Rhinestone Radio with Sam Stephens

Sam Stephens is here to teach you a thing or two about country music. On her new Apple Music Country show Rhinestone Radio, Stephens—a singer-songwriter, journalist, host, and teacher, to name just a few of her talents—traces contemporary country back to its glory days, when the Nashville sound ruled the charts and flashy, rhinestone-studded countrypolitan was just beginning to take off. “This is the moment when Nashville paid attention to Hollywood, and Hollywood—along with the rest of the world—paid attention right back,” Stephens tells Apple Music. “Country music was now a part of popular culture and no longer a niche sound and genre. This is the time when country music began to unite in a big, big way.” Tune in to Rhinestone Radio for gleaming country gems from the likes of Bobbie Gentry, Mac Davis, Barbara Mandrell, and many, many more, as well as frank conversations about the genre, its history, and its future with a who’s-who roster of contemporary stars and country music experts. Below, Stephens talks about the inspiration behind her new show. On the name “Rhinestone Radio”: “My parents passed away in 2019, four months apart. My mother was my musical compass and my North Star. I mean, with me as an artist and a singer-songwriter, she was always my touchstone, but she was the ultimate tastemaker to me. When I was thinking about putting a pitch together and wanting to find my place, I kept thinking, ‘Oh god. I wish I could talk to Mom.’ Because she would know. She would have a great idea that was not your average idea. I started thinking, ‘What would Mom do?’ And Glen Campbell [and his 1975 classic ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’] just popped into my head and I'm like, ‘Oh, it's got to be Rhinestone Radio. That's the name of the show, and it's going to start with Glen, and we're going to talk about that whole generation.’ I hope that this is the start of a brilliant series of historical shows that are educational and conversational, but also freaking joyful and nostalgic for people. So that's it. Thanks, Mom.” On her motivation for doing the show: “I have always been a student of history. I wear it as a badge of honor that nostalgia is my love language. To be completely honest, I started to really worry that we were losing our grip on the country greats in a lot of ways. There are so many names and sounds and eras and songs within the timestamp of country music prior to our generation that I felt like are fading away and becoming forgotten. Like any kind of music, country music shifts; everything shifts in its cycles. That's the hallmark of really great artistry, that it's constantly evolving and constantly changing.” On contemporary country artists she loves: “I stand with a lot of people in really being excited about Mickey Guyton. It's the most beautiful thing to bear witness to, watching her light shine again despite all of the cruel and just inconceivable things that people throw at her on her social media. I'm also really excited about a lot of the neo-traditionalists that are coming back. One of them happens to be my best friend, so I might be a little bit partial: Kimberly Kelly. I also love Hannah Dasher. I've known Hannah since we were in high school. Madeline Edwards is coming up. Her vast knowledge of jazz and the history of that crossover—these are assets in our format. I love Tyler Childers. There's so many, I can't really put my finger on it. This might not be a popular thing to say, but I love contemporary country as well. I think that the juxtaposition is very important. I think you have to have your Chris Stapletons and you have to have your Florida Georgia Lines.” On spearheading a Ronnie Milsap renaissance: “When's the last time an artist sat down and you asked their influences and they said, ‘Ronnie Milsap’? We’re going to change that, sister. I’m on a one-woman mission to Ronnie Milsap-ify your life.”