Author Archives: Cassidy Wilson

About Cassidy Wilson

I am a Junior at University of Texas at Austin studying Public Relations. I am from Temecula, California (San Diego Area) and moved out to Austin in January of 2015. I hope to have a career behind the scenes of country music in public relations or event planning.

A Californian’s Experiences with Country Music

This has been my favorite course this semester by far. Because country music is such a passion of mine, I tend to have many country experiences. After this course, my view of these experiences has changed because I have gained more knowledge about the impactful artists, legendary songs, and history of country music that have shaped my views of the industry.

IMG_7670My first country music experience was going two-stepping and line dancing at The Temecula Stampede in my hometown of Temecula, California. I went home mid semester to celebrate my 21st birthday with friends and family in Temecula before heading to Vegas. This of course meant I HAD to go to the Stampede. Once I turned 18, I became a regular at the Stampede and over the past three years I have formed some of the best friendships from line dancing there. When I went this past time, I evaluated my experience deeper because of this course. I was conducting my Buzzfeed article about line dancing at the time so it gave me the perfect experience to reflect on. With the mechanical bull, people in cow boy hats, and of course the wooden dance floor, The Temecula Stampede provides the perfect setting for a great night of line dancing and two stepping.

IMG_7671After a Thursday night at the Stampede my friends and I left for Vegas to continue the celebration. We timed our Vegas stay perfectly to align with the ACM Party for a Cause Country Music Festival. I attended the festival Sunday with my mom and some family friends. We arrived just in time to see Chase Rice, Sam Hunt, Kip Moore, and Kenny Chesney. I was lucky enough to be standing in the crowd when Kenny Chesney casually walked by me in his white cut off shirt and cowboy hat. Going to this concert reminded me how passionate I am about country music. It actually shaped my future as well. We met a man that was working for AEG Live, the entertainment company that puts on the ACM awards and many other country music festivals, and after talking with us for a while he realized the amount of knowledge and passion I had for country music, which led him to offer me an internship with the company this summer! Working for AEG is a dream of mine and just by attending the ACM Party for a Cause Festival this dream is within my reach. I am so excited to be able to use my knowledge of country music and public relations this summer as an intern for AEG Live!

Lastly, another experience I had with country music was watching the movieScreen Shot 2016-04-24 at 2.48.22 PM “Walk the Line.” I have always heard about the love between Johnny and June but watching this movie gave me a new perspective. Reese Witherspoon is one of my favorite actresses, so seeing her portray June Carter was very commendable. The movie did a great job showing the story between Johnny Cash and June Carter’s relationship while also presenting both of their success in country music. I even got one of my roommates, who is not a country music fan, to watch the movie with me and she loved it!

As previously mentioned, I loved taking this course this semester. It makes me sad that students will not be able to take this course and have these great experiences like I did. As a transfer student from California, I came to Texas with a very different perspective on country music. I have to thank Dusty as well as the other students in this class for helping me gain a new perspective on country music. I will forever love Luke Bryan but this class has helped me to learn to appreciate artists such as Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, June Carter and Randy Travis that have shaped country music into what it is today.

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Filed under Blog Post 5, Reflection

Stagecoach: California’s Country Music Festival

In just 18 days thousands of country music fans will head to sunny Southern California for the 10th Annual Stagecoach Country Music Festival. The festival is located at the Empire Polo Club in the dry desert of Indio, CA. This venue name may ring a bell. Coachella takes place at the same place by the same company, Goldenvoice.

Stagecoach offers a variety of music such as mainstream country, bluegrass, some rock, and also alternative country. With three stages of artists to choose from all day long, you’ll never be dissatisfied with a performance.

In 2012 Stagecoach had a record sell-out crowd at 55,000 attendees. After hearing about how great it was, my friends and I decided to finally go. The first time I attended stagecoach was my senior year of high school in April of 2013. A few friends and I skipped our senior prom to be able to attend the whole weekend and it didn’t disappoint.

