Country Music: California’s Forbidden Fruit

Where I grew up in southern California, country music is like a forbidden fruit. If you think about it, talk about it, or listen to it (God forbid), you’re inevitably evil. No one in their right mind would find country music pleasant to listen to. If you ask your average civilian from my hometown what their favorite type of music is, it would likely go something like this: “Uhm I’m in to rap, hip hop, indie…I mean I love a little bit of everything…oh, except country, of course”.

Of course.

Similarly, my dad always jokes that if it isn’t about trucks, beer, breaking up with girls, or your dog dying, “it ain’t country”. This is a reasonable observation, but it hurts my heart a little nonetheless.

Despite the lack of country music enthusiasts within the area I grew up, I can’t complain about much else. Surrounded by palm tress, in-n-out, and the beach, I feel very fortunate to consider myself a part of the southern California community. But living here for 18+ years has definitely had an impact on the way I view this genre of music.

For example, it’s considered common courtesy to ask the passengers in your car if they like country music before tuning your radio to the one country station that’s available. I cut people a little slack though, because up until the summer before my junior year of high school, I was the same way. The genre had no appeal to me whatsoever and I just didn’t like the way it sounded. It took stumbling on the playlist “Country Favorites” on 8tracks to get me hooked.

The playlist features artists such as Luke Bryan, Chris Cagle, and Gary Allen. I found every song to be incredibly catchy and evoke this positive feeling of nostalgia that I had never experienced with other types of music. The collection of songs touched on everything I dreamt of about the perfect summer: having a boy fall hopelessly in love with me, driving down a long road and singing at the top of my lungs, staying up and watching the stars, making memories with lifelong friends, and whatever else I thought was cool when I was 16.

Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” was the epitome of this summer dream I had. He discusses the feeling of invincibility that many experience when they’re a teenager. Many young people long to “never grow up” and feel as if “[they’re] comin’ alive” as Owen sings.

It’s possible that the negative connotation southern Californians generally associate with country music is due to the fact that the genre tends to be associated with Southern culture. They may assume it doesn’t relate to their own lifestyle or beliefs. However, many of the ideas surrounding growing up, feeling on top of the world, and falling in love are universal, and therefore completely compatible with the lifestyle of a typical southern Californian.

tumblr_nfneiv8TdB1rcrcdeo1_1280In the next few years, I am hopeful that more country artists will begin sprouting up from the west coast, and more people will start to love the genre as much as I do. And maybe, just maybe, Jake Owen will eventually change his lyrics to “a southern California summer, barefoot blue jean night”.


Filed under Blog Post 1, Class work, New Country

5 Responses to Country Music: California’s Forbidden Fruit

  1. I love hearing how people first got interested in country music. Something I have been wondering about in recent classes is what people are making of the distinction that die-hard country fans make between “pop” and “traditional” country. For example, artists that you mention in this post (like Luke Bryan) are sometimes dismissed as “pop” and “inauthentic.” Did you know that Bryan faced this criticism from some quarters before the class began? I hope you don’t mind if I heckle him from time to time.

  2. GINNY

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post! I found your experience to be very similar to one of my best friends here at UT. She is also from California and was definitely not a part of the majority when she discovered country music right around the time she came to Texas and loved it! I think it’s interesting that you also said the current ‘pop-country’ and maybe other singers who aren’t considered 100% are the singers who got you hooked! Jake Owen is one of my favorite recent country artists, and I remember when his song “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” sort of exploded on the radio and had a lot of people talking.

  3. Caitie Labay

    First off, welcome to Texas where we LOVE country music! I think you found your place in the music world. I also want to mention that I really love the song “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”, it was one of the songs that got me into country music and I even have a Pandora radio station for that song. While many people argue that it is very pop, I actually think that it’s not as pop as say a song by Hunter Hays. In my opinion that song is a good cross-over that maintains the integrity of both genres and is a good bridge to introduce people who like pop to more classic country music.

  4. Lauren Harris

    I think it is funny that coming to Texas can almost be a culture shock for people who aren’t from the south. There are 50 states that are all American but they are all so different, especially Texas and Southern California! I never really understood how people couldn’t like country music, but the stereotype of being a hick who drives a truck and drinks beer probably is what makes people hate it. I liked how you said that it is actually relatable to everyone because it talks about love and youth. Also, it is funny that you choose the more pop sounding country songs as opposed to the more classic, traditional sound. I love California but my heart will always be with Texas!

  5. Kaki Miller

    Hannah, I really enjoyed hearing more about the Souther California perception of country music. Being from Texas, country music has been part of my life ever since I can remember so hearing that it really wasn’t a part of yours until recently seems crazy to me! But it makes sense because of the general feelings that most of your friends seem to have about the genre. But all of the songs that you happened to discover as ones you like are great songs and a good reason to start loving country! I hope you are able to discover more country music as you are in Texas, hopefully without a negative stigma from your friends!

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