Lady Gaga’s upcoming album Joanne, due this Friday, October 21st, features a healthy dose of Nashville inspiration. Songwriter Hillary Lindsey co-wrote three songs for the project, including the vulnerable ballad “Million Reasons,” and the pop star, who will headline the Super Bowl halftime show on February 5th, kicked off her Bud Light x Lady Gaga Dive Bar Tour at East Nashville club the 5 Spot.
But Gaga’s fascination with country music isn’t an opportunistic new development. She professes a keen appreciation for all facets of the genre: classic, folk-country and even Nineties country.
“Everyone thinks of rock & roll and country in different ways,” Gaga tells Rolling Stone. “Rock & roll, country and blues – they all have babies. So I love Johnny Cash, I love Neil Young, I love Garth Brooks.”
While the Cash name is on the tip of most artists’ tongues when asked to list their country influences, Brooks seems like a bit of a wild card, until you consider the pop element of his music. For Gaga, the affinity for Brooks stems from her childhood.
“When I was little, my father used to play ‘I’ve Got Friends in Low Places’ really loud in the basement, and I’d catch him down there dancing by himself, screaming real loud,” she recalls. “I thought it was cool.”
When it came to recording Joanne, however, Gaga didn’t give much thought to genre. The album veers from the dance-rock of lead single “Perfect Illusion” to the introspective country songwriting of the title track.
“I have a general and deep respect for all country musicians, but I myself am not a country musician. I’m just a musician period,” she says. “I love all different kinds of music and this is just what I wrote.”
Gaga’s Dive Bar Tour continues with shows on October 20th and 27th at venues to be announced.