Jennifer Nettles Says 'Farmer Wants a Wife' Is Better Than Dating Apps

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Jennifer Nettles

With more than 200 marriages and over 500 children to its credit, Farmer Wants a Wife has something that no other dating show has: a successful track record. Of course, that’s an international track record because the show airs in 32 countries.

But it was that success that influenced three-time Grammy-winning singer Jennifer Nettles to agree to host the matchmaking series last season and sees her return for a second go-round.

“There are so many of these shows that are out there, dating shows, but I am not a fan of those,” she tells Parade. “I feel like they are over dramatized for people who want 15 seconds of fame to become Instagram influencers, which is fun, but it definitely is escapism. This show is not escapism. This show is relatable because it’s authentic. When it first came across my desk I was like, ‘A dating show? No thanks.’ Then they came back and shared with me the successes of their shows. That got my attention.”

After watching a few episodes, Nettles decided it was something she wanted to be a part of, especially because she’s a romantic at heart.

“I love love,” she admits. “More than anything I love a good love story. Getting to be able to be a witness, possibly facilitate—dare I say matchmake—is really, really fun for me.”

Related: Meet the Cast of Farmer Wants a Wife Season 2

Of course, Season 1 of Farmer Wants a Wife here in the U.S. wasn’t a huge success story. At the end, Rich was still single and since it aired, the other three couples have split, but Nettles is hopeful that that’s because the first season was more like a trial run here in the U.S. with the farmers and the women who applied to meet them not exactly sure what to expect.

“It took a season for us to get to a place where these guys who are out there and these ladies who joined understand what is at stake,” Nettles says. “They understand the formula and they are in it for the right reasons.”

Nathan, Brandon, Ty, Mitchell.<p>CR: Michael Becker/FOX</p>
Nathan, Brandon, Ty, Mitchell.

CR: Michael Becker/FOX

Season 2 has a new batch of farmers—all of whom are easy on the eyes. There’s Brandon Rogers, 29, a potato and barley farmer from Colorado; Ty Ferrell, 42, a horse rancher from Missouri; Nathan Smothers, 23, a citrus farmer and cattle rancher from Florida; and Mitchell Kolinsky, 27, a first-time farmer from Tennessee.

“The call goes out and people who are interested respond,” Nettles says. “To me the part of the show that makes it more attractive is that the ladies who are interested then get to look at these farmers’ profiles and select which one they feel they have the most connection with. So, it’s a vetting on both sides. Then the farmers choose out of the ladies who are interested in them based on their profiles. Then they make it to the show and that’s where all the magic starts.”

During our conversation, Nettles also talked about the comedy element of the women being introduced to farming, how big a role she plays, and her thoughts on why Farmer Wants a Wife is preferable to dating apps.

Related: Jennifer Nettles on Feeling Like a 'Fairy Godmother' on Farmer Wants a Wife

The fact that the women actually have their say in which of the farmers they want to meet, that makes Farmer Wants a Wife different than other shows. For The Bachelor, they pick 25 women who have no clue who the guy’s going to be.

Yeah, it definitely makes it different. That comes into play throughout the show because not only do the farmers have times and moments on the show where maybe there’s someone with whom he isn’t connecting and they feel like it’s time for them to go home, but there are definitely moments on this show where the women say, “This lifestyle isn’t for me” or “I’m not connecting to this person, I’m going to go home myself.”

I think there’s a little bit of comedy involved in this. These women show up in high heels and really long nails and then expect to take on farm life. There have to be some funny things that happen. Anything come to mind?

For sure there are definitely those fun, fish-out-of-water moments that make for really entertaining television for the viewer. That definitely comes into play with nails and heels and freaking out about animals and never having been in this lifestyle before. You will see that come into play to a very entertaining end.

How present are you? Do you mostly watch footage and participate on occasions where you’re all together?

I mainly watch footage and there are occasions when we are together. For the most part, I just flit in once a week for what they call the mixers. These farmers, they’re out on their farms with their ladies that they’ve chosen, all these ladies in one house and one space getting to know farm life, getting to know each other. But they’re separated on their individual farms.

The mixers are a chance for everybody to come together, to compare what their experiences are, to learn any of the gossip or whatever might be happening and the fun chitter-chatter where hopefully romance is blossoming. And more than anything, it’s an opportunity for them to get time off the farm. Obviously, that’s its own environment. While these guys are shooting, they’re also still working, so they don’t have a ton of time. The mixers are a chance for them to relax and come together and a chance for the guys to connect.

Earlier today, I was with the farmers. The point they made was the mixers were a real chance for them to actually connect with somebody who’s going through the same experience. All the ladies who are on each farm, they form these friendships and bonds amongst each farm group. But there’s only one farmer. So, it’s only when we come together for these mixers that they get a chance to connect.

Jennifer Nettles, Mitchell, Nathan, Ty and Brandon<p>CR: Mark Hill/FOX</p>
Jennifer Nettles, Mitchell, Nathan, Ty and Brandon

CR: Mark Hill/FOX

You’re married. Can you imagine ever having done a show like this?

We have friends who are younger and in the dating scene, and the more I learn about the dating scene right now and social media and the dating apps that are out there and how transactional it is and how fake it is, I don’t think it’s actually connective at all. I think it’s actually super disruptive to connections.

The more I learn about that, the more I think “Oh, wow, no wonder people are attracted to this show.” The irony is that being on television in this specific show is way more of an authentic way to make an old-fashioned connection. These people are spending time together, getting to know each other, going to a dance, going to a roping event, going to a football game, you know what I’m saying? This is like old-timey romance, for lack of a better word. In comparison to freaking swiping right, Lord help me.

In the past, farmers used to do mail order brides. At least this way they get to meet the women before. Whereas with the mail order brides, it was sight unseen. Well, maybe a photo.

Can you imagine? They would put these ads in the paper like: 21-year-old farmer looking for a wife, must love… Can you imagine?

Speaking of wives—how’s this for a transition—you’ve just been cast in The Bondsman as Kevin Bacon’s ex-wife.

Yes, I am no longer six degrees. I have moved into absolutely one degree.

You started out with Sugarland, so your background is music. But now you’re hosting and you’re acting. What is that like for you and why this particular role?

First of all, as an artist what I love, I love to continue to evolve, grow, expand and push myself. I love to tell stories in myriad different ways. Whether that is TV and film, whether it’s onstage, whether it’s as a recording artist, whether it is hosting a show, I love to tell all sorts of stories in any way I can.

With The Bondsman, I cannot wait. I am thrilled. I can’t believe it. If I told my teenage self that I would be one day starring in a television series with Kevin Bacon, I would have never in a million years believed it. I’m really, really grateful for this opportunity and excited to get to play such a fun role and to get to tell such a really fun, fun story.

As a songwriter, I’m thinking that all these experiences inspire you in ways that might not have come to you before.

Yes, absolutely. I have found that I especially get musically inspired on scripted shows. Because when I’m on the scripted shows, when I’m playing a character, you get so immersed in who that character is and, in their story, and in their lives. There’s so much detail. As a songwriter, we tend to write three and a half minutes and you get a little snapshot tied beautifully in a musical bow. When I get to really dig into a role and learn the heart of these characters, I usually always get inspired.

Farmer Wants a Wife premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.

Next, FOX Reveals Winter Premiere Dates for 2024