There are some people in this world who just have a special touch when it comes to music. Country music is one of those genres that seems to be filled with these kinds of people. From singers who can belt out notes with the best of them, to those who simply know how to tell a heartwarming story through their music, country has it all.
Over the years, there have been many significant singers who have helped popularize and evolve country music into what it is today. In this post, we’re going to look at 18 famous country singers to see how they’ve influenced country music over the years.
1. Tim McGraw
Along with being one of the most famous and influential country singers, Tim McGraw is also a talented actor, guitarist, and record producer.
He has released 16 albums to date, and ten of his albums have sat in the number one spot on the Top Country Albums charts.
McGraw entered the country music scene in the mid-90s, and over the years, he became known for his ballads and love songs.
His ability to produce relatable songs and adapt to and influence music trends has made him a household name in the country music world.
To date, McGraw has received three Grammy Awards, three People’s Choice Awards, 10 American Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association Awards, and 14 Academy of Country Music Awards.
2. George Strait
Today, George Strait is the “King of Country,” but this iconic country star didn’t have an easy start in his career.
Growing up in Poteet, Texas, he joined the military at aged 19.
It wasn’t until 10 years later in 1981 that he got signed with a one-song contract with MCA Records with the terms that if he could produce a successful song, he would receive a more long-term arrangement.
That year, Strait released “Unwound,” which reached the sixth spot on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.
Since then, Strait rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s and became one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with over 100 million records sold worldwide.
Strait ushered in a revival of western swing and honky-tonk music.
He was also at the frontier of the neotraditionalist country style and greatly influenced this style of music and fashion.
3. Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash’s career has markings of transformation all throughout it.
Although the beginning of his music career was turbulent, he had a turnaround in the late 1960s, and he won several Grammys and Country Music Association Awards.
He began with an outlaw image, but his image changed as he became more involved with activism, particularly with bringing awareness to the plight of Native Americans.
Cash’s music could never get defined by one genre.
Rather, his diverse style of music also had a mix of rock and roll, blues, folk, and gospel.
He paved his own path in the country music world and eventually became the youngest living person elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
4. Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks released his first album in 1989 with Capitol Records.
Within the next couple of years, he released his third album, Ropin’ the Wind, and it became the first country album to reach the number one spot on the Billboard 200.
Brooks’ integration of country, pop, and rock boosted him to popularity, and he’s sold over 170 million records worldwide.
He received his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012, and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum also inducted him in 2016.
Along with being a talented musician, Brooks is also a prolific songwriter.
His songs spark inspiration, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted him in 2012.
5. Carrie Underwood
Singer and songwriter Carrie Underwood rose to fame after winning the fourth season of American Idol.
She broke records with her debut single, “Inside Your Heaven,” and became the only country artist to debut at Billboard Hot 100’s number one spot.
Underwood won numerous awards, including seven Grammys, 12 Billboard Music Awards, and 17 American Music Awards.
She was also on Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014.
Underwood’s voice has a wide range, and many of her songs showcase her vocal talents.
Along with country music, she also performs songs in the pop and gospel genres.
6. Blake Shelton
Blake Shelton got his foot in the door as a songwriter who sold songs to music publishing houses.
He eventually landed a contract with Giant Records and released “Austin,” which topped country music charts.
Shelton’s general style of music is a mix of rock and country ballads, and many of his songs and albums became chart-toppers.
He won many awards over the years, including one Billboard Music award, 10 Country Music Association Awards, six Academy of Country Music Awards, and 10 CMT Music Awards.
He also received one CMT Artist of the Year award.
Along with his musical success, Shelton is a popular coach on the TV show, The Voice.
He has had eight winners emerge from his team.
7. Luke Bryan
Luke Bryan’s music career began in songwriting for several artists, including Travis Tritt and Billy Currington.
He signed with Capitol Nashville and eventually rose to fame and success in the 2010s.
Within Bryan’s first ten albums, 27 songs became number one hits.
He’s a best-selling music artist with over 75 million records sold, and he was also named the Academy Of Country Music Awards 2013 “Entertainer of the Year.”
Country artists, such as George Strait, influence Bryan’s music, but he also draws inspiration from hip-hop artists, such as Beastie Boys.
8. Keith Urban
Keith Urban’s music career began in Australia.
He released his self-titled debut album in 1990 and moved to Nashville shortly afterward.
He quickly rose to fame and now has numerous awards from the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association.
He also received a Grammy award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
Along with being a singer, Urban is a talented songwriter and country guitarist.
His parents ignited his passion for American country music, and he also started to mix rock sounds with country music.
This blend of influences eventually became his signature sound.
9. Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s career began in country music, but her musical style expanded to multiple genres over the years.
Although she originally moved to Nashville for country music, she eventually released albums, such as Fearless, that explored country-pop.
Swift’s exploration of different genres makes her a versatile singer and songwriter.
She wrote many songs that mix pop, rock, and electronic influences, and her more recent songs now have an indie-folk and alternative rock feel.
This talented artist has over 200 million records sold worldwide and has had eight number one songs on Billboard Hot 100 charts.
She also won 11 Grammy awards and numerous awards from the Country Music Association, Billboard Music Awards, and American Music Awards.
Rolling Stone also featured her in its 2015 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.
10. Willie Nelson
When Willie Nelson wrote his first song when he was just seven years old.
He performed throughout his childhood and adolescence, and he eventually moved to Nashville and became a songwriter for Pamper Music.
