Scott Borchetta on Country: “I Really Don’t Care.” Defines it as “Youth”

October 2, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  44 Comments

The Country Music Anti-Christ, Big Machine Records owner Scott Borchetta was on American Public Media on Friday (9-28-12) with host Kai Ryssdal, and had some pretty incendiary things to say about country music, proving why he deserves his infamous “Anti-Christ” moniker. Ryssdal went right after Borchetta, citing Saving Country Music’s “Anti-Christ” labeling specifically, and playing a cut from Big Machine artist Taylor Swift’s song “You Belong With Me”, asking him if it was more pop than country.

“If you don’t want to consider it country, I really don’t care,” was Borchetta’s response. “That means nothing to me.”

In the interview, Borchetta also defined country as, “Whatever fans of country music listen to and like. It’s younger. It’s youth.”

Listen to interview:

Borchetta went on to claim he was just the latest in a line of folks being blamed for killing country music, citing Patsy Cline, Kenny Rogers, and Shania Twain as other country stars that were more pop than country in their day and received the same scrutiny Taylor Swift does now.

On that last point, Scott Borchetta is correct. One of the reasons that country traditionalists and purists are losing the battle for the term “country” is because many are unwilling to admit that pop influences have been a part of the genre since the beginning.

But what Borchetta and other country pop apologists don’t seem to understand is that country has never been this unarguably and exclusively pop before, and mainstream country’s obsession with image and youth has severed the ties to the roots of the music that were clearly evident even when Patsy, and Kenny, and John Denver were plying their craft back in the day. If country loses its identity and autonomy from the rest of music, it could erode its long-term sustainability, and the legitimacy and importance of its institutions and infrastructure.

But let’s not bury the lead here. Scott Borchetta finally said what we all knew he believed through his actions: that he doesn’t care about country music or the significance of the ‘country’ term. It is an annoyance to him, a trifle.

Make no mistake about it, Scott Borchetta is winning, against purists, and against his counterparts on Music Row. While Nashville’s major labels are still trying to navigate the retooling to the digital age, Borchetta is running circles around them, pilfering their talent rosters, while has-been’s like Mike Curb hurl frivolous lawsuits at him as obvious moves of desperation and spite.

As I explained when christening Borchetta with the “Anti-Christ” name, his nickname is not for Music Row’s traditional sin of manipulating its artists. Borchetta gives his artists immeasurable latitude compared to the rest of Music Row. It is because Borchetta is eroding the significance of the ‘country’ term more than anyone else has done in the history of the genre, with the help from Taylor Swift and other Big Machine artists, while at the same time re-integrating and monetizing anti-Nashville sentiment back into the corporate country world through fake “Outlaws” like Justin Moore.

Yes, I’m sure similar words were spoken in Patsy Cline’s day, or when John Denver won his CMA in 1975, and it’s uaually folly to think that the time you live in is the most critical and has never been worse, but it really does feel like the importance of the term ‘country’ is at its eleventh hour. It’s hard to argue anything else when the most powerful man in the genre looks at the term as irrelevant.

Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley may have killed country music in 1957 when they developed the Nashville Sound, but would have denied it to their graves, praising the genre to the end. Borchetta on the other hand, with brashness, doesn’t even have enough respect for the term ‘country’ to feel it’s worth acknowledging if he’s killing it or not. It’s superfluous to him that anyone would even care.

“You know, big deal. It gives everyone something to to talk about, something to write about.”

44 Comments to “Scott Borchetta on Country: “I Really Don’t Care.” Defines it as “Youth””

  • He’s such a douche

  • he didnt say the country label meant nothing to him he said he didnt care what the interviewers opinion about it was. im not defending the guy on anything else but claiming “Scott Borchetta finally said what we all knew he believed through his actions: that he doesn’t care about country music or the significance of the ‘country’ term. It is an annoyance to him, a trifle.” is misleading.

    • I have listened to the interview and would say that the statement is not directed solely at the interviewer, which would have been rather rude on a personal level. I think you can replace the word “you” with “anyone” and that would be accurately reflect what he was trying to say. My opinion.

