Garth Brooks has seven diamond-studded albums under his belt now, but there was once a time when even he was regarded as not being country enough. The CMA Entertainer of the Year nominee recently sat down with Taste of Country to discuss his years of country criticism and to answer the long debated question: what is country music?

"It's sincerity," Brooks tells Taste of Country of the genre's definition. "That's all it is. It's sincerity and it's real. 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 Boston, Queen, Styx in our stuff along with [Merle] Haggard and [George] Jones. Well, they've got Brooks, [Tim] McGraw, [Kenny] Chesney along with hip-hop and dance. It only makes sense. Country music is what is sincere, that's the main thing."

Brooks says he is a fan of today's country music and looks to artists like Dierks Bentley, who continue to carry the torch within the genre with honor.

"You've got guys like Dierks Bentley — one of the most sincere guys on the planet — as long as these guys are singing country music, it's in good hands," he says.

So, did people often critique Brooks and say he "wasn't country"? He confirms in the positive.

"All the time! Now you listen to stuff like 'Two of a Kind' and you're like, that's stone country! Back then people were going, 'That's not country music.' Everybody goes through it," he reasons.

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