Shania Twain has some valuable words of advice for those hoping to make it in the music industry: “Being like anyone else is the worst thing you can do.”
It’s this mentality she hopes to instill in the contestants on Real Country, USA Network’s latest competition show surrounding country music. In addition to serving as a panelist, Twain is also an executive producer of the show, contributing her more than 30 years of experience in the industry to those vying for their chance to breakthrough.
The show functions more as an industry showcase than it does a typical reality show competition. Panelists Twain, Travis Tritt and Jake Owen each hand selected seven acts that the audience will vote for across a total of eight episodes. The artists who win in the individual episodes will advance to the grand finale. Many of the performers are hardworking artists and musicians who have been honing their craft for years, ranging from songwriters who’ve already scored hits to Americana duo Young Fables who have three albums under their belt, all in search of an opportunity to elevate their careers.
“I think that we’ve created a platform that is much more like the real world than a talent show,” Twain shares with Sounds Like Nashville and other media. “If you’re in an environment like this and you’re going to be competitive in the grand scale beyond this show, you already have to have the goods.” For Twain’s role, she’s looking for evolved artists, ones who’ve harbored a steady passion for their art and are unwavering in their identity. When looking for talent, Twain was focused on diversity, drawn to artists who are unafraid of being unique. “I’d like to see a new confidence in people. I’d like to see people…saying, ‘I dare to be different. I challenge myself to be different,’” she reflects.
“When I was starting out I didn’t know what the audience wanted either, but that innocence is so valuable. I wasn’t writing to anyone’s expectations. I was just doing what I thought was interesting,” she continues. “I’m encouraging them to just do their own thing and not try to fit in and please the audience or us or the industry. Get up there and do your own thing and get lost in that as your focus.”
With the Real Country format, the 90s era icon says confidence is a key factor, as performers only have one chance to move the audience into voting for them. But the most crucial aspect she advises is they remain true to is their authenticity. The contestants are able to look to Twain and her fellow panelists as guiding forces, but the singer insists they’re not trying to alter the artists’ vision. “We don’t get access to make them something that they weren’t at the beginning of the season. It’s a very fair show in that sense,” she says.
Twain admits, though, that rejection is an inevitable part of the industry, especially for artists venturing down a unique path. She encourages contestants to be open-minded toward credible critiques as a way to help them grow. “Constructive criticism is important to listen to and to take on because you’re going to learn something from it,” she explains. “Be honest with yourself. False confidence is never going to serve you well at all. Self conviction, determination, that’s a very different vocabulary.”
Real Country debuts on USA on Tuesday (Nov. 13) at 10PM ET on USA.