Soon the world will know the story of Kountry Boi, a fictional “hick-hop” country artist who takes over the Nashville music biz with his genre-hopping style and helps usher in hip-hop “from a fringe genre in Nashville to the dominant face of Music City.”
The narrative, further described in a press release as “one part 8 Mile with a dash of Once Upon a Time in America,” is the focus of the upcoming graphic novel and eight-episode podcast Neon Empire. The project is being developed by the Audio Up network in a new partnership with Z2, a graphic novel publisher and merchandise company (see the preview below). Neon Empire will also be supplemented by a soundtrack featuring original tunes from country artists.
It’s the brainchild of Audio Up founder and music exec Jared Gutstadt, who will also steer the soundtrack. Gutstadt has played a pivotal role in the career of genre mashup artist Jelly Roll and has also worked with Lil Wayne, Bob Dylan, Machine Gun Kelly, and Timbaland, among others.
“Country music is changing, and the new outlaws are defining [Nashville],” Gutstadt said in a statement. “Until now, it was unheard of to have country acts with tattoos on their face who refused to conform to the strict guidelines and cookie-cutter approach of Music Row. This new world has yet to be explored in fiction, and Neon Empire is an exposé of this creative, hyperkinetic, and often violent world. This is fiction rooted in a reality that I’ve been dying to reveal. Z2 is the perfect conduit and partner to bring this to life.”
Z2 founder Josh Bernstein added in a statement, “With Neon Empire, Jared Gutstadt and the team at Audio Up have constructed an unflinching narrative based on the current emergence of hip-hop music in the traditional capital of country: Nashville, Tennessee.”
Neon Empire‘s graphic novel component will be available for pre-sale later this year, and limited deluxe and platinum editions will be sold exclusively at Z2comics.com. The podcast series is set to launch at the same time and will be available on Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Stitcher, and most other audio streaming services.