Author Archives: Lauren Harris

About Lauren Harris

Hi my name is Lauren and I am a sophomore advertising major at UT. I have grown up in Austin and enjoy doing all of the outdoor Austiny things like boating on the lake and running on all of the trails. I love being from Texas and am excited to dive into my favorite genre of music.

Expanding My Country Music Experiences

Living in Texas I have grown up a fan of country music. My parents always listened to it, my friends liked it, and there were so many great concerts that were available. I had my favorite artists and could hold a conversation about the genre, but I never knew the history or roots of where it came from. Since I needed a rhetoric class and liked country music, I thought this course would be a good fit for me. Coming into the class I did not know what to expect, but throughout the semester I have learned to love country music even more since I now know the story behind it. Here is a list of some activities I did this fall to further my learning experience even more!

1.Saw Abe Mac perform live.

Gage Hotel in Marathon, TX

Gage Hotel in Marathon, TX

This live country music performance was different than any previous ones I have attended. This West Texas native hasn’t “made it big” yet and the environment I was in made it even better. In a hotel in a little town called Marathon, I got to listen to this musician play the music he loves while I ate my dinner and proceeded to dance afterwards. Not only was his performance great, the whole experience was great. I was surrounded by people who all loved country music and enjoyed the life of a small town. It made me appreciate all the singers who aren’t famous and still playing traditional, non-pop country music.

2.Watched the Country Music Association Award show.

IMG_0274I have watched the CMA Awards before, but not like this. This time I didn’t fall asleep and was actually interested to see who won the awards. Normally I just watch the performances and zoned out the rest, but being in this class makes me appreciate the music a lot more. My favorite performance (like everyone else’s) was Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake. It was one that will definitely go down in history and it is confirmed that JT will be releasing a country album that I am looking forward to. I think that everyone who won deserved it and I am glad that Stapleton took home three trophies.

3.Read the November 2014 issue from Texas Music Magazine.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 3.43.29 PMThis issue was from this month a year ago and it was interesting to see how things have changed, or haven’t changed, in this time. In the section discussing the 2014 CMA Awards, Miranda Lambert won Female Vocalist of the Year, just like she did in 2015. But what caught my eye the most was an interview with Steve Young. While he wasn’t like most rebellious Texas outlaws, he became a father figure for those like Waylon Jennings and Steve Earl. In fact his song “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean” was “turned into the theme song for the Outlaw Movement” by Waylon Jennings, even though Young isn’t quite sure that Jennings knew what the song was about. In the last question he is asked why he lives in Nashville since he doesn’t seem like a Nashville guy. In his answer he compares Austin to Nashville in an interesting way. He says, “people tell me all the time I seem more like an Austin guy…there’s no way I’d want to live there, even though Nashville is becoming more like Austin every day with growth and traffic and gentrification.” People always try to compare the two cities and it is funny to see that they aren’t that different in some ways.

This class has taught me a lot about the history, people, roots, and structure of country music. I thought that I knew a decent amount about it, but going through a whole semester taught me that I actually didn’t know a whole lot. I had been to countless concerts but seeing Abe Mac, a non-famous country singer, in such a small town made me appreciate the roots of the genre. Watching the CMA awards to actually know who won revealed to me that I have taken a greatest interest into the sound and songs of country. And lastly, reading Texas Music Magazine, which I didn’t know existed, is evidence that the genre is alive and people do care about the history and current events. Throughout the semester I have learned a great deal about artists and songs that I would never have known without this class. I hope to continue to read blogs and articles about what is going on in the country music world so I can stay involved.


Filed under Blog Post 5

From Check List Songs to Bro-Country

There has been a lot of criticism in the past few years regarding “bro-country.” There are many offenders out there, from Luke Bryan to Florida Georgia Line, but it has a history that goes beyond these modern day artists. It has evolved into something that country music fans and non-fans love to hate on.

This type of song used to be called a checklist or laundry list song. Basically the premise was that writers had a list of “country-isms” (think girls, trucks, beer, the south, dirt roads, etc.) that were supposed to be included in each song in order for it to be successful. It wasn’t until 2013 when Jody Rosen published an article in New York magazine that the official name changed to bro-country. This music has been around for awhile, but seems to have escalated in the past few years with tattoos and hip shaking.

Even though David Allan Coe is far from bro, his song in 1977 called “If That Ain’t Country” can be argued to have been “the first true laundry list country song that started the whole trend.” But unlike modern day check list songs,  his is actually autobiographical. Fast forward 36 years to 2013 and it seems that the trend exploded so that every country song sounded the same. People were questioning what country music had turned into so they made it worse by listing things they considered to be country.

