Author Archives: Lee Allen

Defined Country


JustinNow, I had never seen the CMA’s or paid much attention, but this year, my love of country music started, so I decided to give it a shot. The commercial breaks seemed to take forever, but whenthe time came for my favorite performance, it was worth it. I’m a big Timberlake fan. I grew up with his music. Whether it was NSYNC or he as a solo artist, JT was always on my iTunes. That’s what made watching the 49th CMA’s so much more interesting. Seeing Chris Stapleton win best new artist and Traveller win Album of the Year was not the best moment, in my eyes, for Stapleton. The best moment was when he paired with the Justin for something amazing – a performance for the ages. The performance of Justin’s hit “Drink You Away,” and Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” made it a night to remember. Seeing this really made me appreciate the power of country music, bringing two worlds together and pulling it off. It still gives me chills.

Live Music

What’s the first thing you do when you’re getting ready for a concert? Turn on that artist’s music and learn the lyrics. Luckily this artist has only released four songs – Tyler Dial, but he covers a hell of a lot of them. He performed at Round Up for Pike, and I was lucky enough to see it. The man is skilled, and listening to him sing the songs that I have on my phone was pretty cool to see, as a friend. He made the stage his own, and commanded everyone to get off their feet with his energy. Even when he wasn’t singing, his excitement and guitar skills got everyone pumped up. He made it seem like more than just a performance by a kid. Click below to see the video!



IMG_1944Here’s my first guitar. I got it as a gift this year, and haven’t stopped playing. I don’t know how much it cost, but to me it’s priceless. It has opened so many doors for me, learning how to play this instrument. I notice things in performances now that I didn’t see before. I appreciate Prince’s music that much more now than I did, and the same goes for Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, and all others who have noticeable guitar shredding skills.

These three events or instances have helped me grow with music, but specifically country music. With the CMA’s – I don’t normally watch country awards, but sitting and watching it through and through, I learned a lot about what new artists or old artists should be relevant in my definition of country. This class helped me define my version of country. Seeing Tyler perform – He performed for an hour and a half…that’s a lot of country music. Most of the songs I had heard, but seeing him get such a great reaction from the crowd from the ones I hadn’t heard made me want to gain more knowledge. This class provided me with that knowledge. The guitar – learning this thing was a reward, but learning from it, I can’t describe. I’ve made so many new connections and friends from playing for the crowds that stroll into my room, or by meeting up with friends who sing and play as well. Also, I’ve realized that country music is real. The beats and sounds made from rap or hip-hop can’t be played on a guitar, but the chords and sounds for country are from guitar. This class helped me learn that sound.

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Argument: The Most Underrated Singers in Country Music

Everyday, we listen to a plethora of studio recordings from our artists of choice. We grab our headphones, lift the volume, and let it play. Some listen for the lyrics, some listen for the instruments, some for the voice. I’m here to talk about that voice, and what makes it worthy of your ears. Who’s got the best one? Who’s worth listening to? There are so many country artists who wouldn’t even make it past the first round of the Voice yet they still reach stardom. I’d rather listen for raw talent.

I rank singing with vocal range, pitch control, falsetto stability, and overall training skill set; not just what sounds good on the radio, but what gives you chills when you listen to. When I think of that, I think of Freddie Mercury, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, but that’s just me. I grew up knowing those people were the best vocally. People like Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, Eric Church, Thomas Rhett, or even Blake Shelton have the smoothest of sounds, and are doing extremely well for themselves, but are they really the BEST singers? Do they impress you with the notes they hit? I think not…yet they still reach the top charts. When I think of people who DESERVE to top the chart, I think Zac Brown Band, Tim McGraw, and Carrie Underwood, but here are some that may have slipped the radar.

A great singer in an acoustic recording is hard to come by in country music, but surprisingly enough, Sam Hunt (yes, Sam Hunt) did a wildly good job with his acoustic album. Listening through it all caused me to believe that he really is a good singer. He crushes the track “Come Over,” made famous by Kenny Chesney. Funny thing is, Sam Hunt wrote the song, and I actually like his better (especially at 1:21 when he vibratos the “anyone else” with power). Sam has a smooth tone, and though his riffs and runs aren’t spectacular, he can hold pitch very well. I think his album “Montevallo” actually hurt his chances of being thought of as an actual talent. His acoustic album, however, gives reason to think otherwise.

Dan + Shay have a spectacular vocal range that they display in “19 You and Me”. They’re new to the scene of country music, and maybe they benefit from the changing ways of the genre to a more pop-sound. They don’t necessarily have a twang, but they certainly do have talent, belting out the lines each time the chorus comes around, and they hold their notes out. Just take a listen, and I hope you’ll agree with me.