      • i do agree that he probably meant anyone who felt his acts wernt country and not just the interviewer. my point was that hes not saying the “country” label is unimportant hes just saying that he isnt guided by others opinions of what the label means.

      • I just figured out how to embed the audio of the interview into the article, and would encourage everyone to take the 4 1/2 minutes to listen and give context to the quotes. That is the best way to be fair to both sides.

    • I struggled mightily with how to write certain elements of this article, especially the title. I agree this could come across as misleading when you solely read the quotes taken out of context. But if you go and you listen to the 4-minute interview with Borchetta, you will quickly understand that is exactly what he is saying. In context the quotes don’t make Borchetta look better, they make him look worse, and so does the arrogance that comes across in the inflections of his voice. Borchetta makes it patently clear he doesn’t care about the term ‘country.’

      At one point the interviewer says in response to Borchetta’s answers, “Is that not blasphemy?”

      • id rather not listen to his voice for even 4 minutes but im certain he feels exactly what you said i just had an issue with how you made it sound like hed come right out and admitted it. this is my favorite country blog cuz you try very hard to be fair even about people you clearly dislike unlike some blogs that are way too ranty so that line i quoted really bugged me.

  • Yes. Good work.

  • Jesus.

  • As much as I hate to say it, it’s supply and demand. As long as people eat this shit up (and judging by record sales and downloads, a good chunk of the population does), he’s going to keep putting it out. And from some of the conversations I’ve had, it’s hard to convince pop-country blowhards that their music sucks and isn’t country.

    • It’s impossible, not to mention extremely counterproductive, to try to “explain” to anyone that their music sucks. Not only will they be upset at you for being condescending, but they will also be much less likely to give your favorite music a fair listen. From my personal experience, whenever someone attempts to attack my favorite music and then promote theirs, I listen to their music far more critically (focusing strongly on the negatives) than I would have if they hadn’t criticized my tastes.

      My point is that if you feel your music is superior, you would do much better by just introducing it to your friends instead of attacking their musical tastes and alienating them.

      • I get that, I’ve tried more to introduce them to bands from this site that are more accessible with varying degrees of success (a lot of them like the Turnpike Troubadours). Telling someone their music sucks is arrogant, I’ll admit that, but there are genres I don’t like that I can still respect. Borchetta’s music machine has compromised any shred of artistic integrity and is hardly above Justin Bieber or Selena Gomez at this point.

        • Borchetta has some very good artists and some very bad artists (the latter on the fake “Outlaw” side, esp. Justin Moore). None of the artists are in any way similar to Justin Bieber or Selena Gomez.

        • Sometimes the truth hurts. I had a conversation years ago with one of my good friends, where I had to explain to him that Jim Morrison was not God. He had been on a Doors lovefest for a while and was talking about how deep and influential Jim Morrison’s words were. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I had to break the news to him that yes, Jim Morrison wrote some catchy, interesting songs and the backing band was great. But most of the words were drug-fueled gibberish that rhymed, but didn’t make sense, no matter how you take them.

  • Very sad.Bottom line is to this guy it is strictly commerce. In that sense him saying “country is whatever the fans say it is” is right. Fact is the fans that support his and other mainstream country product are just as much to blame. We get what we allow and there is a large group, frankly mostly young and female, who support the current mainstream country product. The good news is country music is alive and well in the market place. She is sadly, a smaller niche market but she is still breathing. This is facilitated by sites like this one and others that turn folks on to artists like Dale Watson and James Hand and so many other great artists. So go see some live music in a small venue som were and keep deserving artists afloat.”Country” music”needs us !

    • Well, not just young and female. The guys too. I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean it, but I feel that comment is a little bit sexist. And again, don’t get me wrong, but the generalization that today’s young ppl have pretty bad taste in music is kind of wrong too.

      Some of the mainstream products are good, even tho most of them DO suck. Scott Borchetta, while smart, is also a guy who cares more about the $$$. It’s like he’s just using Country as a brand. Even as a Taylor fan, I don’t like it.

