Author Archives: Abby Wills

About Abby Wills

Abby Wills is a student at the University of Texas. She is a freshman that studies Public Relations. Before moving to Austin, she lived in Dallas. She enjoys singing and going to concerts. She loves all kinds of music but her favorite would have to be country. Her current favorite artist is Eric Church.

When Will Country Let Go of Taylor Swift?

Country music is part of Taylor Swift’s past. In fact, she transcended the country music genre to become one of pop music’s top stars. However, country music awards continue to eagerly embrace the cultural icon, as demonstrated by her recent participation in the Academy of Country Music Awards.

At the ACMs, Swift received a Milestone Award that recognized her career achievements. To put things into perspective, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, Miranda Lambert, and Kenny Chesney also received The Milestone Award. However, those artists sit firmly in the country music genre. Of course, the Academy of Country Music is well justified in maintaining a connection to Swift.

Taylor Swift honors her country music past. In Swift’s acceptance speech of The Milestone Award she thanked Nashville for teaching her how to write songs. Swift performed her first hit “Tim McGraw” on the ACM stage in 2007 when her career was beginning to take off. The next year Swift won the Top New Female Vocalist. After that moment her career accomplishments multiplied.

taylor-swift-acm-awards-2015-01Taylor Swift is a household name. The press follows her fashion, her relationships and her business decisions. Her album sales prove her success. Her new album “1989” spent 24 straight weeks in the top five of the Billboard 200. It was also the first album to sell one million traditional US copies in 2015.

Taylor Swift helps other artists. With the world’s fourth largest Twitter following, when she mentions an artist, her fans respond by buying the album in droves. She also gives singers with their first album a spot on her tours, helping to propel them to success.

Taylor Swift provides a huge ratings boost. Non-country fans likely watch shows just to see her. Now that she’s pop, is it too much of a stretch to see her at a country music award show? When her previous album “Red” came out and the sounds of pop music shined through, country radio still played those songs. However, 1989 is not played on country stations at all.

taylor-swift-acm-awards-20154As Swift accepted the award she said, “Somebody once told me that you truly see who a person is when you tell them something they don’t want to hear…And so to the country music community, when I told you that I had made a pop album and that I wanted to go explore other genres, you showed me who you are with the grace you accepted that with. I will never forget it.”

With these words, it seemed as if Swift said her final farewell to country music. She gave the country audience a bit of closure, but can country music award shows afford to let her go?


Filed under Awards, Country Pop, Movies and TV, Women

Abby Wills’ Country Music Experiences

This semester in my Rhetoric of Country Music class I had the opportunity to see country music’s community through country experiences. I took a selfie with the Willie Nelson statue, watched the ACMs, saw the movie Country Strong, and visited Waterloo Records to see classic country records.

Since I started exploring music and learning about songwriters, I’ve been drawn to country music and the stories it tells. However, I learned this semester in Rhetoric of Country Music that there is a lot I don’t know. Usually as you grow up, you only listen to the music that is being produced at that time. So when I walked into class and learned about the country music stars that helped pave the way, I was inspired.

I had never given much thought into what country music sounded like in the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s. I was familiar with what my parents listen to and what I grew up listening to. This project was the perfect opportunity for me to look back on what country music once was and what country music is today.

My “once was” consisted of visiting the Willie Nelson statue and reflecting on how important his role was in country music. He went to Nashville, tested the waters for a bit, and decided to come back to Austin. His journey displays the differences in country music between Nashville and Texas. My “once was” also consisted of going to Waterloo Records and taking a look at the classic country records of Nashville Sound stars and Bob Wills. One thing I noticed was that I didn’t find many current country records. It was nice to be able to focus totally on the singers who helped define country music and make it grow.

