Country Stars Who Are Completely Unrecognizable Now

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If you've been a fan of country stars for a while, then you've seen just how much country music as a whole has changed over the years. It's not just the genre itself that has transformed, but also the singers that make country music great. A lot of country music's hottest stars have been on the scene for quite some time now, and they have transformed in front of our very eyes. While their looks have certainly changed over the years, that's not the only way that some of the biggest names in country music have become unrecognizable as time has passed.

From country music mainstays to former American Idol contestants, these singers are almost completely different people than they were at the start of their careers. Here is a closer look at just how much some of the biggest names in country music have changed over the years. Can you recognize your favorite country stars?  

Country star Reba McEntire has changed a lot in her decades-long career

Country star Reba McEntire has been on the scene for quite a long time, and she has definitely changed a lot over the years. While she is still rocking her signature red hair, McEntire has grown over the course of her career. As noted on McEntire's official website, the country crooner landed her first record deal back in 1975. Since then, she's racked up a number of accolades, including multiple American Music Awards and Grammy Awards. She's also established herself as an actress both on screen and on Broadway.

Decades may have passed since she first joined the music world, but the queen of country has no plans to slow down any time soon. "I feel 35, maybe 40," she told People in 2019, shortly after her 64th birthday. She added that she gets her youthful spirit from her mother, who, even in her 90s, was "spunky" and "frisky." 

Tim McGraw is a country star focused on raising his daughters

Tim McGraw has made a name for himself not only as one of the biggest stars in country music but also as one half of a power couple. The singer has been married to his wife, fellow country star Faith Hill, since 1996, and he has come a long way since his bachelor country star days. Nowadays, his family is a big part not just of his life but of his music career as well. He and Hill record together and go on tour together. As McGraw told People, his relationship with Hill "poured gasoline" on both of their careers.

McGraw is also focused on his children with Hill — although the couple makes sure to prioritize date nights for some alone time. The country star told Taste of Country that, as much as he loves their three daughters, he is also excited to see them moving out and starting their own careers. 

Country star Kacey Musgraves has grown up since she first appeared on the country music scene

These days, Kacey Musgraves is a household name. Long before she was climbing up the country music charts, though, she was competing on the reality show Nashville Star when she was just a teenager. Musgraves finished in seventh place on the show in 2007, but said that losing was probably for the best. As she told Yahoo! Music, she was still finding herself "musically and personally" at that point of her life. After the competition, she moved to Nashville and worked not just on songwriting but on herself. "I'm really, really thankful I had that time," she shared.

Clearly, things worked out for the best. Musgraves has come a long way and is now unrecognizable as that teenager from Nashville Star. The country star is playing sold-out shows and has several Grammys under her belt. She's also thriving in her personal life. As noted by Martha Stewart Weddings, Musgraves tied the knot with fellow country singer Ruston Kelly in 2017.

Country star Randy Travis wrote a memoir

Randy Travis all but retired from music in 2013, when a stroke left him with limited speech and unable to use of the right side of his body. In spite of this, Travis has remained optimistic and an inspiration to all of us. In 2019, he released a memoir, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith and Braving the Storms of Life. "Randy lived the colorful life," his wife, Mary Travis, told USA Today regarding the book.

That "colorful life" includes 16 songs that hit No. 1 — an incredible feat that cemented Travis' name in country music history forever. To top it off, Travis has six Grammys and six CMA Awards. While Travis may never regain full control of his voice, he hasn't let that stop him. In 2016, he performed "Amazing Grace" at the Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony. He also keeps busy with book events, interviews, and business meetings. In 2019, he went on a short tour with his band. While his songs were performed by James Dupré, Travis joined in a little.

"We're still singing," the country star's wife told Cowboys & Indians. "It's just a different type of song now."

Carrie Underwood is a country star who has come a long way since her American Idol days

Carrie Underwood first charmed the world when she appeared as a contestant on American Idol in 2005. While winning the show catapulted her to fame, the country star admitted to BBC Radio's Steve Wright in the Afternoon (via CMT News) that she very nearly didn't audition for the show that would prove to be her big break. Underwood explained that, while she had always wanted to be a country music singer, she didn't think she stood a chance. "That was dreaming too big," she said of trying to talk herself out of the audition.

