The 8-part 16+ hour-long PBS series Country Music features interviews with over 100 country music singers, icons and music makers in Nashville and beyond and starts in episode one from the very beginning of the musical genre that got its roots from songs brought over from Ireland, Scotland and England.
Ken Burns told Rolling Stone, “We are interested in telling a complex story with generations and lots of people in different places. We’re interested in following those cities and those places, obviously the people, for the music and the songs as they change. But also, the act of songwriting is an important character in our film. We’re trying to weave together stories so some [artists] have to stand in as emblematic. We can’t tell every story. We have goalposts for this film.”
Burns added, “I like the free electrons country music is about. You can’t just tie it down. It doesn’t wrap up in a bow.”
Having taken eight years to complete, the series features interviews with country music icons who have since passed away, including Roy Clark, Merle Haggard, Ralph Stanley and Harold Bradley.
Burns told Rolling Stone, “There’s a constriction in your heart about this, that of that 101 [interviewees] that we’ve lost 20, and you’re just desperate for nobody else to go before the broadcast. At the same time, we just feel so privileged to have them. Like Merle, who’s one of the biggest forces, if not the biggest force in our film. We’re in the editing room going, ‘Did Merle comment about this?’ You want to bring him in because he feels like God, you know.”
The first part of the series features a lot of interview footage with Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks.
Dolly says of country music, “You can dance to it, you can cry to it, you can make love to it, you can play it at a funeral, it just really has something in it for everybody. And people relate to it.”