Author Archives: Katerina Biancardi

That’s All Folks!

Over the semester, I have thoroughly enjoyed furthering my knowledge of country music by our in class work, writing blog posts and essays. However, by doing this final post it certainly pieced various experiences that make up what is country music.

See a Live Country Music Show:

The Cody Sparks Band performing at Wild West Cedar Park Night club.

The Cody Sparks Band performing at Wild West Cedar Park Night club.

As part of my Country Experience reflection, I decided to see my cousin’s band, The Cody Sparks Band perform at the Wild West Cedar Park Night club. They were not only performing, but also promoting their new record. In that night alone I noticed one main thing:

Life in the country music business is tough. But starting out in Austin is the way to go. For example, while my cousin’s band is at the very, very beginning stages of their music careers, they found all their connections through going to shows, festivals, and being around and present.

My Grandmother also came to see my cousins performs. This is an example of their merchandise they try to sell at shows!

My Grandmother also came to see my cousins performs. This is an example of their merchandise they try to sell at shows!

Plus, I learned the process of writing an album, recording it, and getting the album on iTunes is a lot harder than one would think. They just finished theirs, “Sinners and the Saved”, and now they are booked every weekend playing at small venues like the Rattle Inn and Hole in the Wall, and while they are trying perform, they are also trying to sell merchandise and albums. However, seeing them dedicate their lives to it, and really care about this music they are performing is admirable, and everyone has to start out somewhere like at the Wild West Cedar Park Night club!

Movie: Walk the Line

 Real life Johnny and June vs the actors.

Real life Johnny and June vs the actors.

I first saw “Walk the Line” as a kid, and when I saw it on the list I definitely wanted to re-watch it. Here are three things I learned and reflected based on watching “Walk the Line“:

-It’s hard to encompass the life of Johnny Cash in one film, but the movie clearly focused on the beginning of his career and life with June Carter. And boy, it was full of drama.

Reese Witherspoon and June Carter are the definition of America’s sweethearts. And Witherspoon surely convinced the Academy after they awarded her Best Actress in 2006.

-My favorite scene was when the couple sings “Jackson.” I liked this because in class we watched the actual Johnny and June sing the song, and it was neat to compare and contrast how the Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon sang it in the movie.

Texas Music Monthly: Article

Kacey Musgraves posing for Texas Music Magazine.

Kacey Musgraves posing for Texas Music Magazine.

I came across this article in Texas Music Magazine about Kacey Musgraves. I was intrigued because first, I did not realize she was from Texas and two, I think she is very true to her music. Here are two things I learned:

-She’s a genuine country music songwriter. Her hit song, “Merry Go ‘Round” is based on her own personal experience of living in a small town. Plus, through that song alone, you can tell she has humor and a personality.

-Musgraves mentioned how she likes songs that make her think, such as ones by Willie Nelson and John Prine. I think Willie and Musgraves would be friends. Although Musgraves isn’t Outlaw Country, she’s certainly sing about wider ideas than the normal conservative country artist, which is outside the norm.  An example of this is her song, “Follow Your Arrow.”

Wrap It All Up

To say the least, my perception of country music has definitely evolved. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being know nothing to 10 being an expert like Prof. Dusty, I realized quickly I was about a 4. Now, I would say I am about 7. I understand the complexity of what makes up country music and have much more of appreciation of the genre as a whole. We took to the time to learn the history, which is something I enjoyed. So wrap up how these three experiences play into that evolution is:

-Experiencing my cousin’s band perform made me reflect how all artists we have talked about had to start somewhere, and they all have their unique story. Plus the effort it takes one to dedicate their lives to the industry is a lot, so they better love it!

-Seeing Walk the Line with fresh eyes certainly made me more aware of the life of the Cash’s, but also helped me reflect on how movies shape our perception of country music. And although there can be debate as to how well the movie represented Cash’s life, I think they did the best job they could, and I enjoyed the both actors actually singing music!