Fortunately, Underwood's mom convinced her to go through with auditioning, and the rest is history. The year after winning American Idol, Underwood won her first Grammy and now has several more under her belt. It's hard to believe that the young woman who didn't think she had any hope of even making it onto a singing competition show is now a household name. Underwood can hardly believe her luck, either. In 2018, the singer got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "How is this my life?" she said at the ceremony (via AXS).

Josh Turner is a country star who branched out into gospel music

Josh Turner rose to prominence in the early 2000s with the hit single "Long Black Train." Turner told CBN that he was still in college when he wrote the song that would turn him into a star. Turner has lost his baby face since his early days on the country music scene, but he's no less handsome today than he was all those years ago.

Turner has always been motivated by his Christian faith, which inspired him to release the gospel album I Serve a Savior in 2018. The country star told Entertainment Focus that he had been wanting to branch out into gospel for quite some time, even though establishing himself on the country music scene had been his "main goal."

The album showed off not just Turner's versatile voice but also showcased his family. As noted by Rolling Stone, I Serve a Savior includes a live version of "The River (of Happiness)," which was co-written by Turner's wife, Jennifer, and son Hampton and also features the vocals of all four of Turner's sons.

Country star Trisha Yearwood staged a comeback in 2019 after a long hiatus

Country star Trisha Yearwood is an unstoppable force. As noted by PBS, she rose to fame in the 1990s, releasing her first album in 1991. The lead single from the self-titled album, "She's in Love with the Boy," hit No. 1. From there, she went on tour with fellow legend Garth Brooks (whom she later married) and churned out multiple hits and platinum records over the course of the decade. The singer has earned several Grammys, and she was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1999.

The singer branched out from music in the 2000s, penning the cookbooks Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen, and Trisha's Table. In 2012, she began hosting the cooking show Trisha's Southern Kitchen. In 2019, she made a return to music with the album Every Girl — her first solo record since 2007, as noted by The Boot. Is there anything Yearwood can't do?

Josh Gracin became a country star after appearing on American Idol

Josh Gracin is another country star who rose to fame after he competed on American Idol. After a successful audition for the reality TV show in 2002, Gracin went on to place fourth, losing to Ruben Studdard. In 2004, he released his first album. In spite of the fact that he got his big break on American Idol, Gracin seems to have some beef with the show. In 2016, he refused to sing on the show, telling The Washington Post that he wanted to perform one of his own songs to help breathe life into his stagnating career rather than sing a cover alongside contestants.

It wasn't just Gracin's career that was in trouble, but also his personal life. According to TMZ, he lost half of his music rights in his 2015 divorce from his wife Ann. Gracin slowly managed to turn things around, though. In 2017, he married Katie Weir, as noted by People. In 2018, he released an EP, Nothing Like Us, telling Taste of Country that "things are going really well." In 2020, Gracin and his wife welcomed their first child together, Luka.

Country star LeAnn Rimes became a Hallmark Christmas movie star

As noted by Encyclopaedia Britannica, LeAnn Rimes' talent was evident from a young age, and she won her first singing competition at the age of 5. She got her start in the music industry at the tender age of 13 with her chart-topping cover of "Blue," establishing herself as a country music icon.

The country star's talents go beyond music, though. Rimes is also a talented actress with several acting credits under her belt, including the 2000 film Coyote Ugly, in which she played herself. Hallmark fans will also be familiar with Rimes, who made her debut with the network in 2018's It's Christmas, Eve. The film didn't just mark Rimes' Hallmark debut, but also her first time as executive producer on a project, as noted by AXS

In addition to acting and singing, Rimes is focused on family life with her husband, Eddie Cibrian, and her stepsons, Mason and Jake. While the singer told People that her blended family doesn't look how "you would normally think," it's "good."

