Garth Brooks is now considered one of the most defining and authentic voices in country music, but it wasn't too long ago that the "Baby, Let's Lay Down and Dance" singer was being accused of not being "country enough." In a recent interview, after decades in the industry, Brooks shared his definition of country music -- and it was surprisingly simple.

"It’s sincerity,” Brooks tells Taste of Country. "That’s all it is. It’s sincerity, and it’s real."

Brooks knows that people have questioned his own "country-ness" just as much as they're questioning current acts such as Florida Georgia Line, but he also knows that what matters isn't just the way something sounds, but also the heart behind it.

"People today are saying, ‘Hey, is today’s country music 'real' because it has hip-hop and dance in it?' When we came out, we were the guys who weren’t considered 'real country' at all because we had BostonQueenStyx in our stuff along with [Merle] Haggard and [George] Jones," Brooks says, adding that country artists today have even more influences, both country and non-country, to pull from.

"They’ve got Brooks, [Tim] McGraw[Kenny] Chesney along with hip-hop and dance," he notes. "It only makes sense. Country music is what is sincere, that’s the main thing."

However, Brooks doesn't fault critics for calling him out in his early days, reasoning with Taste of Country that it's something that every artist experiences.

"Now you listen to stuff like [Brooks' own] "Two of a Kind [(Workin' on a Full House)]," and you’re like, 'That’s stone country!'" Brooks says with a laugh. "Back then, people were going, ‘That’s not country music.’ Everybody goes through it."

One modern artist who Brooks thinks exemplifies that all-important authenticity and sincerity? Dierks Bentley. According to Brooks, Bentley is perfectly blending the old and the new for today's country audiences.

“[He's] one of the most sincere guys on the planet," Brooks says. "As long as these guys are singing country music, it’s in good hands."

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