-Reading the article by Kacey Musgraves, made realize although every artist’s music is a representation of who they are, learning more about their personal story and who influenced their music is really intriguing. Because then you understand who really are and how their music mirrors that.

Thanks Prof Dusty for making going to class fun: we got to listen and talk about country music!

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Filed under Blog Post 5

He may be family, but I’m still saying He’s Talented

Cody Sparks Band Album Cover

Cody Sparks Band Album Cover

Anytime I went to my Aunt Kathy’s house in small town panhandle Perryton, Texas , one of the things I would look forward to is seeing my cousins play music. I thought it was the coolest thing they were musically talent… because I am defintely not!
Cody Sparks Band

Cody Sparks Band

Long story short, my cousin, Cody Sparks decided to make music his life. Recently, his band, the Cody Sparks Band, which includes his younger brother, Seth Sparks, has taken off right here in the music capital of the world. In the month of March alone, they played all week during SXSW, put out an album on itunes titled “Sinners and the Saved,” and are playing every chance they get.

 After being in this class, I became more intrigued in his career. Therefore, I had the privilege of sitting down with my cousin and getting to understand his personal story and what it really took to devote his life to his passion, country music.
(Above is a track from their album titled Oklahoma Fool)
What got you interested in music? 

Music for me was something I liked since childhood, but never knew it would be such a huge part of my life. When I was a Freshman in college I saw a guy playing acoustic guitar at a venue in Colorado and immediately became fascinated.  I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas and thankfully got it.  Little did I know that seeing that show would completely turn my life around in such a different way. 

When did you know that you wanted to make music your life?
 For the longest time I never actually thought that I could make music such a big part of my life.  Before music I was coaching High School football and basketball and very much into that.  I just suddenly realized that I might be good enough to try this music thing out.  Lucky for me, so far so good.  Like I always say, I can always go back and coach when I’m older.  Im not always going to be so young and “cool.”
Why country music? 

I think being born and raised in a small Texas town most definitely set me up for country music.  There wasn’t really a lot of other genres that I was really into. We really don’t have to get into my “punk rock” phase.  Texas country music just seems more real to me than any other music out there. 

How long did it take for you to get your foot in the door? 

Getting our foot in the door hasn’t been the easiest thing.  We truly have been blessed with opportunity though.   I think we have come a long way since we first moved to Austin 3 years ago.  We still have a long ways to go to really get to where we want to be.  But like with any career, the harder you work, the greater the reward.

How does living in Austin, the music capital of the world, benefit the band’s career? 
Moving to Austin was a big decision for us.  We had long discussions about it and knew that it was the best place to be for what we wanted to do.  A lot of bands are based out of ATX and we are happy to be one of them.  There is always something going on everyday of the week in the music world here.  It really helps for networking.  And in this business, it helps to have friends that do what you do.  Advice and guidance from other musicians is vital.  We are proud to call Austin our newest home.  
You guys just finished your first album. What was the hardest and best part of the process?
Our album is finally finished and we couldn’t be more proud.  This was a learning experience for sure.  I think the hardest part was figuring out the process.  There are so many little things involved that I had no idea even existed.  Some people think that it takes a few weeks or even a couple of months to complete but thats not the case at all.  There is so much more that goes into it than walking in and recording some songs.  I think the best part of the process was actually doing it, completing our project and getting our music out there.  It was great to see us all come together creatively.  We really grew closer as a band and as friends.  Learning is always a positive thing and we experienced a lot of that. 
What is your favorite song on the album?
I think my favorite song on the Album is the title track “Sinners and the Saved.”  I put a lot of time and effort into this one.  It is a song written about my two grandfathers and most definitely most meaningful to me. 
(Below is the a piece of the track!)
What inspires you to write a song? 
There are a lot of different things that can inspire someone to write.  The sun, mountains, trees, maybe a girl or heartbreak.  Honestly you could pick any topic and make up some type of song about it.  I like to write about things that have happened to me in life or maybe someone close.  Real life things are usually the ones that turn out the best.  
Who has influenced your style of music?
I think at the end of the day there really are certain people that stand out to me as influential.  Groups such as The Eagles or Conway Twitty, and Willie Nelson go way back before I was even born.  To people like King George Strait who has had a major impact on my music style.  It all boils down to people who really got me started listening to the Texas/Red Dirt music scene.  Pat Green, Reckless Kelly, Cody Canada and Stoney Larue.  Those guys really pulled me in.     
Cody SparksWhat is the most rewarding thing about being a singer/songwriter/in a band? 
For me personally I think the most rewarding thing about being a singer/songwriter in a band is getting together and making something so great with the guys in the group.  Seeing a positive fun look on peoples faces while hearing us play means more to us than anyone will ever know.  We love when people get out and dance and party to our tunes.  We have a good time doing what we do.  So its great when people respond the same.  We are more than just a band, its a family.  
Any big plans for the near future?
The album is now out on iTunes, so our future plans are to push and promote the record. We want to keep getting our name out there.  The more people that hear our stuff the better.  We always welcome new fans and friends.  
Here is the link for Cody Sparks Band facebook page.  If there is anything I appreciate about Cody is how much I have seen him grow with his music and the hard work he has put in. And I am not just saying that because he is family!


