Author Archives: Darah Welch

College and Country: how country music has transformed my college experience

Note to students: This is an example of Blog Post 5, which asks you to reflect on the experiences you have had with country music outside of class.

This year I have been so blessed to experience so many fun nights and adventures–and I owe several of these good times to the thrilling Austin country music scene. Here are a few of the fun things I have gotten to do this semester:

Brad Paisley Concert. It was early on in the school year but the Brad Paisley concert was quite an experience. Believe it or not it was my first country music concert ever. Of course I had been before to events where country bands were playing, but this was my first time seeing a big country star live. Pat Green opened for Brad which was exciting because I had heard of him and knew a few of his songs. They both played their hits and some other songs I had not heard before. The night was slightly rainy before but it cleared up for the concert and the weather was perfect. I danced and sang with my friends until the final song. It was the perfect first country concert!

11261199_10205049372816338_4008965929679170115_nDance Across Texas (formerly Midnight Rodeo). Earlier in the semester a couple of my friends and I decided spontaneously to go two-stepping on a thursday night. It was labor day weekend and we were ready to kick it off by dancing the night away at Dance Across Texas. When we arrived we found that the entry fee had escalated quite a bit from before the transition from Midnight Rodeo. We were so excited to dance that it didn’t matter. We snapped a few pics and then ran inside to the tune of a familiar country song. My friends and I danced and sang all night long amongst the elderly folk, true Texan cowboys, and pool playin’ rednecks. Several times we formed a circle and danced with some elderly ladies who knew how to bust a move or two. The night was one to remember and I am looking forward to another spontaneous trip to Dance Across Texas!

Nashville. For my final country music experience I watch the pilot episode of the hit TV series Nashville. I’ll just say this–it was FANTASTIC. I’m honestly probably going to be hooked on it from here on out. The episode deals with an issue we have discussed in class, which made me feel like I had some insight that I would not have had otherwise. The main character Rayna has hit a point in her career where she is a little too old to be selling #1 hits and her label is losing money. They ask her to join tours with an up-and-coming country music diva Juliette Barnes. Rayna is so dismayed that her label would make her open for this young artist that she walks out on them. This reminded me of our class discussion on outlaws. Rayna is an example of a country music artist who will not allow her label to define her or stoop to the level of an opening act after building her career for over twenty years. I strongly recommend this show to anyone who is interested in learning about the business side of country music.

I’m so thankful for the fun times I have had this semester and I owe it to my country music class for pushing me to do things that I would not have even known about or considered before this year.


Filed under Blog Post 5, Dancing, Live Music, Movies and TV, Reflection

What if We Put Rap Lyrics to Country Music?

Over the years rap music has been one of those genres my parents tried to keep out of the house as long as possible. Even when I was in early high school I got into Christian rap which they immediately assumed was typical, inappropriate secular rap music (it took some convincing that the rappers in fact were NOT singing about drugs and alcohol). Rap music seems to cover a whole slew of controversies and in turn receives much of the backlash and hate for doing so. Meanwhile in country music a lot of the topics discussed are very similar yet do not take as much heat. Here are just a few comparisons between the two that might explain why this is. (side note: a lot of this is speculation from my experience with each of the genres so y’all may have differing opinions that I would love to hear.)

Sound. Country music generally has more upbeat melodies that you can dance to or just plain relax to. Popular songs such as “Friends in Low Places” and “The Boot-Scootin’ Boogie” make people want to get on their feet and dance. In contrast rap tends to have a harsher sound–not to say it sounds bad, just different. Many times the tone rappers have in their music can be a little angry or intense, like Eminem (sorry Slim Shady–still love you). This being said negative topics can more easily be associated with rap music even though both genres generally talk about the same things.

Singers Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj strike a pose

Look. Appearances matter–especially for musicians. What a musician wears for their performances and music videos says something about their self-expression and how they want people to view them. Although there can be an occasional country music star such as Dolly Parton who appears flashy on stage, for the most part they are more humble and down-to-earth in their appearance. Rap and Hip-Hop music is more edgy and usually pushes the boundaries of what is appropriate to wear on stage and in music videos.