Lastly, I’ll stick with Josh Turner. The man can sing! He’s got a range as low as railroad tracks, but can bring it up to a baritone level, proving his 3-octave vocal range. Everyone (including myself) dips their chin to their chest and raises their eyebrows to try and sing along with “Your Man,” while he does so with ease. He’s just gifted with it, and there’s no training that can teach him to reach such a low register. It’s unfair, but he’s one of best due to that range and he sounds phenomenal live.

These are just a few artists who have showcased their talent and impressed me. I know these names may seem a bit unexpected, but I can’t get over how weak some of the most popular vocalists truly are. Am I wrong? Who do you think is the best?


Filed under Blog Post 4, Live Music

An Interview With Country Music’s Rookie

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThere’s a new artist in town, and it’s my good friend Tyler Dial. His country style is fitting in well with today’s top 40 hits. He’s been at it for a while, and is only getting better. Over the summer his single “Damn Good Time” debuted on Sirius XM’s The Highway. I was lucky enough to grab a second of his time from a busy practice schedule, and sat him down for an interview. Here’s a look into the journey of a promising, hungry artist.

What started your dream to be a singer?

  • I was in middle school when I saw some older guys play “Hotel California” and I thought it was the coolest thing. I made it my goal that year to learn guitar and learn how to sing so that by the time the talent show rolled around, I’d be ready. Ever since I played “Free Fallin’” in 7th grade, I was hooked. The next year I played my first live country song, “God Love Her.”

Why country music?

  • Some of my first memories are riding in the car with my dad listening to guys like Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, James Taylor, and the Dixie Chicks. Their music was ingrained in me at an early age, and as I grew up I started to discover country music on my own through artists like Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, and Sam Hunt.

What sorts of things have stopped you?

  • I don’t think anything has really stopped me. A lot of people tell me I’m not ready yet or I’m too young but I try to tune the naysayers out. When people don’t believe in my vision, that’s okay, hopefully they’ll come around one day.

Could you tell me a little bit about how BBVA Compass noticed you, and the story with them?

  • Yeah! Our partnership with BBVA has been very mutual. They saw something in me and my music that aligned with their brand. So they stepped up and helped us take my first single, “Damn Good Time” to radio. It’s a song that matches with their #livebright brand. They have been such a blessing and an amazing partner to work with.

What does living in Austin, the music capital of the world, do for someone like you?

  • I always thought Nashville would be where I would become the best artist I could be. But it turns out that Austin is the city that is challenging me to be a better artist. When I lived in Nashville this past summer, I learned the skills of becoming a great songwriter, but here in Austin, I find the inspiration to write great music and be a better artist.

What styles did you grow up listening to? Did that affect the singer/performer you are today?

  • Like I said earlier, I got my knowledge of music from my dad. I always stayed true to the music I was introduced to as a kid. Especially when middle school came around and my friends were listening to artists like Lil Wayne and Akon. I would listen to artists like Keith Urban, The Counting Crows, and John Mayer.

What was your favorite performance you’ve ever done?

  • That’s hard because I feel like we are always raising the bar. Even this past weekend we had one of my favorite performances on 6th street. Every gig and every rehearsal we are getting better as a band. I typically view a performance as a success when I’m able to engage the crowd.

What motivates you when you write?

  • Every day life experiences honestly. I’m also motivated by what I hear on the radio and see on the Internet. When I hear artists doing unique and cool things, it motivates me to do the same. I’m also very competitive. I’m always trying to make the best music possible.

Who inspires you to keep working everyday?

  • My dad is really the one who is always challenging me to be a better artist. He knows how important it is to never be content. He’s also the one who shares my vision so when I’m not executing it, he makes sure I change things up.

What type of song are you working on next?

  • I’m working on a bunch of new material. Currently I’m trying to write songs that are timeless like the Eagles’ “Take It Easy.

What do you like most about what you do?

  • My favorite part about being a musician is the live performances. I know it’s a little selfish to say but being on stage and being the soundtrack to someone’s Saturday night is so cool to me.

Finally…what did you learn in your semester in Rhetoric of Country Music that you remember most?

  • Rhetoric of Country Music gave me such a great knowledge of the history of country music. Being able to listen to my idols’ idols was very cool. The class made a huge impact on how I view country music and how I view myself as a country artist.

Tyler is always at work on his music. Even during class I’d peek over and see him researching ways to improve his skills. UT Student by day, artist by night. You can either catch him walking past the Tower, or find him on Spotify, Youtube, SoundCloud and even iTunes. I do see a lot of potential in him, and I encourage you to give him a listen and come to his next performance! You could very well be witnessing country’s next best.