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 4, Live Music, Texas

“Nashville” Brings Reality To Light

I always wondered what life would be like as a country music star.



As a little girl who pretended to be like Shania Twain, a ten year-old fifth grader who wanted to be Hannah Montana, and later as a middle school and high school student was a mega Taylor Swift fan, I pondered what the life in the bright lights would be like.

While, the “Hannah Montana” show did not exactly portray the real life of a country music star, (she was in fact partly country music), ABC’s debut of the “Nashville” in 2012 certainly showed me the more or less reality of country music stardom,  but the series taught me a something little deeper about what the country music industry is facing.



The series is centered around the original, experienced Queen of Country “Rayna Jaymes,” who is portrayed by Connie Britton, and the young, rising country-pop starlet “Juliette Barnes”, portrayed by Hayden Panettiere. Britton’s character struggles as an aging artist who is trying to maintain her role in the country music scene, while Panettiere’s character is trying to overtake all of country music’s listeners with her poppy, upbeat style.

While the series involves love triangles, family issues, deaths, secrets, lies, etc., like any ABC drama would, “Nashville” reveals the eternal country music culture war: the battle between old music vs. new music, twang country vs. pop country, home, close knit label head vs. big label heads. Additionally, in depth the series explores the how the various artists, songwriters, managers, and other characters deal with the consequence of fame and finding self-identity in the bright lights.

Besides all those elements to the series, “Nashville” has some killer country music.



In the series, each artist struggles with the eternal country music culture war, and it is shown even in the music. Therefore, using the two main characters “Rayna Jaymes” and “Juliette Barnes” Here are a total of four songs. Two songs that are more pop country, modern, and two songs from the old, twang style.

“Rayna Jaymes” Pop country, Modern Song: “This Time

In Nashville, this experienced country music queen has won awards upon awards, and is adored by all. However, as soon as she tries to be competitive in the country music scene, Britton’s character is challenged with producing and singing music that is not her sound…also known as pop country. With up and coming young stars like “Juliette Barnes” it is forces “Rayna James” to fight for her voice to be heard.

“Rayna Jaymes”  Old, Twang style Song:  “The Rivers between Us

The blessing of being the original queen is that no matter what, your first fans always stick with you, and their daughters, and their futures daughter will too. That is the blessing “Rayna Jaymes” receives as she is faced with the adversity of maintaining relevancy in the county music scene. Unlike “Juliette Barnes” who showed up to county music as the new hot starlet, “Rayna Jaymes” is able to use her history of hard work and current determination to uphold a revenant spot in the spot light.