Country star Shania Twain kept fighting for her career after losing her voice

Shania Twain isn't just one of the most recognizable figures in country music, but she is also one of the most inspiring. Her album Come on Over became the top-selling album from a female artist ever. In spite of her massive success, the singer went on a 15-year recording hiatus, which she finally broke in 2017 with the album Now. Her long hiatus wasn't by choice — it was because of complications from Lyme disease that led to vocal cord paralysis. "I never thought I'd sing again," she told The Guardian. Twain refused to give up though and kept working to strengthen her voice, undergoing a surgery to reconstruct her vocal box in 2018. 

The country star, who's had a tragic real-life story, also turned her attention to other outlets. In 2011, Twain released the memoir From This Moment On and announced a two-year Las Vegas residency. Twain's comeback is proof of the tenacity that makes her one of country music's biggest icons.

Country star Vince Gill joined the rock band the Eagles

Vince Gill has been on the country scene for decades. As noted by Biography, he joined the band Pure Prairie League in 1976. Four years later, one of the songs he penned for the group, "Let Me Love You Tonight" hit No. 1. In 1983, he started a solo career and also worked as a guitarist for country stars like Reba McEntire and Bonnie Raitt. Gill remained successful in the following decades, but he hasn't limited himself to country music. In 2017, the country star joined the rock band the Eagles, telling PopMatters that he was "beyond flattered" to be asked to take over for former frontman Glenn Frey.

In 2019, Gill dove in to some heavy topics with his album Okie, where he sang about subjects like sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy. He revealed that his song "Forever Changed" was about a teacher who touched him inappropriately in middle school. The singer told Rolling Stone that there's "so much shame" surrounding abuse but he "wanted to speak out for innocence."

Country star Sara Evans has spoken out about gender inequality in country music

As noted by Taste of Country, Sara Evans has been on the country music scene since the '90s, scoring her first major hit with "No Place That Far," a song from her second album. Evans followed that song up with several other hits, including "Born to Fly," "Suds in the Bucket," and "A Little Bit Stronger."

While Evans is a force in the industry, it hasn't all been smooth sailing for the crooner. In a 2018 interview with Billboard, Evans opened up about gender inequality in country music, revealing that country radio often favors men. The lead single from the country star's 2017 album, "Marquee Sign," didn't chart, with Evans citing gender inequality. Another barrier was the fact that the song was off her first album on her own imprint, Born to Fly Records, making stations reluctant to play it as it wasn't backed by massive promotion from a major label. While the album debuted at No. 4 in Top Country Albums, Evans expressed her frustration, saying she was "sobbing at home" because she couldn't get stations to play her song. 

Keith Urban is a country star who has no plans to retire

Keith Urban has always been one of the coolest country stars on the scene, and that hasn't changed as he's gotten older. As noted by Biography, Urban released his first album in 1991 and he's been going strong ever since. He's certainly accomplished more than enough for one lifetime. Urban has won multiple Grammys, has served as a guest judge on American Idol, and has a long-lasting marriage with actress Nicole Kidman.

Urban says he still has a lot to accomplish, though, and has no intention of slowing down — ever. In an interview with iHeartRadio, Urban was asked if he ever thinks about retiring one day. Urban joked that he will retire "after Mick Jagger does," adding, "which is never gonna happen." Urban said that he doesn't look at music as something to retire from because he "[loves] making music."

Country star Kellie Pickler became a TV mainstay

It's hard to believe that Kellie Pickler is the same person who competed on American Idol in 2006. While she didn't come away with the title, she did finish in sixth place and soon landed a record deal. As noted by Biography, Pickler released her first album, Small Town Girl, that same year. Since then, Pickler has enjoyed an incredibly successful career. In addition to several more albums, Pickler won Dancing With the Stars in 2013. She's also become a television mainstay, starring on reality series I Love Kellie Pickler and hosting Pickler & Ben.

The former American Idol contestant has also shown off her acting chops on more than one occasion and has a growing list of acting credits under her belt. The country star has appeared in several Hallmark movies, including Christmas at Graceland and The Mistletoe Secret. Pickler told AJC that she would love to continue to build her acting career "if the right opportunities come in the future."