      (also waiting for typical remarks of Taylor fans must have had craptastic taste)

      • True there are some males who like the mainstream stuff. I’ll quote you a lyric from a wonderful singer songwriter named Houston Marchman’s song “Vietnashville” based on what he was told by a nashville record executive way back in the 90’s. “Son you gotta write for and 8th grade level divorced house wife, it’s about money boy money in the bank country ain’t into no extistintial angst, write for the cash not for the soul right then I knew I was bound to roll outta Nashville, Vietnashville.” I’d say they sentiment expressed in Houston’s song rings true as ever today. People can dig what they want to dig but don’t call pop music country. Somehow I don’t think that is asking to much.

        • There’s a room for everyone. But yes. This whole Country labeling to sell records IS ridiculous indeed. I’ll admit that (even tho it’s been a while) I’m STILL educating myself on Country. But compared to what happened with Punk music. Well……. Consider yourself lucky guys. Both genres are dying tho.

          • Country music is definitely not dying. Traditional country is probably dying or dead. Mainstream country on the other hand, by fully incorporating rock, has actually turned into one of the two genres that are thriving today, the other being rap.

  • Good addition at the end. I was gonna comment about how the second quote in this article bears a striking resemblance towards how Chet Atkins seemed to have felt. In the book “Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock and Roll” he’s quoted as jingling some change in his pocket and saying “THAT is the Nashville sound.”

    • I think the 90-year-old Don Maddox had an interesting perspective on this. To a man that played country music before they called it country music, country music was created when they took hillbilly music and added pop to it.


      “And then about 1940, I joined the band. At that time, it wasn’t called country or Western, it was called hillbilly music. And then about 1950 or something, hillbilly wasn’t going over too well, that’s when the pop artists came in. And now, the so-called hillbilly country music has transformed into pop country. But when we were hot it was just straight hillbilly music.”

      • Even before the Nashville Sound, country was intertwined with pop. Western music was the very epitomy of pop-country back in the 30s and 40s. Rockabilly, in particular, was almost completely progressive pop. It was looked down upon and not considered country at all by honky-tonk fans and eventually became the basis for rock n roll.

  • He got butthurt, something’s changing…

  • I will reiterate what I said on a previous thread: How does anyone expect that the current trend of “Outlaw” country will bring traditionalist country fans back to mainstream country? “New Outlaw” country is based on hard-rock music and often even contains rap elements, and I can’t see how traditionalist fans would even remotely dig that sound.

    I think that the purpose of “New Outlaw” country is to appeal to young rural men (or to young suburban men who want to vicariously live the rural lifestyle) who generally prefer rock or rap music, just as adult-contemporary pop-country appeals primarily to young suburban women. I don’t think that basically any of the current major mainstream artists, “Outlaw” or not, are capitalizing on traditionalist anti-Nashville sentiment (except maybe Kellie Pickler, Chris Young, Sunny Sweeney, and a few slightly well-known artists).

  • I miss the days when the women were ugly
    And the men were all forty years old
    Cause you had to say something for people to listen
    Now they just do what they’re told–Jason Eady

    • Loretta Lynn wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell in modern day Nashville. And when was the last time you saw someone as butt ugly as Merle Haggard on CMT?

      • i think haggard and loretta are too talented and abitious not to have made it but people like kitty wells and ernest tubb yeah i can see them getting ignored. i hope you didnt mean loretta was ever butt ugly i think she was fucking hot when she was younger.

        • ambitious

      • Merle Haggard was very good-looking back in his heyday in the 60’s and early 70’s.

        And I presume that your “ugly” comment refers only to Merle, not Loretta Lynn, right? Because if Loretta Lynn was ugly back in her heyday, then I must be blind.

    • You hit the nail right on the head. Real country used to be real people music. And now it’s been sold out to a generation of pop bad asses. There’s a song in there somewhere. Why is no one writing the type of songs that need to be written to help turn this poison pop culture around? That’s the question. But who’s gonna answer it?

  • He apparently doesn’t care about country music as long as his artists sell. That’s what is going on with Taylor Swift.

  • It’s all about money. And for the kind of cash Borchetta pulls down in a year I’d quit eating bacon.

    *crosses fingers behind back*

  • “In the interview, Borchetta also defined country as, “Whatever fans of country music listen to and like.”

    Hey, I’m a fan of country music. I also like Burzum, Xasthur, Darkthrone, Lustmord, Einsturzende Neubauten, Throbbing Gristle … etc. Guess they are all now country as well.

