I grew up hating country, until I met her. Well, I had danced on a country-western dance team in high school (all the cool kids did it, I promise), but never became vested in country music. I got to college, went to tailgates, and heard that nasal twang that is ubiquitously known as country. When I started dating her, she slowly eased me into the phenomenon, by starting with Zac Brown Band’s newest album “Jekyll and Hyde” (which I fell in love with). Throughout the relationship I was introduced to the likes of Glen Campbell, Alan Jackson, Luke Bryan, and mostly all other artists that are well known from Kenny Chesney to Sam Hunt.
As a musician myself, I listen to the lyrics attentively, and figured out that lot of the songs were about heartbreak. Well, that is the community that I have implemented country music into. Being broken up with, that’s a community right? No matter how long ago it may have been, almost everyone has been through a break up, unless you’re still in that relationship with your high school sweetheart. Breaking up with someone is different than being broken up with, and I know I couldn’t have done it unless there was some huge fight. Mostly, I don’t think I could ever gather enough testosterone to break it off with the person whose hand I will never hold again. Luckily (well not really), she broke up with me, and even luckier, I had learned about country music and knew that most of those songs could make the pain a bit easier.
People get broken up with, and one person is always left needing answers. I gained most if not all of my answers from country music, and I imagine that others do too. Artists don’t write songs about getting over a loved one or seeing the brighter side of life just to make money. They do it to gain a following of people who go through what they’ve been through. Whether it’s T-Swift singing about never getting back together with that boy, or Alan Jackson singing about the day the “world stopped turning” in September, people clutch onto country music for guidance. I’d think that most people who go through break ups like to listen to sad songs like Whisky Lullaby or Colder Weather, or redemption songs like Save It For a Rainy Day or Never Alone. A break up takes a toll on you, and the navigation granted by country music has a myriad of songs physically and literally meant for the listeners to relate and find serenity through. Country music can lift you up if you’re feeling down, and get you into a mood where you realize to get over someone, or it can help comfort you with the lyrical arrangement meant to let you know that other people have been in your shoes, and are either better because of it, or dug themselves out of that whole. Of course other genres of music are meant to do the same, but if you have ever liked country music, no other genre stands a chance at the perfect remedy for a break up.
Born in Orange County and raised in Temecula, California, my perspective of country music is different from many of those in Texas. For about 18 years of life, I’ve lived on a family vineyard in Southern California Wine Country. Even though we live on dirt in the middle of horse country, my parents mostly listened to the calm melodies of Jazz music while my younger sister and I listened to whatever was on the Top 100. Country music was never a go to choice for music in our household. That quickly changed at the age of 14 when I entered high school and discovered Kenny Chesney’s “Shiftwork” and Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman.” After that I never turned back and became an avid country music fan in all areas of my life.
My family and I have attended well over 50 country concerts all over Southern California including many front row experiences in the pit forLuke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Chase Rice and Dierks Bentley. This is where my community in Southern California differs from that in Texas. Before moving to Austin in January of 2015 I had never heard of Turnpike Troubadours, Randy Rogers, or Pat Green. Now, a year later, I am beginning to listen to Texas Country almost the same amount of time as “Mainstream Country”. I find myself sometimes changing the station from Sirius XM’s “The Highway” to “Country Y2K” or “Prime Country” to get my fix of old school country.
Don’t get me wrong, Luke Bryan is still a favorite of mine as well as that entire style of country music. When I go visit home my friends and I spend our weekends line dancing at The Temecula Stampede. Yes, I said line dancing not two stepping. I once went to Dance Across Texas, formerly known as Midnight Rodeo, here in Austin and was stunned by the difference in dancing style compared to back home. At Dance Across Texas, it was mainly two stepping and when it came to the few line dancing songs the steps were completely different from those that I am used to. It is pretty much the complete opposite at the Stampede in Temecula. We line dance a majority of the time to songs such as “Crank it Up” by Colt Ford or even “God Blessed Texas” by Little Texas with a couple intermissions for two stepping to songs like “House Party” by Sam Hunt or “She’s Like Texas” by Josh Abbot Band.
Simple differences like these above have influenced my view on country music based on growing up in my community in Southern California. Unlike many that hate on the new songs by artists such as Sam Hunt and Florida Georgia Line, I really enjoy their music and watching them perform at concerts. At the same time I also have a love for artists including Garth Brooks, George Strait and Josh Abbott. My interests for all types of country music has lead me to have a very diverse collection of playlists and songs for every geographic community I am apart of.
Although I was born in Dallas, Texas, and moved to Houston for about a year, I was raised in Portland, Oregon. People often say that Portland and Austin are very similar. This is true to some extent – both cities have a good music scene, food trucks, and are very urban, but Portland takes it to a new level. Walking downtown there means you’ll see at least one person not wearing shoes (by choice), someone drumming buckets on a street corner, a few people stationed at pop-up tents selling hemp clothing, and you’ll undoubtedly pass by a handful of hipster coffee shops. The music scene in Portland involves little to no country. My friends and family have more than likely never been to a country concert, and would much prefer to listen to Odesza, Disclosure, Future Islands, or any other band that performs regularly at Sasquatch or Coachella.
