There's no question that country music has changed a lot in the 25 years since Joe Diffie released his first album, A Thousand Winding Roads, in 1990 -- and many of the music industry's biggest changes have affected more than just the country world. Many artists have struggled with the rise of digital platforms and other shifts, and Diffie believes that these recent developments have both positives and negatives.

“Well, it’s been great in one way, where everybody’s music is very accessible, and on the other hand, we’re in a generation where people don’t really want to pay for music, which is very difficult," Diffie told The Boot in the days leading up to his appearance at Country on the River 2015 in Prairie du Chien, Wis. "You feel weird as an artist for saying, ‘Oh, poor me,’ but it really has affected the entire industry. So, it’s good and bad at the same time.”

As Diffie says, some fans may balk at artists complaining that they're not making money off of their music, but the country singer says that it's a very real problem.

“It’s a rare thing that you actually make money off of record sales, because there’s just not any, really. Unless you’re Taylor Swift or a really huge artist, and even Taylor’s had issues recently with a couple of companies," Diffie adds. "It’s just sad when you see -- I’ve seen several of these things, like on Facebook -- songwriters will say that a song they wrote played 6 million times, and they got a check for 99 cents. There’s just something really weird there.”

The shift to digital album releases has had a big impact on how all artists put out new music, and as Diffie prepares to release his own new project, he's aware that most of his money won't come from music sales.

“Well, whether you want to or not, you pretty much do [release an album for free]," the Oklahoma native says. "But yeah, you mainly just do it for your core fans, and hopefully somebody else will hear about it and be interested in it and come to our shows and have fun and buy merchandise and all that kind of stuff ..."

But country music has seen more than just changes in how music is released in the time since Diffie began his career. The genre's sound has shifted a great deal over the past two decades, with most radio stations playing more pop-influenced country music nowadays. Of course, not every new country artist has forsaken country's roots, and Diffie says that there are a number of new names that he's excited to hear more from.

“Oh, there’s several that I think are good singers. Gosh, I can’t name ‘em right off the top of my head, but there’s a lot of new guys that I enjoy listening to," he says. "I haven’t heard a lot of ‘em yet, you know. There’s a new kid named Mo Pitney that everyone’s kind of excited about -- he sings real country stuff. Chris Stapleton, I don’t know if he’s really all that country, but he’s a singing fool."

Diffie's fans will be glad to hear that the singer is working on new music. His most recent album, All in the Same Boat, which was a co-release with Sammy Kershaw and Aaron Tippin, came out more than two years ago. The singer is currently touring around the country, with dates scheduled into December. See a list of his upcoming shows at