My “today” experiences consisted of watching the Academy of Country Music awards and the movie Country Strong. Watching the ACM’s and seeing how they bring so many pop stars to perform duets really caught my attention. Before this class, I did not particularly notice the appearance of pop stars on country award shows. Similarly I had watched Country Strong about two years ago and I enjoyed it, but no specific moments stood out. Watching the movie a second time with this new knowledge of country music put things into perspective. I wonder if the pressure of fame was as big in Bob Wills’ days as it is in the movie.

This project has been an eye opening experience. I’ve recognized that my perspective on country music was limited; I listened to the songs and appreciated the melodies. I now understand the appeal of country music; there is a country music style for everyone. The subgenres make country music versatile and rich. If I had done these country experiences a year earlier, my take away from them would not be as valuable as it is now. I’ve learned so much in this class. When I look at my Storify, I see the history of country music combined with the present of country music. I’m able to compare the two and see what is different and what may be the same. These changes help me anticipate the future of the genre. And that anticipation is only possible because I took this class.


Filed under Austin, Class work, Reflection, Storify

A George Song for Everyone

While I was home for Easter, we ate at one of my all time favorite restaurants – Babe’s Chicken Dinner. Who doesn’t love good fried chicken? Babe’s entertained diners with classic George Strait songs, which started a lively discussion about my family’s favorites.

“The Chair”

“The Chair” is my mom’s favorite George Strait song and is the first Strait song she remembers hearing. The song eavesdrops on a conversation between two strangers. The man approaches the woman and tells her “I think you’ve got my chair.” The song progresses along with their conversation. At the end, the man throws listeners for a loop, confessing “that wasn’t my chair after all.” My mom enjoys how “The Chair” plays with the conventions of conversation.

“Marina Del Rey”

Apparently, George Strait makes a great first impression because my dad’s favorite song is “Marina Del Rey,” the first song he heard on his first George Strait CD. This song about a vacation love affair ends with the couple’s goodbye. My dad says this song is timeless, catchy and “vintage George Strait.” Critics say that Strait didn’t have the vocals to pull off the performance, but after watching his performance from The Cowboy Rides Away Tour, it is obvious his vocals are well suited for the song.

“Amarillo by Morning”

My grandma was born in Amarillo, Texas, so she feels a personal connection to “Amarillo By Morning”. It reminds her of driving to Colorado and stopping in Amarillo, the halfway point. Terry Strafford originally recorded “Amarillo By Morning” and George Strait covered it in 1982. “Amarillo By Morning” is very recognizable as George Strait’s because he paints a picture with the lyrics and instrumentals.

“You Look So Good in Love” 

“You Look So Good in Love” is my favorite Strait song. It is a unique break-up song. The narrator watches his ex-lover fall in love with someone else. However, instead of wanting to steal her back he realizes that he is not the guy to make her happy. He knows they weren’t meant to be. The sappy side of me loves that he lets his ex-lover have her happiness. The musical side of me recognizes that this is a very well written, catchy song.

There is no denying that the “King of Country Music” will forever be legendary. The ability of country music fans to immediately name a favorite George Strait song reflects the personal nature of his songs and his status as “King of Country Music.” Strait is a symbol of talent and consistency, a symbol that has propelled to the top. However, now that he is not touring and is taking a lower profile, new fans might not discover their favorite George Strait song – and they’ll be missing out.

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Filed under Country Symbols, Lists, Live Music, Music Videos, New Traditionalism, Reflection, Texas

Country Radio Needs to Change

Gary Overton, Sony CEO

Gary Overton, Sony CEO

As I worked on my album analysis for Aaron Watson’s album The Underdog, which grabbed the No. 1 spot on the US Country Billboard Chart, I came across an interesting article, “Sony Nashville CEO talks importance of country radio.” Gary Overton, Sony CEO, said in the interview that he can be quoted several times a day saying, “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” This statement angered many people including independent country fans and artists. Many independent artists have much support from fans, but find themselves ignored by mainstream country radio.