    Anything a person likes can be considered any genre they feel like calling it. Man, I was having arguments with people saying that very same thing (dealing with punk and metal back then) decades ago. Nothing ever changes.

    • So you are a fan of Burzum. Let me ask you this….

      Are you the only one who would like to see Scott Borschetta in a room with Varg Vikernes!!??!!

  • if Borchetta is country music’s “anti-christ” who is its “christ”?

    • George fuckin Jones.

    • ‘Grew up in SoCal, skate punk, motocross….”

      Is there an iPhone barf bag app out there?

  • I understand the sentiment against Scotty Boy but have to give him credit for signing and sticking by real talents like Sunny Sweeney and Eden’s Edge even when they don’t hit it big on the Top 40 AirHead Country airwaves. Scott is smart enough to sign acts he thinks will do well in the commercial “pop-crap country” marketplace, and often do, but he will also sign artists when he just plain likes their music. Scott seems to have more loyalty towards the acts he signs than the big Nashville labels these days and I laud him for that.

    I’d also like to posit that the real downhill slide for the current mainstream country began with Carrie Underwood when she brought the pop culture obsessed American Idol audience to country radio. Carrie paved the way for Taylor Swift and the rise of Scott Borchetta as Scotty was supporting artists like Danielle Peck at the time. Now if Scott had signed Carrie Underwood to Big Machine, then he would truly be the Country Music Anti-Christ is all aspects! (lol)

    • Honestly this started before Carrie came into country music. I would say it actually started with Faith Hill, Shania etc….. It got completley out of control with Taylor coming in though. Taylor is a pop artist. Carrie Underwood is a contemporary country artist. Yes it is true while her songs Before he cheats, good girl, last name, undo it, and cowboy cassanova are more pop. The rest of her songs are country. Like for example Jesus take thr wheel, just a dream, temporary home, wine after whiskey, so small, good in goodbye, mama’s song etc are all country.

    • Sunny said she left Big Machine last summer


      and they have many former artists


  • This guy (Borchetta) represents everything wrong with Country music, and he deserves the biggest punch in the face anyone can EVER hand out, and if I wasn’t trying to make a start playing music, I’d be glad to deliver it myself!

  • Scott is just a long line of people who have helped to kill traditional country music and far as any of these singers today being classified as country singers is an insult to real country music and all the great singers who came before them like loretta .merle ,george. tammy . ernest tubb, porter wagoner,pasty cline , hank williams and so many more, you take the singers today carrie , taylor , luke bryan , jason aldean , toby keith,keith urban,these people probably couldn’t sing a real country song if their life depended on it, yes pop has always been in country music , but it didn’t take over traditional country music like it has now,wish could turn the clock back to the late 80’s and 90’s ,that is when some real good country music was coming out of nashville. reba’s early stuff, vince gill, leeann womack , patty loveless , keith whitley, alan jackson, george strait’s earlier music, patty loveless, randy travis ricky skaggs,lorrie morgan, tim mcgraw, faith hill ,doug stone , travis tritt back in those days women got alot more airplay . today only a very few get any and they are the same ole ones over and over carrie , taylor ,miranda and persoanlly to me they all stink and for some reason radio is fixed on blake and miranda ,every time turn around they are being shoved down out throats. maybe things will change , but not holding my breath , as long they they can make money on this sorry music it will continue

  • This is a man I have grown to dislike more over the years. His main focus is milking off the success of Taylor and then picking up class acts like Trisha Yearwood and Reba and destroying their careers by having them release mediocre work. I hope Red flops and people get out of their Taylor phase and this guy gets run out of Nashville.

  • The great tragedy here is that I don’t see anyone doing anything about it. What passes for modern country has been turned into pop slut rants or bad boy ditties without room for mature variation. Music ads are filled with millennial sheep who give in and want to copy the latest country outlaw. Songbooks are limited to appeal to young drama queens and kings with no room for simplicity, subtlety or real country western tradition. Not only is ageism at work here, carpetbaggers are shoving the one trick pony of bad ass sounds down America’s throat in all music genres. Someone has to just get up off their butt, gather together the purists and say enough is enough.

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