Country Music is Changing, but is it a Bad Thing?

I grew up in a town called The Woodlands where listening to country music wasn’t exactly the norm, and most of those who did listen to country mainly listened to the more pop oriented and modern songs. My relationship with the town was different than most. Typically Woodlanders live in suburban neighborhoods with small backyards and with neighbors on the other side of the fence. I on the other hand live on the same thirty acre property in the woods that my dad grew up on, and over the years The Woodlands has grown around us.

The Woodlands is now a very different place than it was when I was young.

The town growing around me

The Woodlands expanding to my fenceline.

The population has more than doubled and as you can see in the photo the woods surrounding my property have become apartments and office buildings and construction sites – the times they are a-changin’. Country music has gone through lots of changes as well. The tried and tested steel guitar, bass, and drum kit has been replaced with a highly processed sound, sections of rap, and electronic beat makers.

While the feeling nostalgia for the “good ole’ days” is powerful, I also really like that there is now a Whole Foods just down the road and that there’s more than three restaurants by my house. The growth of the town around me might has meant change, which is scary, but not inherently bad. The country music I grew up with listening to in the truck with my dad sure was the best, and it hearkens back to better days, but the new wave of country music is not inherently bad either. New artists have the unique opportunity to be more relevant to the current times, as well as use popular techniques and practices from modern genres.

Merle Haggard’s song “Are the Good Times Really Over” speaks to the anxiety that, “the good times [are] over for good,” and spends most of the song remembering how things used to be. What sets this song apart and what really draws me to it is the final two verses that break the mold. Haggard goes on to sing, “The best of the free life is still yet to come\The good times ‘aint over for good.” This change at the end of the song, I think, is the best way to deal with change in general. It is important to remember where things came from but it doesn’t do well to dwell on the past. Country music may be changing, and as long as my old time favorites aren’t forgotten I think new potential favorites will be made, and who knows what great and unexpected things change may bring.


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8 Responses to Country Music is Changing, but is it a Bad Thing?

  1. Annie G

    I can really relate to this post! I was born and raised in Austin and have watched this city literally explode. The skyline used to be two or three buildings and now there are several. I also noticed that the country music I used to hear on the radio has changed- growing up I heard Robert Earl Keen constantly and now he’s no where to be heard on the radio. It’s dominated by Luke Bryan & Carrie Underwood- not that I would say this is a bad thing, since I love their music as well. I do miss hearing Robert every once in a while though, but I would definitely agree that change isn’t all bad.

  2. Morgan Lohmeier

    I really like your take on the topic of change here in your post, John. I agree that we are best to embrace change and see the good in change, as well as aiming not to dwell on the past too much. But what if the past truly held better times than the current times? What if the small town feel is something one misses more than the convenience of restaurants and shops nearby? What if the new waves of country music truly disappoint the old music that took real talent to create? I guess I’m more of someone to miss the “how things used to be” side of life with the way the trends have shaped society. I’m not a fan of how much Austin has grown in the past eight years I’ve lived here. I hate it, really. I’m not a fan of the always-crowded streets anytime I try to leave my house. I’m not a fan of the once-empty greenbelts where my dogs and I would run free and enjoy the outdoors now packed to the brim with touristy families and free-loaders. I’m also not a fan of the new sound of country music. I miss the days when bands played real instruments, wrote their own songs, sounded the same live as they did on their album, and really had a passion for creating good music. Today is all about giving in to the trends and the popular fads. I think the old days were just fine, but then again, we really can’t stop progression and change as the times go on. Change isn’t always bad, just as it’s not always good.

  3. Amanda

    John, I agree with a lot of what you said about the way that country music’s changing will effect its listeners. I totally agree that it is changing, and have too been one to question whether this is a good or bad thing. I realized that I may be biased in liking the newer country because it is basically the only type I have been exposed to because of my age. However, I do have great respect for all of the older styles of country in decades past. I just believe that all music is an example of what’s happening in country music, and it never has this big of a backlash or response. All genres change over time, because change is inevitable. I think it is better for people to accept this change and allow themselves to enjoy it, as long as they remember the styles and honorable artists from the past, as they had a hand in helping country get to where it is today.

  4. Caitie Labay

    Hi John,
    I really enjoyed your post. As a kid I lived in Cypress which is not too far from the Woodlands, and my Godmother currently lives in the Woodlands, so I know exactly what you talk about when you say that everyone is on top of each other in the neighborhoods. I also have the experience of living in a more rural area; I live in Corpus Christi now which I have watched expand a lot over the years. I like how you relate these aspects of our community to the change country music is undergoing. It certainly provides a different perspective because it demonstrates that even though you might be used to the classic rural feel of your town (or country music), a little change can often be a good thing!

  5. Tyler Dial

    John I loved your post. The growth of your town could not have been a more perfect example of the changing times. Something that I’ve noticed these days in country music is that even though it’s changing, we still pay homage to the heroes like Merle. Sam Hunt even claims to listen to Haggard. I also agree with you in the fact that there’s a lot of opportunity out there for up and coming country singers to take risks and try something new. I personally think that the country market is ripe for the next Garth Brooks.

    Also, I’ve never heard that Haggard song and I can’t thank you enough for introducing me to it!

  6. Alyssa Buchanan

    John, great post. The title is what drew me in, and by the end of the post I could build my own opinion on if the change in country music was bad, or good. I personally find that I can relate more easily with the newer country music sounds rather than the old, because it is one that I am familiar with. Change is oftentimes something that no one can agree-upon, but it is also something that no one can stop. So as far as the country music change, I believe it is good. All this being said, I love learning about the roots of country music, and hearing new songs. It provides a great perspective and really makes me listen when I hear a country song on the radio. So lastly I will agree with Tyler, I had never heard “Are the Good Times Really Over” by Merle Haggard, but I am so glad that I have now, thanks!

  7. Adam Keyrouze

    Great word usage and overall post. I never got to experience something like this because i grew up in a suburban area and while my house/backyard wasn’t quite as small as you described the suburban area, it still was nothing close to the size of your backyard, I can imagine. I love how you brought in the nostalgia for listening to country music with your dad because that hit home with me. I wasn’t a huge country fan growing up but I still listened to it with my dad in his truck and you bringing this up really made me think back. Last, I completely agree with your take on how you feel about country music changing. Just like you said, as long as my/our/the old time country favorites aren’t forgotten, i have no problem with new types of country music being created. Once again, great post!

  8. Kelby Floerke

    I thought this was an awesome post. I think you have a really good outlook on the negative rep country music gets from the generations above us. Things change, that’s inevitable, but change is not always bad. I think mainstream country music has to change in order to be successful on the radio and appeal to a younger audience. If artists or people listening to the radio don’t like that, then find an artist who is willing stick to the roots of country music that you enjoy listening to. I really like how you compared to your hometown growing and changing to country music. I relate to it because my hometown is the same way, it’s growing and yea sometimes I wish we still had that “small town” feel, but change is inevitable.

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