Country: Much More Than it Seems

Coming from Mexico, I was never really exposed to country music and simply dismissed it as a music genre I wasn’t too interested in. The primary aspect I failed to grasp was what made country so special to some people. It wasn’t until I began listening to much more variety of country music and engaging with the genre’s background and themes that truly sparked my interest.


  1. Take a picture with “Willie Nelson.”

When I first came to the University of Texas, everywhere I went seemed to have something to do with Willie Nelson. Whether it was t-shirts in the airport when I first arrived or walking past the Willie Nelson exhibit in the North End Zone every day, his influence seemed to be everywhere. When I first found out about him, he seemed like just another artistic type who gave off the impression of being famous because of his expressiveness and ambiance more than anything else. I couldn’t really imagine someone like Willie to be significant in defining any sort of movement, not just country music.

However, my entire perception changed when I started learning more about his personal background. He wasn’t just a dirty old hippie who never did anything meaningful in his life, but rather a man who had worked as an auto mechanic, saddle maker, and oil field manager; you can’t get much more “Texas” than those occupations. Yet he wasn’t just a man for followed a specific stereotypical trope, openly supporting the legalization of marijuana and publicly opening up about his issues with alcohol abuse, it allows a certain reliability for the country star, not being detached unlike many celebrities. It’s clear to see through Willie’s personal narrative how he uniquely represented the cultural foundations of Texas as well as the growing counter-cultural Indie subculture within Austin, making him truly revered as more than just a musical icon. No doubt Nelson has earned the honor to have second street named after him.


2. Read the Texas Music Magazine

When I was looking at the Texas Music Magazine, one article in particular caught my attention. Used to seeing album covers or posed shots of young artists, the mug shot of a 75-year-old cowboy certainly caught my attention. “As country as it gets,” Billy Joe Shaver’s life could be characterized as nothing less than badass, still touring in an old van just like how he did in 1970. His love for country, in my opinion, goes beyond many artists in all genres of music. Even the death of his mother and bandmate couldn’t stop this tough-as-nails Texas native from performing the next day. I have newfound respect for artists such as these whose dedication to the craft and the life that comes with it many would think to be borderline absurd, a passion that seems to be relatively unique to country music.


3. Watch a movie about country music

Having listened to a little Johnny Cash before, I decided to watch Walk The Line (2005), the biographical adaptation of the life of Cash. One of the most interesting aspects I found about this movie was how music was instrumental in nearly every aspect of his life. One of the clearest examples came when he was stationed in Germany for the US Air Force, leading him to find solace in writing music to help him cope with the chaos around him, developing some of his trademark blues songs such as “Folsom Prison Blues.” Another instance came when he proposed to his wife, June, saying that he would be unable to sing “Jackson” anymore unless she said yes, showing that even in one of the most personally intimate moments of one’s life, music still played a vital role for Cash. For country artists, it seems as if a circular effect is created, with their lives continuing to be influenced by their music while at the same time providing inspiration for future sounds.

In all of these instances, it is clear to see how country music is much more to the artists than just an occupation. To the singers, it affects their lives and livelihood, drawing not on the praise of others for fuel, but rather their own passion and pride for the craft. I believe it is this specific aspect that makes country music so much more special in comparison to other genres of music.


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 5, Reflection

4 Responses to Country: Much More Than it Seems

  1. Timothy Harakal

    Thanks for the super interesting post! I was really surprised to hear more about Walk the Line – and how well it details just how much music was a part of his life, as you said. I think it’s incredible how music can truly help people find an escape/a healthy way to oftentimes deal with troubling things, like war in this instance. I had no idea that Johnny Cash was first of all stationed in Germany, and it is also quite interesting to note that he was writing and working on songs there in order to cope with all the chaos of war. Now that I read what you wrote about this movie, I’d really love to go and watch – especially given what we know about country music now!

  2. Julie Kleberg

    I wanted to comment on this one because the title grabbed my attention. I totally agree that country is much more than it seems after going through this course. I enjoyed the part about walk the line because that is one of my favorite movies of all time. Johnny Cash is so talented. I also am slightly jealous you went to see the willie nelson statue because I have been trying to get over there and just haven’t been able to make it happen. This post makes me want to go. Overall it seems like you have learned a lot in this course and enjoyed exploring country music along the way. great post!!

  3. Brittney Haynes

    I’m glad you had a nice experience with country music this semester. I never understood the hype about Willie Nelson before either. I was actually surprised to see things dedicated to him so often in Austin, I just thought it was a part of the “keep Austin weird” aspect of the city, but like you I began to really look into his life and I totally get it now. I wasn’t able to visit the statue, but I did look at the exhibit in the stadium. I’ve become obsessed with Johnny and June Carter Cash throughout this semester, so I’m glad you watched “Walk the Line.” It’s a great movie! Great post!!

  4. Drew Scherger

    Sometimes I forget how much of a presence Willie Nelson still has in this city. Just the other day a giant mural of Willie was painted on a building downtown here. I think its great that he has a continuing impact because a lot of people in Austin are worried that the hippie culture has been overrun by hipsters. I’ve always wanted to see Billy Joe Shaver live. I think he’s the perfect example of what a country singer should be. He’s rugged, been through some fights, and committed entirely to the music. I think it would be funny to see him alongside some of these current country stars who almost look more like movie stars.

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