This brings us to present day 2015 where people have now started to make fun of all these bro country songs. Maddie and Tae addressed the role of woman with their song “Girl in a Country Song” and now Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have gone all out in their parody called “All I Need.” This is the ultimate check list song that is quite entertaining and on point. They are just simple guys who are fine with “a case of miller or bud…rack of ribs, and a pack of chew.” The music video features some stereotypical scenes and the lady writing it all down on her grocery list tops it off. Take a look.

With the Billy Ray Cyrus hair, dog tags, and creepy mustache, this duo hits on all of the criticisms of bro-country. They even threw in a little rapping to spice it up. You can check out their comedy show on Netflix for some more entertainment from these two.

Personally, I enjoy a little party song every once in a while, but when it starts to change the sound and views of country music I draw the line. Maybe some of these artists need to rethink their choice of genre and make the transition to pop. Some would go as far to say that this is the end of an era. Alan Jackson said that “real roots-y traditional stuff, may be gone…There’s some good music, good songwriting and good artists out there, but there’s really no country stuff left.” It is sad to think that is true, but I am still keeping hope considering Chris Stapleton has entered into the mix.


Filed under Bro Country

6 Best Moments of the CMA Awards

The 2015 CMA Awards (a.k.a the water cooler gossip at work on Thursday) had some pretty mixed reviews. There are countless articles and disagreements regarding outfits, performances, and winners. While scrolling through lists of the best and worst moments, it was funny to see how some peoples opinions of best moments were others ideas of the worst. I think people just don’t know how to feel about the overall award show this year, except for one thing — no Taylor Swift. She has moved on from country music and I am glad everyone finally acknowledged it. Love it or hate it though, I want to focus on the positive aspects. We can bash on it all we want, but there were some pretty awesome parts that show it hasn’t gone completely down hill.

6. Chris Stapleton’s Many Wins

Stapleton made a name for himself when he won best new artist, best album for Traveller (which spiked 4,000% the day after the show), and best male vocalist. USA Today would even say he “is here to save country music.” This genre has taken an interesting direction in the past decade and Stapleton has taken it back to its real roots. He said in his acceptance speech, “about two years ago I lost my dad and I made this record thinking about the music he would have liked.” He was genuinely surprised by his many wins and with a beard like that you can’t help but love him.

5. Luke Bryan Not Shaking His Butt

Luke is turning 40 next year and, although he won entertainer of the year, he let go of his bro country image with his performance of “Strip It Down,” while fully clothed. We were finally able to focus on his vocals to understand why he was nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year. It is good to see him finally acting his age.

2004. Tribute to the Late Little Jimmy Dickens

This 4-foot-11 Grand Ole Opry star made many appearances in earlier CMA awards with Brad and Carrie. He unfortunately passed away earlier this year so it was only right to honor him with an urn. Well a miniature urn inside a bigger urn that Paisley pulled out. He mentioned that Dickens wanted to leave making people laugh and he surely accomplished that. There were a few questionable jokes during their intro, but they nailed that one.

3. Carrie Underwood.

As Little Big Town would say, I’ve got a girl crush. With her 12 perfect outfit changes and wowing of the crowd with her current song “Smoke Break,” there was nothing she did that wasn’t flawless. Whether she had princess Leia buns or knee high leather boots, she rocked it. Her and Brad Paisleys monologue wasn’t their best one in their eight years as hosts, but she looked pretty doing it.

2. Miranda Lambert Keeping it Honest

Great timing Blake. With their split up only months ago and Blake’s announcement of his new girlfriend just 20 minutes before the show, Miranda’s statement of “I needed a bright spot this year” is very accurate. She deserved Female Vocalist of the Year and killed her performance of “Bathroom Sink” with her new pink hair. Blake tried to “win” the break up but failed. I can’t wait to see the new album she releases all about him.

1. Justin Timberlake & Chris Stapleton

Since I began with Chris Stapleton, it is only fair to end with him considering his enormous success during the award show. Not only did he win three awards as I mentioned earlier, but also had the best performance of the night hands down. I think who really stole the show though was JT. “The Nashville sound meets the soul of Memphis” said Brad Paisley. I would not be upset if Timberlake went country, because I believe he can do it all. Thank you to this duo for killing it.

2608Even though ratings were down 16% from last year, I think country music is finally starting to get over the hump of the pop sound. With the successful boom of Chris Stapleton and the non-bro Luke Bryan, I believe that country music will start to make its way back up. There is hope for this genre.