The three headliners were Friday- Toby Keith, Saturday- Lady Antebellum, and Sunday- Zac Brown Band. But those weren’t the only big names to look forward to. Other artists such as Hank Williams Jr, Dierks Bentley, Tanya Tucker, and Florida Georgia Line were fan favorites as well.

The 102 degree heat was a bit discouraging but we pushed through and had a great time. The festival usually provides cooling tents and misting fans to help with that as well.

As soon as the 2014 Stagecoach tickets were released, we planned our weekend because we knew we couldn’t miss it. This time my mom and sister came along so we got “VIP” wristbands. Having this special wristband meant you got to escape the rowdy crowds and go into a separate pit up front with a private beer garden. It was awesome to see the performers up close however, as a college student a part of me wished I was back with my crazy friends so I didn’t not stay there the entire time.

Stagecoach offers on site camping. I HIGHLY recommend this option if you are looking to attend the festival. My brother and some of his friends brought an RV out for the weekend and we ended up hanging out there more than our house because it was so close to the venue. I would even argue there is just as much entertainment in the campground as there is in the festival itself. People hangout between the rows of trailers playing flip cup, beer pong, or even riding horse bicycles.

The music isn’t the only thing to look forward to inside the festival. Line dancing lessons are offered at “The Honkytonk Dance Hall.” Vendors such as Maui Jim, Toyota, and Barefoot Wine set up booths to show you their products. You can also find small carnival games and an energy playground! You may think Californians don’t barbecue like Texans, which might be partially true, but each year Stagecoach hosts an annual BBQ Cook-off at the festival where attendees can buy items for $5. The winner of this competition goes to the World Championship in Kansas City, so it’s a big deal!

Stagecoach has been such an exciting weekend for me the past four years, Unfortunately, moving to Texas last year broke my attending streak but this year I made sure I could fly home for it! The lineup is one I can’t miss!

If you have the chance and love country music, I highly recommend attending Stagecoach in the future! Stagecoach is the highest grossing festival centered on country music in the world, so clearly I am not the only one that enjoys it. Don’t believe me? Just watch this video.


Filed under Blog Post 4, Concert, Dancing, Live Music

This Life They Lived: Joey and Rory Feek

If you have been watching any form of entertainment news lately, or have been scrolling through any social media platform, there is a high chance you have come across the names Joey and Rory Feek. I did many times, so I decided to do some searching and find out more about their story.

Rory Feek has been a prominent name in the country music industry since 1996. He wrote hit songs for artists such as Clay Walker, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Randy Travis, and many more! In 2002, Rory married Joey months after they met at a songwriter night in Nashville. In an interview with Country Standard Time Rory said, “We got into this relationship and got married right away. It was just one of those things where we knew that we were supposed to be together and every minute of our lives has been a blessing.” They became a duo and debuted their first album, “The Life of Song”, on July 25, 2009.

Joey and Rory Feek welcomed their first daughter, Indiana Boone, on February 17, 2014 who was born with Down Syndrome. Four months later in June 2014, Joey Feek was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The cancer returned in 2015 and had spread to her colon. The cancer became terminal in October so the couple decided to stop treatment. Joey and Rory moved in with her parents in Alexandria, Indiana and entered hospice care in November. Joey made it a goal to live to see Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, the Grammys and her daughters second birthday.

After passing all these goals Joey took her last breath on March 4, 2016. “She is in Heaven,” her husband wrote on his blog. “The cancer is gone, the pain has ceased and all her tears are dry.” Rory has been keeping a blog of their story since the beginning of 2014. His blog is called “This Life I Live: scenes from one man’s extraordinary, ordinary life”

It was Joey who originally encouraged him to do so because he wasn’t writing songs at the time. “I don’t know why,” Rory writes, “I don’t have a plan or a purpose for this blog, other than to capture as much of these days and these moments as I can in posts, and share them with others.” If you visit the site, which I highly recommend, grab some tissues because Rory speaks from the heart and holds nothing back.