Word Choice. The way lyrics are stated vary from genre to genre. Rap music tends to be more blunt. Artists will typically throw in clever puns that allude to illicit substances or sexual innuendos. Country music tends to romanticize lyrics–whether they really are romantic or not. One such song is “Your Man” by Josh Turner (locking the doors and turning the lights down low is a nice way to say they are about to ~get it on~). In the end, however, country music tends to not be nearly as vulgar in language as rap, which contributes to its positive reputation.

Beyond the Music. Could it be that aside from all of these technical reasons there is a deeper, underlying social issue? Race can be a very touchy subject but sometimes that can be the reason for a lot of stereotyping and hate. Rap does not receive a lot of hate–but more like criticism because of the touchy subjects it covers. Again a lot of this is from my perspective on rap music versus country music as a whole. I would like to hear what y’all think about the difference between rap and country in listeners’ ears. Looking back at the title: what if we put rap lyrics to country music? How would it be different? How would people take it?


Filed under Blog Post 4, Politics, Reflection

“Fly”ing to the Top of the Charts: Maddie and Tae’s Big Break

After much discussion in class on how country music typically can be male dominated and slightly degrading towards women, I began to realize that it is important to highlight someone who has chosen to fight back against female stereotypes. I began this hunt by examining the top 20 songs in country music today. The song “Fly” by Maddie and Tae caught my eye because it seemed familiar, so I gave it a listen.

maddie-tae-fly-video-teaser-imageMaddie and Tae’s single “Fly” offers a breathe of fresh air to country music. Amidst the ballads for lost lovers and tunes about trucks, Maddie and Tae offer some variety by showing off their beautiful melodies while uplifting the listeners. The young duet’s unique style shines through the song’s genuine lyrics. Unlike the typical style of country music that tells a story, this song does not specifically speak to one situation. It instead finds a way to reach out to each and every person wherever they are at in life.

So keep on climbing, though the ground might shake 
Just keep on reaching though the limb might break
We’ve come this far, don’t you be scared now
‘Cause you can learn to fly on the way down 

These words can comfort people in different stages of life: from someone who is overcoming heartbreak to someone who is struggling to find the motivation to continue living. This song outshines other top hits today because it chooses to address the human condition rather than the obvious topics that are easy to write about like love and drinking.

Fly is not the only song Maddie and Tae have stunned audiences with over the past few years. This duo debuted their career with Girl in a Country song in 2014 right after they both graduated high school. This all-too-catchy tune shoots daggers right into the heart of many country songs that stereotype women. Many artists today and throughout the decades pin women as sexual objects that are only good for one night. Maddie and Tae nail it when they argue that men think that “all [women are] good for is looking good for [them] and [their] friends on the weekend.” It is truly encouraging to see these women fearlessly tell it like it is and uplift women in doing so.

Maddie and Tae have definitely set the bar for young men and women alike with their unique perspective on life and I personally look forward to seeing what they come up with next to stun the world of country music.

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Filed under Blog Post 3, Country Pop, Women

Outlaws: A Concept of Country Music’s Past or a Thriving Genre?

When I think of outlaws I think of the gunslingin’, trash-talkin’, do-no-gooders who ruled the old west in the 1800s. Little did I know until this past week that outlaw refers to a certain genre of country. An outlaw, according to, is some one who is a rebel or a non-conformist. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson characterize the true meaning of an outlaw in country music. Their collaborative song “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” pokes fun at the definition of a classic cowboy saying, “They’ll never stay home and they’re always alone. Even with someone they love.” The song continues to define the classic cowboy when ironically Jennings and Nelson epitomize the opposite of such. The country music outlaw does not allow record producers and popular culture to define the meaning of a cowboy and country music. They are the free spirits and trailblazers of country music that set the pace for the rest of the pack.


