John Rich wouldn’t necessarily call Carrie Underwood a friend.

Sure, the two country music mainstays have seen each other backstage at various award shows and passed each other on the charts, but the Big & Rich hitmaker has never had any sort of lengthy conversation with her. But in August, when Underwood found herself being somewhat attacked for a social media "like" on Instagram that opposed school mask mandates in Nashville, Rich couldn’t stand by and be silent any longer.

He had to defend his country music comrade.

“We're at a point in this country where you can't express your opinion, even in the slightest bit, without running the risk that they're going to come at you with their razor blades at the ready to cut you up and tear you down just over your opinion,” Rich tells Taste of Country in a new interview. “And so, there's a real issue right now within the country music industry and the audience of country music. They could not be further apart.”

In fact, Rich firmly believes that there are many artists in the country music industry who prefer to stay quiet rather than risk getting persecuted on the national stage for their beliefs.

“You've got a lot of artists that are not Carrie Underwood size, but they are up-and-comers or mid-level artists that have got just as strong of opinions as anybody, but they will not say anything because if they do, the industry will crush them,” Rich explains with conviction. “I'm in a unique position where I don't care about the industry. I just really don't care.”

It's a stand Rich says he decided to take a few short years ago.

“I asked myself if my freedom of speech and the expression of it was more valuable to me than the approval of the music industry,” recalls Rich, whose interview-based show The Pursuit! With John Rich recently premiered on FOX Business. “Because I knew if I could keep my mouth shut, I could keep their approval.”

But soon, that idea began to personally wear on Rich.

“How could I look at my kids and basically tell them, ‘Don't express yourself through your freedom of speech rights, because you're afraid it might cost you some money or it might cost you some favor with people,'” Rich remembers. “I do not want my kids living like that.”

So, Rich came to a conclusion.

“I'm going to say what I mean and mean what I say and let the chips fall,” he states. “The industry doesn't give a s--t about what happens to me anymore, but the audience out there is picking up on what I'm saying. There are new opportunities coming my way. I'm still going write songs no matter what, because that's what I do. I may not make a bunch of money on them like I used to, but that's okay. That's the existence for me that I'm happy with right now.”

John Rich's House Is Amazing!