kelleigh likes and wants to play, the kind of music we all love and want to play, and the kinds of stories we want to tell. Those stories are changing," Lowe goes on to say. "People are getting restless. They're getting sick of the old norms. And so are we. We want to be part of the change. We don't want to be part of the old way."

The biggest change they're hoping to help propel? "I think we just want music to be based on how great it is," Bannen replies matter-of-factly. The show will help her introduce listeners to artists they might not be hearing on mainstream radio, and it will also show a more intimate side of the artists who are already seeing mainstream success.

"We actually had a bit of that conversation with Keith Urban today on your show," she adds, nodding towards Lowe. "About, you know, really just being inspired and making the music that's coming out of you, rather than judging it ahead of time -- what category it goes into, what genre it is. What if we could just let Keith go get inspired and make some incredible music?"

At its foundation, Bannen's role on the show is that of a fan. She says that not only is hosting from that vantage point helping her shed fresh light on her subjects, but it inspires her own work as an artist.

"I feel like if we're not listening to music, we're not gonna be that inspired. It's almost like someone said, 'Hey, go ahead and take up a bunch of space celebrating other people and music you love,'" she concludes.

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