“Juliette Barnes” Pop country, Modern Song: “I’m a Girl

At the beginning of the series, Panettiere’s character’s music grabs the attention of tween and teens. Dressing in tight, sparkly dresses, “Juliette Barnes” goes the extra mile to capture audiences as the young, new sexy starlet. Her modern sound and sassy, headstrong personality is “Juliette Barnes’s” “in” to the country music scene. While her voice does have a southern accent, these two songs certainly display what pop country songs sound like.

“Juliette Barnes” Old, Twang style Song: “We are Water

As mentioned above, early in the series, Panettiere’s character represents how young females in today’s country music have to use a combination of their femininity and country pop sound to snatch a general audience of tweens and teens, but also within the industry, old, powerful men. However, as the series progresses, “Juliette Barnes” is able to take her poppy vibe to her true country roots. Panettiere’s character is able to slow down her sound, and hopes that her tween and teens fan will be able to appreciate the same “Juliette Barnes,” just with a different or actual country music sound.

Whether you love to listen to the queens of country music like “Rayna Jaymes” or the new starlets like “Juliette Barnes,” one can agreed the ABC series “Nashville” does an fine job using the characters and music bring light the war country music faces. (After all, the series is on its fourth season.)

But the question I propose is has the war always been going on? Have we failed to see it just until now? Or has the war begun recently in the 21st century?


Filed under Blog Post 3, Country Pop, Nashville

George Strait, Who?

After floating the river in New Braunfels, Texas, my extended family and I had to fill our five-car caravan gas tanks before we got on the road back to my grandfather’s ranch outside of College Station. We stopped non other place than the Texas mother ship of gas stations, Buc-ee’s.

Buc-ee’s, is not only a gas station, but also a convenience store. I like to describe it as the Costco or Sam’s Club version of convenience store. It has all the features of typical convenience store. However, what makes Buc-ee’s stand out among the rest of convenience stores, is it’s deliciously jerky and other specialty snacks, large supply of furniture, college gear for every University in the state of Texas, and country home décor.

With about 25 family members, and their general obsession with Buc-ee’s we certainly spent our time looking around. I was looking around with my mother and three cousins. (Keep in mind they were ALL Texas Natives). I read aloud a country décor sign that read,

“Unless you’re God or George Strait, take your boots off.”

I said, “George Strait, who?”

After hearing those words out of my mouth, the expression on these Texans was full of disgust, disbelief, and absolute shock.

During this time I was recovering from a severe concussion. My brain was very out of it. Regardless of my current physical health circumstance at the time, my extended family certainly still does not let me forget I did not know who King of country music was, and were he came from….Texas.

Strait, originally from Poteert, Texas, showed up on the country music scene in 1981, and still sings today. Strait became the definition of  traditional and “real country music”.  Strait holds the record for singles that hit number one, total of 57 to inclusive of all chart, and has 33 platinum  or multi-platinum albums. While today’s country combines with pop, the Country Music Hall of Fame describes Strait’s music as drawing “from both the western swing and the honky-tonk traditions of his native Texas.”

Thus, I learned very quickly one could not separate the name, “George Strait” and the place, “Texas,” so here’s five songs dedicated to the Lone Star State sung by Strait.

5) “Amarillo By Morning”- (1982) Strait’s cover of Terry Stafford’s original song 1973, hit the charts at fourth, and was featured on the platinum record, “Strait from the Heart.” Accompanied by some strings, Strait sings about Amarillo, Texas, a city in Texas that is not exactly a top destination spot. However, that is something that Strait is known for, singing about cities and places in Texas that may not be on one’s radar.

4) “Somewhere Down in Texas” (2005) Wanna know where Strait is now? Texas of course! This song does not only speak about his experiences as a country music star, but reminds his fans where he came from, and where he’s going back. One can get a little emotional after listening to this song, and thinking about Strait’s career. The song was featured on the platinum record, “Somewhere Down In Texas.”