Filed under Awards, Blog Post 4, Lists

A New Texas Country Performer To Look Out For

What do you think of when you picture West Texas? Something that comes to mind may be a straight road through the middle of no where with a speed limit of 85 or possibly a dark starry night with abandoned diners. That is what I thought of too until a few weekends ago. Now, I picture the beautiful Big Bend National Park and the welcoming people of Marathon, TX. This is an image that I am sure El Paso native and country music singer Abe Mac can agree on with me.

maxresdefaultThese days it is hard for artists to “make it big” and this under the radar musician is someone I want to share with ya’ll.

When first arriving to the Gage Hotel in Marathon, I was a little concerned that I could stand at one end of the town and see the other. But once discovering that there would be a live performer for dinner, I was satisfied. I had the privilege of eating a delicious meal while listening to Abe Mac perform for the restaurant. He grew up in far west Texas just minutes away from Rosa’s Cantina. Never heard of it? Well maybe you have heard of Marty Robbins’ song called “El Paso” where he says, “night-time would find me in Rosa’s Cantina.” Mac was not only inspired by Robbins, but also many other Texas country stars like George Strait and Merle Haggard. He can play drums, keyboard, and guitar. Throw out a song and he can make a beat and play. He had no back up band with him but was using a multi track song recorder to create his own band. He would record a few guitar chords and a beat with his fist on the body of the guitar and then start playing.

But, his original songs were even better.

Mac has released two albums, “My Kind of Friends” and “American Country,” and a single since 2013. He has a couple of music videos out as well. His songs range from an array of county music topics like tequila, whiskey, girls, family, and America. Going off of that last topic, his song “Far Away,” that is accompanied by a music video, is one of my favorites.

In this song he is singing from the point of view of a soldier. It discusses the troubles of coming home after being deployed. You can tell from the music video that he actually knows people who have experienced these troubles and cares about the topic. He actually works with the American Patriots non-profit organization to raise awareness for PTSD. This is a song he wrote, not something that a producer told him to just sing, which comes through in his performance. In fact, Mac is an unsigned independent artist who just loves to play his music.

While watching him perform he was just so happy to be up there entertaining people and connecting with the crowd. While he clearly has high hopes of making it big and playing at sold out venues, he loves what he does and is in it to make himself and his fans happy.


Filed under Blog Post 3, Texas

Outlaw or Outsider?

When Nashville wants you to conform, move to Texas. That’s what Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson did when they were fed up with producers telling them what to do. These two 70’s musicians created a tradition of creative control and musical experimentation called outlaw country. But is there a new Outlaw movement forming? Can current artists call themselves outlaws without getting backlash?

Eric Church seems to straddle the line of being classified as an outlaw without ever proclaiming himself as one.

He started his career by getting kicked off the Rascal Flatts tour and has been pushing the boundaries of Nashville ever since. He does his own music with controversial songs such as “Two Pink Lines” about teen pregnancy and “Smoke a Little Smoke” which is pro-marijuna. Clearly he doesn’t care about conformity. But is this enough to call him a true outlaw?

Some people will come out and support Church as an outlaw. Darius Rucker believes that Church is a bad boy and “the closest we got to Waylon and Willie.” Brad Paisley, at the 2011 CMA awards, called Eric “country’s latest Outlaw” when introducing his performance. But according to Church, it is a word that gets “misused” a lot. He respects the term used for the 70’s and thinks it fits for those artists but “is now used just because people are unsure how to identify an artist.” He hates genres and claims that he doesn’t want to be branded for the type of music that he plays.

Me at an Eric Church concert in 2014

Personally I think his view, and most other peoples view, of his music can be summed up by his song “Outsiders.” First off, the title is a great substitute for the word outlaw. He can use this word to describe himself as different without using the controversial term to avoid backlash. Secondly, in the lyrics he refers to his rock and roll sound with the phrase, “wide open rocking, that’s how we roll.” Church will always admit to having a rock influence. His song “Springsteen” being a great example of this. Lastly, he creates this line between the in crowd and out crowd. He isn’t part of the in crowd and doesn’t want to be, but is going to stand up and show that he his music has a lot to offer.

There are so many different sub genres of country today that it is sometimes hard to categorize an artist into one place. It is also hard not to offend people when trying to do so. In my opinion there will never be another Willie or Waylon, but I do think that there are artists who can and will come close. Eric Church is just one of many who are still trying to fight the “Nashville Sound” while trying to make music that people will listen to.

“Don’t ever try and be like anybody else and don’t be afraid to take risks.” -Waylon Jennings


Filed under Blog Post 2