Country radio is not capable of embracing individual country artists. Individual country artists are unique and have an authenticity that cannot be found with the current mainstream artists. I can tell that country fans want something different and country radio should adapt – playing both mainstream and independent artists.

the underdog

Aaron Watson’s No. 1 Album, “The Underdog”

Aaron Watson is an independent Texas Country artist who has been in the industry for 15 years, has produced 12 albums and performed over 2,000 shows. However, he has been rejected by mainstream radio despite having the No. 1 US Billboard Country album. His response to Overton’s comment was, “My name is Aaron Watson. I am not played on country radio. And I have the #1 record in country music this week. I do exist.”

Charlie Robinson, a Nashville artist turned independent, also offered his opinion on the matter, stating “I have a job today but as soon as Florida Georgia Line goes out of style, and believe me they will, you [Gary Overton] will not exist.” Of course, Florida Georgia Line felt compelled to comment on Twitter that they have lost all respect for Charlie Robinson.

Many factors contribute to the success of artists, but radio play is not the most important. In fact, Overton’s own artist Garth Brooks had to deal with the issue of mainstream radio when they rejected his comeback single “People Loving People” and its follow up “Mom.” However, due to his loyal fan base, Garth Brooks has experienced no difficulty in selling out shows. Dedication and perseverance are two important qualities that country fans look for in artists. Independent artists certainly contain those characteristics.

There is no denying that radio play contributes to the commercial success of an artist, but it doesn’t determine whether they exist or their level of talent. I’m sure that many independent artists would benefit greatly if the mainstream radio stations accepted them. However, I don’t base an artist’s success or talent on how much airplay they get. I base it on the music and what I think about their songs after they end.


Filed under News, Reflection, Texas

SNL: Blake Shelton Wishes on a Boot

snl blake shelton main 2Country music took the stage on Saturday Night Live on Saturday, January 24, when Blake Shelton acted as host and musical talent. Shelton, 2014 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year award winner and The Voice coach, was his usual charming self and used his witty humor to mock the genre he has mastered. The Washington Post reported that Shelton is the first country artist to host SNL since Taylor Swift in 2009, proving that Shelton is the face of country music and a big part of pop culture.

Shelton’s lack of acting experience was apparent but the writers catered to his strengths by using his country background in the Opening Monologue and reenacting Hee-Haw, a hillbilly classic comedy that Shelton grew up watching. I’ve never seen Hee-Haw, but it was easy to follow the sketch. However, I did not really enjoy it. SNL turned it into slapstick humor with portrayal of “simple” country folks that wasn’t funny. The “Old Coot” referred to taking his sister out for their anniversary.Shelton also appeared in a very entertaining The Bachelor spoof, “Farm Hunk.” Shelton’s musical performances of “Neon Trees” and “Boys Round Here” were easily two of the best parts of the show. Both performances gave the show a burst of energy. Shelton’s vocals were in perfect pitch and his stage presence demonstrated why he is such a big name in the country genre. However, the segment that stole the night was a spoof titled “Wishin’ Boot.”

There is no doubt that “Wishin’ Boot,” a parody of country ballads and music videos, was the nights’ best comedy sketch. In the music video, we see a dingy room and crying girls, which commonly appear in country music videos. Joined by Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, the premise of “Wishin’ Boot” is that in times of need, a magical cowboy boot will solve all your problems. As the song says, “it’s hope in the form of a little ol’ dirty boot.” What worked about this sketch was Shelton’s ability to shine a light on the stereotypes of country and play with the norms of the genre. The video starts out with McKinnon lamenting poverty stricken life, mocking the norm of hardship. She is then blessed by a “wishin’ boot”, poking fun at the faith that country songs often reference.

Blake Shelton SNLShelton obviously enjoyed himself and effectively used his vocal skills and natural sense of humor. However, based on the Hee-Haw skit, I question whether the writers really appreciate the dominant position the country genre has in the music industry today. Maybe the 15% increase in ratings – likely due to Shelton’s presence – will convince them.


Filed under Movies and TV, Reviews, USA