Nelly Thanks Lionel Richie for Inspiring His Interest in Country Music

The "Over and Over" and "Cruise" collaborator breaks down the scope of his interest in the genre

“It’s a Nelly project, but it’s country-influenced, it’s my appreciation and…everything that I want to say thank you for county music to allowing Nelly to be at the dinner,” says “Country Grammar” singer Nelly.

2021 will see Nelly release Heartland, his seventh studio album, and his first full foray into his country music interests. Regarding what inspired his country aspirations, the artist told Kentucky radio station Z104 that his uncle was a huge Lionel Richie fan who showed him the breadth and depth of the “All Night Long” singer’s songwriting catalog.

“I was like, wow. Kenny Rogers is someone he wrote for, and from there I went through Kenny Rogers catalog and then I was listening to Hank Williams, George Strait, Garth Brooks, Shania Twain and it was just over after that,” Nelly said.

Kicking off with his surprise country-to-rap Billboard crossover hit duet “Over and Over” with Tim McGraw in 2005, Nelly’s country pairings have seen him work with artists like Florida Georgia Line (“Cruise,” “Lil Bit”), Kane Brown (“Cool Again”) and Jimmie Allen (“Good Times Roll”) in the past two decades.

Regarding his forthcoming release, the rap star added, “Everything just manifested its way leading back to this point. I’ve had this idea for ten years almost, but it never really felt like the right time for some reason, but here we are. I think the pandemic probably had something to do with it because I was really able to lock in and lock down and really get the ideas out, and I just thought it was time for a new chapter.”