Ricky Skaggs has been the principal ambassador for bluegrass music of his generation, and in a new interview, the Country Music Hall of Famer says he's not worried about the perceived threat of AI encroaching upon the music to which he's devoted his life.

Nashville's songwriting community has begun to use AI extensively as a tool to help create songs, and the debate around the technology is also part of the subject of the current Hollywood writers and actors strikes, with critics arguing that artificial intelligence stands to replace artists entirely. But Skaggs tells Taste of Country that he doesn't think so.

"Until they create an AI that really has a heart, there will always be something missing," Skaggs said in an interview before his July 27 headlining slot at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

"It can spit out numbers and it can spit out lyrics, and it can know a lot about a person," Skaggs concedes, adding that he was surprised at how accurate it was when a friend of his asked an AI program to write a song about Skaggs.

"It talked about bluegrass, it talked about Bill Monroe, it talked about my Christian faith ... I was blown away that it knew that much, but it was like, 'Okay, here's your words ... now create a melody yourself,'" he shares with a hearty laugh.

Skaggs became involved in music at a very young age, and he says early exposure to live music is one of the keys to sustaining the human connection that music provides. He especially enjoys seeing young people in his audiences.

"They're learning how to play their instruments," he says. "And God bless 'em ... I always tell moms and dads to bring their kids out to hear us play live music. It's impressive to go out and see live music, especially if you're young. It can really make a difference," he adds, citing his own experience of seeing Bill Monroe live for the first time as a moment that changed the course of his life and set him on his own musical path.

The Grammy, CMA and ACM winner and his top-notch band, Kentucky Thunder, performed at the "Mother Church" of country music on July 27 as part of the Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman series, which he told the sold-out audience was his "favorite show of the year." Skaggs is set to return to the historic venue on Dec. 10 for a special Christmas show in 2023. Visit the Ryman's website for more information.

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