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 3, Concert, Live Music

I Don’t Have an Accent, But My Lyrics Do

Tips-for-Writing-Lyrics-to-Your-First-SongI don’t get it. Why do I write song lyrics in a country accent? I don’t sing with an accent, speak with one, or even think with one, but I write with one. The words that I write on any sheet, I always read back to myself as if it’s a country song. It’s not like I only listen to country music. My iPhone contains many different artists and genres, like (admittedly) Justin Bieber’s album, Travis $cott, Jeremih, KISS, etc. Even if it were only country…in that sense, I would write in a British accent if I only listened to Ed Sheeran. It’s wild to me because I began loving country music only 14 months ago. I used to never listen to country music, so every lyric written was just in Lee’s voice. Now when I write, it sounds like a man named “Buck” or “Levi” is singing through my brain onto the paper. I struggle to find my own voice in my own lyrics. I can’t pinpoint why, and it drives me insane.

I’ve come up with two possible reasons for my odd situation. The first is that most of the stories seem to sound BETTER with a country accent. Like “Good Directions” by Billy Currington, it just makes things seem more meaningful, or even more experienced. I guess it’s because auto tune is less noticeable for country, all country beats seem man-made, and the lyrics can be understood, unlike today’s rappers like Future or Fetty Wap. The second reason is most likely the more accurate reason. Is it is because country lyrics are so much more relatable than anything else? I mean, it ranges from cars to going out at night, but there’s never anything too out of the ordinary.

While most hip-hop singers or rappers have lyrics that contain profanity, Lamborghinis, or a plethora of women, country music lyrics make the artist seem like a normal human, with an exceptional singing voice and reason to sing. Jake Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got” is a prime example of one of the most relatable songs I’ve ever heard. Take a listen if you haven’t heard it.

There’s no country verse (that I’ve heard) that talks about acid and lean like A$AP Rocky, none about getting dirty money like Jordan Belfort, and none about dealing drugs and needing to contact “the plug.” Believe it or not, I do not sell drugs; I do not drop acid or sip on codeine; I do not even know how to make dirty money if I tried, so I can’t relate to these lyrics. Here’s my attempt at writing a rap, right now – “I’ve got two tattoos, one of my mom and one of my shoes.” Who can’t relate to that right? Here’s a quick attempt of a lyric that I’d actually write — “I’d wrap my fingers in your chenille blanket, wondering when you’re gonna stop faking.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can only think that John Mayer or a country star could sing those lyrics.

No, I don’t have tattoos. Yes, I tend to drink from a Red Solo Cup. My mind is stuck in reality, as well as country, where people sing about jobs, dancing, a significant other, or home. I’d say I’m more interested in John Mayer or (recently) Bieber when it comes to what I want to sing like. I don’t sing with a country accent. Why do my lyrics have one?

*This video contains profanity*

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The Unbreakability of Country Music


I grew up hating country, until I met her. Well, I had danced on a country-western dance team in high school (all the cool kids did it, I promise), but never became vested in country music. I got to college, went to tailgates, and heard that nasal twang that is ubiquitously known as country. When I started dating her, she slowly eased me into the phenomenon, by starting with Zac Brown Band’s newest album “Jekyll and Hyde” (which I fell in love with). Throughout the relationship I was introduced to the likes of Glen Campbell, Alan Jackson, Luke Bryan, and mostly all other artists that are well known from Kenny Chesney to Sam Hunt.

As a musician myself, I listen to the lyrics attentively, and figured out that lot of the songs were about heartbreak. Well, that is the community that I have implemented country music into. Being broken up with, that’s a community right? No matter how long ago it may have been, almost everyone has been through a break up, unless you’re still in that relationship with your high school sweetheart. Breaking up with someone is different than being broken up with, and I know I couldn’t have done it unless there was some huge fight. Mostly, I don’t think I could ever gather enough testosterone to break it off with the person whose hand I will never hold again. Luckily (well not really), she broke up with me, and even luckier, I had learned about country music and knew that most of those songs could make the pain a bit easier.

People get broken up with, and one person is always left needing answers. I gained most if not all of my answers from country music, and I imagine that others do too. Artists don’t write songs about getting over a loved one or seeing the brighter side of life just to make money. They do it to gain a following of people who go through what they’ve been through. Whether it’s T-Swift singing about never getting back together with that boy, or Alan Jackson singing about the day the “world stopped turning” in September, people clutch onto country music for guidance. I’d think that most people who go through break ups like to listen to sad songs like Whisky Lullaby or Colder Weather, or redemption songs like Save It For a Rainy Day or Never Alone. A break up takes a toll on you, and the navigation granted by country music has a myriad of songs physically and literally meant for the listeners to relate and find serenity through. Country music can lift you up if you’re feeling down, and get you into a mood where you realize to get over someone, or it can help comfort you with the lyrical arrangement meant to let you know that other people have been in your shoes, and are either better because of it, or dug themselves out of that whole. Of course other genres of music are meant to do the same, but if you have ever liked country music, no other genre stands a chance at the perfect remedy for a break up.


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