Joey Feek’s battle with cancer has caught the attention of many other people in the country industry. Dolly Parton, Joey’s biggest idol, sent a video to the Feek’s showing her support and encouragement.

Other artists such as Eric Paslay, Charles Kelley, the Eli Young Band, and many more have shown their support through social media as well.

In a blog post on February 29, 2016 Rory wrote “That this life she’s living might impact the life of someone that she and I will never meet, and never see, at least this side of heaven.  That is a good thing.  No, that is a great thing. Thank you.”

I think it is safe to say Joey has made an impact on the country community and everyone that has gotten the chance to hear their story full of love, faith, and fight. Rest in Peace Joey Feek, country music and its fans will miss you here on Earth.


Filed under Blog Post 3, Classic Country, News

The Most Famous Stuffed Horses in Country Music

IMG_1091My family and I have attended many country concerts across Southern California in the past eight years. In 2012, we began to notice stuffed horses in the front row of concerts for artists such as Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, and Keith Urban. After seeing two grown men dressed in red, white, and blue suits get on stage with Luke Bryan and perform “Country ‘Boy’ Shake it for Me” while holding stuffed animals and wearing flashing horse necklaces, I had to know the story. I learned that this was not the first time they performed with Luke Bryan on stage. In fact Luke called them out from the crowd by name at a concert in Georgia and invited them on the stage.  (Video of them begins at 1:05)

My family and I met Joshua Zeyak, 30, in October 2013 IMG_3253at a Luke Bryan Concert in San Diego, CA where he was tailgating wearing a bright green shirt with his name printed on the front, hot pink shorts, a horse belt buckle, and cowboy boots. We recognized the stuffed horses sitting on top of his truck right away and began the conversation.

One day in 2009, middle school teacher Leo VanWarmerdam, 28, used small plastic animals to reward his students for good behavior in his classroom. Later that night, at a bar in Corona Del Mar, CA, he discovered the animals were still in his pocket. Having some fun, Leo placed a small plastic horse on the rim of his drinking glass and passed the others around to his friends. Soon after, the entire bar wanted to join in the fun leaving Leo with no more animals.

The next time out country music fan, Josh, a friend of Leo’s, brought a bigger version of the plastic horse for his cup, and the obsession grew from there. Whenever the horses were brought out strangers at every bar, party, or concert wanted to get involved!

IMG_1092Eventually the horses grew in size and now are familiarly recognized at country concerts across Southern California. Men and woman of all ages are drawn to the horses and the personalities behind them.

After meeting Josh and his sister, Jenna, in San Diego our families began to plan what concerts we were going to next. Three years and over 25 country concerts later, I can say that Josh, Jenna, and the rest of the “pony” group are like family to me.

In order to capitalize on the popularity of these horses we finally decided to create a following for them on social media. As a Public Relations student I was automatically chosen to take charge of this task for “experience” as my dad said. I don’t know how promoting stuffed horses will look to future employers, but in the end it was all for fun and games.

IMG_4111We now have a Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and website for Pony Boys USA! Here is where we share our fun experiences within the country music world. Whether it’s on stage at concerts (pictured on the right with Eli Young Band) or backstage hanging out backstage with artists’ people get a kick out of the crazy fame these horses have gained.

It may be a strange connection to country music, but Pony Boys USA and all the people involved have enhanced my experience as a country music fan. Not only do I attend more country music concerts but I also get the chance to learn how to make a website and promote a new brand. I have no idea where this will go, if anywhere, but the bottom line is we have a great time and I enjoy the added benefits of watching my “brother” sing on stage with Keith Urban all because of some small horse obsession.



Filed under Blog Post 2, Concert, Country Pop, Keith Urban, Live Music

Country Music in the Golden State

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 for Luke 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.


Filed under Blog Post 1