Willie Nelson (pictured on the left) was tired of the clean cut style the Nashville culture encouraged him to pursue, so he moved to Austin, grew his hair out, and wore a bandana—a tangible sign that he was fed up with the mainstream definition of country. Waylon Jennings also grew weary of the controlling Nashville labels that told him he could not play his guitar in recording sessions and that he must dress a certain way. Both of these men had enough…and they did something about it.

The outlaw movement reigned in the 70s, but what about outlaws today? Can we still find them roaming the charts of country music like those that went before them? Has the definition of outlaw evolved so much today that there is no such thing as a true outlaw like Nelson or Jennings? Luke Bryan makes it clear to everyone that he, indeed, is NOT an outlaw due to the fact that he does not “do cocaine and run around“. Thanks for the clarification, Luke! Bryan’s laughably skewed definition of outlaw proves the idea that outlaw is a term loosely thrown about in the country music world today, giving us reason to doubt anyone could truly hold that title anymore.

Although it is highly contested, many would argue that Eric Church is a modern day outlaw. He began his career as an outlaw by getting kicked off the Rascal Flatts tour for refusing to follow directions and outplaying the rest of the band. Church also stays true to his own music and writes many of his own songs–unlike many mainstreamers who work very closely with the record labels, resulting in generic, crowd-pleasing hits.

M_KaceyMusgravesGun630_120513What about Kacey Musgraves? She is quickly gaining a presence in country music with many awards, nominations and top of the chart hits. She clearly earns the title of outlaw with the unique and controversial topics she explores in her songs. In her chart topping hit “Follow Your Arrow”, Kacey unveils the truth that no matter what you do in life people will criticize you so “you might as well just do whatever you want.” It is this kind of mentality that influences Kacey’s music career, earning her the outlaw title.

So there it is.  Being an outlaw does not mean you have to fly under the radar or even be a pioneer of country music’s past.  It means embracing your true identity regardless of what others may think. Although true outlaws are difficult to come by today, they exist and they are thriving.


Filed under Blog Post 2, Outlaw, Reflection

A Classic American Love Story: How Country Music Stole My Heart

Prior to my college career, I had little interest in country music. Aside from my brief two-week phase in middle school, country music was never my music of choice, and at times, I even cringed when I heard it.

Britney-Spears-Cringe-FaceUpon entering college, I immersed myself in a culture so enthralled with country music that it was abnormal to NOT have it playing at events. Bar-B-Q’s, two-stepping date events, Midnight Rodeo, and football tailgates are just a few of the places that I have been exposed to the genre that captures the true meaning of southern pride.

Zac_Efron_Grilling_-_NeighborsBeing in a sorority—a sorority at The University of Texas in Austin, which happens to be the live music capital of the world—has fed my passion for country music, but what ultimately marked my change in spirit was working as employee at a small boutique. I spend hours on end working away in that little store, and most of the time, we have the radio set to country stations. It’s relaxing, enjoyable, and fits in with the desired dynamic of the store.

The first time I worked at the store, I remember hearing the whiney sound of some country song and thinking how much I wished I could control the station and change it to an indie or pop station. After a couple of weeks, it still did not sit right with my ears, because I felt as if it all sounded the same.

wonka-eyerollOften what can define our taste in music are the people we surround ourselves with, such as our friends and family. That is why it came as a surprise to me when I realized that I was beginning to enjoy some of the more popular tunes found on various country stations. One such song that remains my favorite is “Like a Wrecking Ball” by Eric Church. His music as a whole is well written and has an almost retro sound. It was then that I truly began to appreciate country music.

bale1Some may contend that contemporary country music can hardly be placed under the genre of country, because it has been so highly influenced by popular culture. I have found that modern country music has helped me slowly integrate older music into my life, and I have begun to fully appreciate its value.

giphyIn the end, I am thankful to my boss for introducing me to such an amazing genre of music, and I cannot wait to continue to learn more about it through this course.


Filed under Blog Post 1, Class work, Country Pop