3) “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?” (1984) Strait sings this song to a lover, According to the lyrics, she went to none other than…. Dallas. The song was featured on the platinum record with the same name, and earned “Album of the Year,” from the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music.

2) “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” (1986)- We learn the REAL reason why Strait left Texas for Tennessee. (JUST KIDDING!) This song shows not only Strait’s playful humor, but it’s easy to sing along. Released on the “Ocean Front Property” double platinum record, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” hit number one on the Billboard country charts.

1) “Texas” (2005) This song was not released as a single, but was also featured on “Somewhere Down in Texas.” Strait sings about some of favorite places, people, and things in the Lone Star State, such as Fort Worth, Texas, Austin, Willie Nelson, the Yellow Rose, the Dallas Cowboys, and of course the symbol of the Lone Star itself. Strait sings this personal narrative with gratitude for his home roots Strait was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006, and all his listeners surely know he would not became the King of Country, “If it wasn’t for Texas.”


Filed under Blog Post 2, George Strait

Like Mother, Like Daughter

By Katerina Biancardi, March 1/27/15

The first CD I have memory of listening to was Shania Twain’s “Come on Over” album at age four. I sang my heart out and danced around to “Man! I feel like a Woman!” and “Honey I’m Home” in my red cowgirl boots. I made the living room my stage, and all my stuff animals, Barbie dolls, and parents were my audience. In my little girl mind I was a country star performer just like Shania Twain.

That Shania Twain CD I was so convinced was “mine” was actually my mother’s. File_000 (4)

My mother is from Gause, Texas. A small town a little over 35 miles northwest outside of College Station, and a population of about 400 people.

Growing up in small Texas town, my mother always told me listening to country music was a normal part of their lives. Eventually, my mother got out of Texas, but carried her deep Texas country roots wherever she went. She found herself with a job as the head women’s soccer coach Boston College. There, she met the assistant men’s basketball coach, Paul Biancardi, a city boy, born and raised (not exactly a country music kind of guy). One can finish the rest of the story; they fell in love and got married, and had me.

Although my dad was not a country music lover, he admired my mother’s deep Texas roots, and once he saw me as a little girl singing to Shania Twain he began to appreciate it. I remember in 2003 when the halftime of Super Bowl XXXVII was about to come on, he called all of us frantically to make sure we saw Shania Twain perform.

My immediate family, a community I have belonged to since birth, has influenced and shaped my love for country music. While Shania Twain, The Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, and the other country music women of the 90s played in my immediate’s family home more often than not, what really helped increase my love for country music was going to my mother’s home town Gause, Texas to visit my extended family.

IMG_7695During this time in Gause, Texas, we would go to rodeos and attend little country music concerts. Additionally, as my cousins became older and chose music as their career path, we’d have our own country jamboree right at my grandfather’s ranch. We would build a small dance floor, string lights around the trees, barbecue and make a bonfire. We’d invite nearby friends, but with at least 25 family members present it was already a party. My cousins played listening to George Straight and Johnny Cash, and we all sung and danced in our cowboy boots. My extended family is a second community that reinforced a positive feeling of country music. The two communities, my immediate family and my extended family, go hand in hand to shaping my love for country music.

About 3/5 of my mother's side of the family!If it were not for my mother’s strong Texas roots, I would never have developed a love for country music. As I grew older my immediate family and I moved all around the country. Therefore, I was able to see how various geographical areas have different music tastes. Nevertheless, my mother’s consistent love for country music, and the memories of spending time listening to country music with my extended family made country music always an easy choice to listen to.

Side note: There’s one more person I have to highlight once more. While country music was not my father’s particularly favorite genre, when Shania Twain came back on tour this past year, he purchased tickets for me before I had to ask. As my father does also remember when I was a little girl dancing to Shania Twain in the living room. Attending Twain’s concert certainly made me feel like that little girl again, and reminded me why I first loved country music.


Filed under Blog Post 1