Country artists get the chance to recognize the music that shaped their lives with CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist’s Choice . Beginning Saturday (March 15), the countdown of influential artists will be revealed one by one each week on CMT Hot 20 Countdown , starting with No. 40 and concluding with No. 1 in December.
Each influential musician or band will be ranked based on an artist poll conducted by CMT among the biggest stars in country music. The ballot isn’t limited to just country artists, so over the course of 2014, CMT All-Time Top 40 will highlight artists from all genres that influence country’s biggest names.
Dustin Lynch, Deana Carter, The Band Perry, Luke Bryan and Sara Evans were among the admirers of the man behind 35 No. 1 songs and numerous awards for his music and songwriting. Check out what they had to say.
“Alan, he is one of my favorite songwriters of all time and forever will be,” said Lynch. “To think that a man can move to town and three or four albums later he is still pulling songs off of the cassettes that he brought to town with him — I mean, that caliber of song, not being surrounded by the great songwriters of Nashville that they had. He brought the bag of tricks with him to town and got to pull from them for forever.”
“To sustain a career for 20 plus years,” he continued, “you have to evolve but stay true to yourself and Alan has stayed relevant from the time his first couple of years in town to now. He’s still making great records, so you got to admire that and strive to be like that.”
In fact, Carter remembers when Jackson chose her as the opening act for his large arena tours.
“That was a couple years of him really taking a chance on me and putting me out in front of tons and tons of people. And I owe him so much for that. It reinstalled that you need to write your songs and just stick to your artistry and what you do. Watching him do that every night and seeing that influence, how that touched people. Even though I recorded outside songs and some super important [songs] like ’Strawberry Wine’ and ’We Danced Anyway’ and all that — he’s done some, too — I just felt kindred to him in that. Know who you are and stick to that and creatively make that a priority.”
Likewise, The Band Perry are forever grateful to the “dear soul” for giving them a chance on the road as well.
“He was actually the first artist to invite us out on tour,” said Kimberly Perry with a smile. “He was a big early believer in the band, and I’ll never forget the first time that we got to meet Alan.”
Recounting how the group sat backstage at the first concert where they opened for him, the three remember being in awe as they watched a video montage of Jackson’s No. 1 songs.
“It was like a five-minute video. It was just one after the other, after the other,” Kimberly said.
“And he wrote them all,” interjected her brother and bandmate Neil.
“Amazing,” his sister continued. “Like, all of them. And then he played them all. And we got to meet him after the show. And he was just this tall, quiet, but domineering presence, and it was such a cool experience to just sit underneath his wing and on that tour coming right out of the gates.”
Fellow Georgia native Bryan reiterated the same sentiments and said it was Jackson who provided him with not only inspiration, but a soundtrack to his life.
“Alan, he spoke the language of country music to me, being a kid from Georgia,” Bryan said. “I remember where I was at when I heard ’Chattahoochee’ for the first time, and I just remember going, ’This guy, has he has written the soundtrack to my life and my summer and summers to come.'”
What’s more, Evans, too, connects deeply with Jackson’s music and respects his authenticity.
“I feel like I relate to him actually musically because he loves the sad — really, really, heartbreaking country songs. I mean, he’s able to go to that dark place. I love to go to that dark place when I’m choosing songs, and I like to really sing about pain and so does Alan Jackson. But he can also sing ’Chattahoochee’ or ’Don’t Rock the Jukebox, just like I will do ’Suds in the Bucket, because you can’t always sing those heartbreaking songs.”
“He’s kind of the father of the male country singer,” she added. “He’s so authentic, and I think I always go back to being authentic. And you can tell whether or not somebody is real, and Alan Jackson’s songwriting ability just absolutely blows me away because when you meet him and you spend any time talking to him, he’s just so shy. It’s almost like he’s just that good old boy, you know, ’Yes ma’am, no ma’am, yes ma’am,’ but it’s like something takes over his body when he sits down to write those songs, and it’s like he’s a genius.”
Tune in to CMT Hot 20 Countdown to check out the rest of the list as country stars count down the CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist’s Choice .