I went to my first country concert when I was 14 years old. I saw Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw and The Band Perry – little did I know, I had just paid a measly $20 to see some of the biggest names at that time. I learned to love the country songs that came on the radio regularly, but didn’t know until I got to college that the “country” I was listening to wasn’t really the music that true country music fans knew and loved. I had never heard of Pat Greene or Bart Crow until my first year at UT, and it still took me some time to grasp that type of music. My friends back home still love to poke fun at me for posting pictures in cowboy boots and dresses on game days, and I doubt they’ll ever learn how to two step.
Occasionally, a rare friend will show me a “new song” they love, for example, “I Love This Life” by Locash, or “My Front Porch Looking In” by Lonestar. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but only a few years ago I considered myself to be an avid country music fan, but I was listening to Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett on a regular basis. I won’t pretend that I don’t still find some of their songs to be catchy, but I’ve learned that I wasn’t listening to the real music people live by in Texas and all over the country (although it’s shown to be mostly a southern genre). Being raised in the Pacific Northwest, I grew up camping and hiking and even riding horses, but simply had not been exposed to the type of country that so many of my friends have known since before they learned to walk.
One community that I take pride in actively participating in is the Conservative party community because I personally agree with the beliefs and actions of that particular group and I like to associate myself as one of them. I believe that country music does particularly figure into that community, as the southern stereotypical musician is more likely to be more conservative than liberal and the morals and actions of many country music stars and their music may cater to more of a socially conservative crowd. Many of the people that also identify as conservative in my social circle do enjoy country music over some other genres, because of its more realistic sounding nature and storytelling instincts. Particular country songs that I enjoy listening to within my community are some feel good songs by artists such as Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, and George Strait, because I have grown up listening to their music and enjoy attending their concerts. Patriotic country songs are also songs I enjoy listening to because they remind me of the importance and desire to preserve the respect for our country that so many people are trying to diminish during this time of immense change. I feel that the patriotic nature and humble attitudes are what may make the community enjoy the simplicity and reality of country music and may distinguish it from other communities. It is very stereotypical for a cowboy to be labeled as a conservative, but in many ways this is most often true. There are, however, plenty of great country artists who do not identify themselves in the conservative community, such as Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Tim McGraw, an active democrat, infuriated fans with statements condemning President Barack Obama’s actions. At a concert after 9/11, the Dixie Chick’s career was tragically put on the line when the lead singer announced she was embarrassed to be from the same state as George W. Bush. This was a turning point in their career because they seemingly went against the majority of their fan’s beliefs and have since then barely made a comeback within the community. The conservative party naturally turns toward tradition and is somewhat against change, that’s why I feel that the genre of traditional country music is so widely respected in this community because the musical values somewhat embodies the values of a conservative person.
In high school, I was an athletic trainer for the football team. My high school focused heavily on sports, and, therefore, we had a large and hard-working football team. There were ten trainers and seventy-five players, and I could name each of them. To say that we spent a lot of time together would be an understatement. From two-a-days starting at 5:30 am in the summer to classes together to after school practices, we were together all the time.
While I have always loved for country music, standing on a football field in the 102 degree Texas summer heat gives you a whole new appreciation for it—especially when listening to Luke Bryan’s “Rain is a Good Thing.” For the team and the trainers, country music was a way to endure the day before daylight.
While we loved to play our country tunes there were definitely times that something else was playing. I can definitely testify that as a trainer I never once heard anything besides rap playing in the weight room. Coach Clements was never really a fan of country music. Our head trainer was extremely religious and therefore did not enjoy the explicit language of rap, and the students did not like the religious music he would play if one of us did not put in our ipod, so country music was our compromise.
While the music playing in the background of practice and in the training room seems like such a small entity, it had a huge influence on everyone. If a good song was playing, everyone would sing along. When an amazing country concert came to town, we would all get tickets and go together. For me country music had a big part of my involvement in the community. My friends and I love for country music and involvement in the athletic training group is what started and ultimately led to us becoming friends.
Without country music as a part of my high school’s football community, there is decent chance I would not have started a conversation with Kenzie, Anna, and Shea about Kenny Chesney on the first day of practice. If some of the football players hadn’t gone to the Jason Aldean concert, then I may not have gone to their graduation or hung out with them on the weekends that we did not have practice. Weather it be on the field or in the training room, football and country music are a match made in heaven.
“When I feel that chill, smell that fresh cut grass
I’m back in my helmet, cleats, and shoulder pads
Standin’ in the huddle listenin’ to the call
Fans goin’ crazy for the boys of fall”