He wrote hits for artists, such as Faron Young and Patsy Cline.
After experiencing many ups and downs in Nashville, Nelson moved to Texas, and he eventually found success after releasing Red-Headed Stranger.
His fame started to rise after the release of this album.
He went on to win many awards, including a couple of Grammy awards.
Nelson heavily influenced and added to the outlaw country subgenre and always pushed the boundaries with the Nashville music scene.
Nelson is now in his 80s, and he continues to produce music and go on tours.
11. Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert is a singer-songwriter who began her career in 2001 when she released her self-titled debut album.
Along with being a solo artist, Lambert is also a member of the Pistol Annies.
Lambert has gone on to release chart-topping songs and albums.
She received several Grammy awards and was the first woman to win two Album of the Year awards from the Country Music Association Awards.
Lambert can write feisty songs with honest and blunt lyrics, but she can also be very vulnerable in her songs.
These qualities make her songs very relatable to many of her fans and listeners.
12. Chris Stapleton
This talented singer-songwriter was a part of two bands, the SteelDrivers and the Jompson Brothers, for many years before going solo in 2015.
That year, Chris Stapleton released his first solo debut, Traveller, and it soared to the number one spot on Billboard 200.
Along with being a talented musician, he’s an exceptional songwriter and music producer.
He wrote and co-wrote over 170 songs and was a part of the production process of many hits, including “Never Wanted Nothing More,” Your Man,” and “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright.”
Stapleton’s influences don’t just stay within the country music realm.
He also worked with mainstream pop stars, such as Adele and Ed Sheeran, and his songs have a place in their albums.
He won numerous awards, including five Grammy Awards and ten Country Music Association Awards.
13. Luke Combs
This young country music star began performing as a child and even took the stage at Carnegie Hall.
Luke Combs released a successful debut album in 2017, and it sat at the number four spot on Billboard 200.
So far, he has two Grammy Award nominations, two iHeart Radio music awards, and six Country Music Association Awards.
The Country Music Association also gave him the 2021 Entertainer of the Year Award.
In an interview with The Boot, Combs stated that he doesn’t like to try to make his music fit into a specific genre when he makes songs.
His musical style tends to do crossovers with country and other genres.
It can be challenging to define, but he’s still able to produce hits that appeal to the masses.
14. Brad Paisley
Brad Baisley debuted in 1999 with his first album, Who Needs Pictures.
Since then, he has released 11 studio albums and has ten singles that reached the number one spot on the US Billboard Country Airplay chart.
Since 1999, Paisley mainly records and performs with his band, The Drama Kings.
His style expands through country rock, hard rock, and Southern rock.
To date, Paisley has three Grammy awards, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards, 14 Country Music Association Awards, and two American Music Awards.
He also worked on significant projects like writing songs for the Pixar film, Cars.
15. Reba McEntire
Often called “The Queen of Country,” Reba McEntire is one of the most successful female country singers in the US.
She sold more than 75 million records worldwide and has had over 100 singles placed on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
Her most famous album is From My Broken Heart, which she produced after losing eight of her band members in a tragic plane crash.
McEntire’s musical roots began in country music, but as she matured as an artist, she expanded into different genres, including mainstream pop, soul, and R&B.
She’s also very talented in singing and possesses solid vocal control that enables her to sing complex melodies that many of her fans have come to love.
16. Hank Williams
Hank Williams is one of the most influential musicians of country music history.
He rose to fame after singing songs on a local radio show in Mongomery, Alabama.
He started his own band called the Drifting Cowboys, which grew popular throughout Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
Williams was extremely talented and played from the heart.
He was one of the first country music superstars in the US, and some of his most popular hits include “You Cheatin’ Heart,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” and “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.”
Although he had a brief career due to a fatal heart attack at age 29, his music impacted the next generation of country singers.
Many continue to pay tribute to him by releasing covers of his songs.
17. Shania Twain
Shania Twain is the best-selling female artist in country music with over 100 million records sold, and she often gets referred to as the “Queen of Country Pop.”
She released her self-titled debut album in 1993, but it didn’t succeed.
The outcome of her album didn’t deter her, and she released a comeback album a couple of years later titled, The Woman in Me.
This album became a hit, and her success rose from there.
Twain is a strong songwriter, and many of her songs have themes of feminism and female empowerment woven throughout them.
Her songs are often a mix of mainstream pop and country music, so many critics don’t consider her as a country artist.
Despite the criticism, Twain continues to write and release songs that blend genres, and many of her fans can relate to her lyrics.
18. Kenny Chesney
Kenny Chesney is a successful singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer.
He recorded over 20 albums and has 32 songs that were number one hits on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts.
He also has very successful tours, and his Flip-Flop Summer Tour was the highest-grossing country tour in 2007.
Chesney’s immense success drew the attention of the Country Music Association, and the Association awarded him the Entertainer of the Year Award for four years consecutively.
Chesney is famous for his honesty and emotional appeal with his romantic ballads.
Some of his most famous songs include “Don’t Blink,” “How Forever Feels,” and “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems.”
Summing up Our List of Famous Country Singers
Country music is a collaborative affair with many prominent singers who helped expand and push this genre’s boundaries.
It contains a mix of traditional country and genre-blending songs, so there’s always something for everyone.
Make sure to take some time to listen to these singers.
You’ll definitely be surprised by what you discover.