Country and EDM are the most unlikely marriage of this decade. The two genres are seemingly at two ends of the spectrum but when they come together, there’s magic to be made. We largely have Avicii to thank for introducing it to the mainstage of global EDM festivals. He started playing with the concept on his album True. "I knew it was going to be a shock,” he told The Guardian after Wake Me Up dropped.
“All they see is country and house music. They think, 'Country? That's old people.' I knew it was going to be like that. It freaked me out when I got a bad reaction to the song, though, I must admit."
The initial bad reaction subsided though as he logged numerous hit by mixing the two genres. At the time, it seemed like it could be a phase but a good six years later, country music is still being taken to the dancefloor. Here’s a walk through country and EDM’s relationship.
Avicii - Wake Me Up (2013)
Avicii rocked the EDM world when he introduced acoustic guitars borrowed from the country world into his dance music. He debuted the song at Ultra Music Festival before it was released with some fans speculating that he was pulling a prank. Wake Me Up was no joke though. It topped charts globally and was the fourth highest selling song of 2013 in Australia.
Gazzo - Sun Turns Cold (Feat. Chase Rice) (2015)
By 2015, the Avicii effect was in full swing. Big EDM names were collaborating directly with artists from the country world. US country singer Chase Rice who had topped country charts in the States was called in by Jersey electro-house producer Gazzo. Together, they made this anthemic stomper that was tailor-made for the mainstage at worldwide dance festivals.
Audien - Something Better (Feat. Lady Antebellum) (2015)
Lady Antebellum have had huge crossover hits in their career, finding the pop charts with their 2010 ballad Need You Now, but they have never really needed to step out of the country world. They lent their vocals to this sweeping Audien cut though, finding themselves on an orchestral, Disney-like track. It’s very possibly the only Lady Antebellum song to feature a drop.
Avicii - Without You (Feat. Sandro Cavazza) (2017)
Avicii always kept country music in his wheelhouse despite making a number of stylistic diversions along the way. On his final EP before his passing he teamed up with Swedish singer Sandro Cavazza. Sweden isn’t typically known for its country music but they managed to cook up an anthemic, powerful cut that shot Avicii back into the charts. It went on to become the most streamed song from the EP.
Kygo - It Ain’t Me (Feat. Selena Gomez) (2017)
While Kygo has introduced elements of country into his music since the beginning, It Ain’t Me is Gomez’s first time with the genre. It Ain’t Me begins with an emotional acoustic guitar before exploding into a chopped-and-screwed drop. It brought country and dance back into the mainstream and has worked up over a billion streams globally making it one of the biggest songs for both artists.
Zedd - The Middle (Feat. Maren Morris & Grey) (2018)
Zedd has worked with some of the biggest pop artists in the world so it came as a surprise when Morris was announced as The Middle’s vocalist. Zedd had tried dozens of pop artists on the track before settling with Morris’ country tones. The instrumental itself isn’t country but Morris brings a twang to it that resonated. It was nominated for three Grammys and also broke the Top 10 both here and in the US.
Hailee Steinfeld - Let Me Go (With Alesso & Florida Georgia Line) (2018)
Fresh from a huge hit with Bebe Rexha, country group Florida Georgia Line teamed up with Hailee Steinfeld for this big track. Alesso of Swedish House Mafia fame produced the track, cooking up a mighty chorus that pulls from country music both in melody and instruments. It’s one of Steinfeld’s biggest songs to date - an unlikely hit too given that it essentially pulls together three artists from very different worlds.
Diplo - So Long (Feat. Cam) (2019)
Diplo is a stylistic chameleon but country was the one genre that he’d left untapped until this year. He announced that he’d be working on a country project under the name Thomas Wesley. Alongside that announcement he delivered So Long with country singer Cam. The song is one of the most effortless slices of dance/country, pairing Cam’s velvety tones with an unusually restrained drop for Diplo.
Galantis - Faith (Feat. Dolly Parton & Mr. Probz) (2019)
There have been some big country names mentioned here but none quite as big as Dolly Parton. She’s the Queen of country music and while she’s collaborated with everyone from Kesha to Miley Cyrus, she’s never jumped into the dance world. For Faith she’s teamed with Swedish production duo Galantis and Waves hitmaker Mr. Probz. It’s a massive moment with Parton’s voice blaring through the colourful production. Now we just need Parton to make a surprise appearance at Tomorrowland.