Country music holds deep, historical ties to faith and the latest episode of Real Country pays homage to that connection between music and spirit. Shania Twain, Travis Tritt, and Jake Owen have all selected one promising young artist to take the stage at Nashville’s Real Country Bar and share their talent with the world with covers of songs about inspiration and faith.
How it works: three bands perform in Round One. The two bands with the highest audience score advance to Round Two. The winner of Round Two takes home $10,000, earns a spot at Stagecoach 2019, and moves on to the Real Country finale, where they will perform for a chance to win $100,000 and a show at the Grand Ole Opry.
Travis’s pick: Bri Bagwell
Bri Bagwell grew up in a Baptist church, which everyone knows is one of the rowdiest and most musical denominations in all of Christendom. The singer-songwriter got her start during her teenage years as a member of a family band with her two older brothers. She performed 182 shows last year, but that experience doesn’t totally ameliorate her stage fright as she steps in front of the Real Country crowd in Nashville. “I just prayed, but I also want a shot of whiskey,” she says before launching into a cover of Miranda Lambert’s “A Heart Like Mine.” Afterwards, she tells Travis that his music influenced her vocal style. Shania agrees -- she can hear the influence, too.
Audience score: 4.0 stars
Jake’s pick: Regan Stewart
26-year-old Auburn, AL native owes everything to music -- it gave her confidence and purpose and made her the woman she is today. She opts to cover Maren Morris’s “My Church.” It’s a resolute performance that showcases her highly distinctive, quavering singing and strong Alabama accent. Jake enjoys seeing the sparkle in her eye; Shania calls attention to the innate sensitivity in her voice. Travis encourages her to be less tentative onstage. “You have no reason whatsoever to be shy about expressing yourself,” he says.
Audience score: 3.6 stars
Shania’s pick: Tiera
Gardendale, AL native and Crimson Tide diehard Tiera is here to pave the way for more diversity in country music. Shania brims with excitement as she introduces her pick to the world -- “When I first heard Tiera, it was like an angel was singing” -- and Tiera delivers a stunning cover of the Rascal Flatts ballad “Bless the Broken Road” makes Travis say “woah!” and Shania hold her hands to her heart and blissfully rock back and forth. “There are a lot of people that would try the moves, the trills, the runs that you did that should not try them,” Travis tells Tiera. “Because they can’t do them.”
Audience score: 4.6 stars
Guest judge: Kane Brown
Bri returns with a cover of Willie Nelson and Ray Charles’ duet “Seven Spanish Angels,” a song about resilience and bouncing back from adversity. Her love of being on stage (“I want to be 99 million years old and still playing live music”) shines bright -- her passion wins the hearts of every soul in Real Country Bar. “I’m really inspired by you,” Shania tells her. It’s a sincere compliment that causes Bri to hyperventilate with joy: “I’m gonna die.”
Shania tells Kane to get ready to get his mind blown by Tiera, who opts to sing Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb,” in reference to her own ongoing musical journey. It’s an earnest and captivating performance that showcases her special vocal talent. “Your attitude and your whole humanness is such a breath of fresh air,” Shania says. “I would bet my name and my career on you making it all the way.” Kane praises her “little sweet Alabama voice” and her control.
Tiera: 4.3 stars
Bri Bagwell: 4.1 stars