Author Archives: Mackenzi McAfee

About Mackenzi McAfee

My name is Mackenzi McAfee, and I am a senior at the University of Texas at Austin. I will be graduating in May of 2016 and receiving a degree in Biology and have pursued a career in dentistry for the past 4 years of undergraduate. I will be attending dental school in the Fall of 2016 and am very excited to see what the future holds!

I Always Have and Always Will Love Country Music

For as long as I can remember, country music has been my genre of choice. My redneck dad grew up in Tennessee and I don’t think he even knew other types of music existed outside of country. My mom grew up North of Dallas and constantly reminisces on her weekends tearing up the dance halls at country concerts. I grew up with country music embedded within me, but it wasn’t until this semester that I really discovered how much I appreciate country music. Throughout the semester I gained knowledge about aspects of country music that I wasn’t aware of previously, like it’s history and the legends that paved the way for today’s biggest country stars. Not only did I learn about country music during lecture, I also experienced country music in my life outside of the classroom. I saw a live country music show in Snook, went two stepping at Stubb’s, and watched the 2016 ACM awards show.

Saw a live country music show (or ten)

13010595_10206427021458794_8546621853255308014_nSnook, TX is a pretty plain place and Chilifest is actually the only thing the town is known for. Chilifest is a two-day music festival that brings in way too many Aggies wearing way-too-short denim cutoffs and cowboy boots that get covered in mud. The weekend is a complete mess, but ten or more of the most well known Texas Country artists perform on Friday and Saturday. I’ve actually been to Chilifest three other times, but this past year was the most memorable for me. The lineup this year consisted of some of my all time favorites, like Roger Creager, Shane Smith and the Saints, Pat Green, Turnpike Troubadours, William Clark Green, Whiskey Myers, Josh Abbott Band, and Gary Allan. I’ve heard many of these guys perform live in the past, but I really appreciated their performances at Chilifest this year. While we didn’t rally discuss many of the artists in class this semester, I was able to recognize where the Texas Country artists might have gotten their musical inspiration.

Went two stepping at a dance hall

FullSizeRender 2Another one of my favorite things I did this semester was dancing the night away to Cody Johnson live at Stubb’s BBQ. From a previous post of mine its clear to see that I am obsessed with Cody Johnson and after learning about legends like Chris LeDoux, I have gone beyond just loving his music, but I now have a deep appreciation for it. Like LeDoux, Cody is a cowboy that has worked really hard in both rodeos and on his musical career. Before this class, I never made a connection with where Cody could have gotten his inspiration from, but now it is evident that LeDoux had much to do with Cody’s style. Cody sings about his life, and as I two stepped to all of his catchy tunes I fell more in love with his music than ever before.
Watched an awards show on TV

I’m a huge fan of country music awards shows, party because I drool over all of the glamorous outfits worn by country royalty, but mainly because I’m interested to see who gets nominated/wins the awards. I recently watched the 51st ACM awards and had many mixed emotions all throughout the show. I was blown away by several performances, like Tim McGraw’s inspirational debut of “Humble and Kind” and Carrie Underwood’s jaw-dropping performance of “Church Bells.” I really enjoyed the performances, but some of the nominations and awards were a bit surprising to me! I mean, Jason Aldean won Entertainer of the Year over Garth Brooks, and Florida Georgia Line Vocal Duo of the Year when Brothers Osborne was also in the running… Something just didn’t really add up there. On the other hand, Chris Stapleton blew everyone out of the water and received awards in four different categories! This years ACM’s were big for Stapleton, and I really loved seeing such a deserving singer/songwriter receive recognition as he should.

onstage during the 51st Academy of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 3, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Filed under Blog Post 5, Concert


My mom often sends me the names of songs she hears on the radio in the car that she really likes or ones that remind her of certain times. Just a few weeks ago, she sent a text that said, “Listen to ‘Humble and Kind,’ I just love it and hope that you and your brother will always live your life this way.”

At that point I hadn’t yet heard the song, so I quickly pulled it up on Spotify. Listening to it just one time reminded me of several things: first, that Tim McGraw will always be one of my favorite artists, and second, that country artists still choose to sing deep, heartfelt songs like this one. It seems like most songs on the country charts these days are about driving trucks, drinking beer, and making love, but Tim McGraw released a breath of fresh air to that mix and I am so thankful for that.

Not even a week after my mom texted me about the song, Tim McGraw presented “Humble and Kind” at the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 3rd. Little Big Town presented McGraw with a preview of the performance, “this timeless message of humility and kindness connects with all of us…” His performance was absolutely stunning, his voice deeply sincere and he touched the hearts of every person in the audience and those watching at home like myself. He started the song off sitting on a bar stool, singing intimately to the crowd.

tim-mcgraw-acm-awards-performance Singing with a grin that reached ear to ear, he watched around a hundred individuals of all different walks of life come down the aisle to join him on the stage. He jumped off stage and grabbed one of their hands, walking to the stage with them. He proceeded to sing to the individuals that had just joined him on stage, and they represented a real life version of the breathtaking music video that he created with the help of Oprah. He didn’t just sing the song at the awards show; he lived and breathed it, delivering the song as a life lesson to all.

After such a breath taking performance, I felt deeply touched by the song and the message it delivers, to always remember where your past and no matter what your success is, always stay humble and kind. I did a simple Google search a few days later and saw that “Humble and Kind” had gone viral and is not only an inspiration to me, but is such an inspiration to so many others that an entire #StayHumbleAndKind movement exists, inspired by Tim McGraw’s song. The movement can be joined online simply by sharing your random acts of kindness using the hashtag in hopes of creating a network of giving. How incredible is that?! That’s not all though, Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” inspired a book to be released with the same title and will include lyrics from the song as well as comments from Tim McGraw and songwriter Lori McKenna.

When I started thinking about how many people this song hits home too, I knew I wanted to write about it. I found several interviews online that explain Tim McGraw’s emotional connection to the song and why it means so much to him. During an interview with Billboard, he explained that he has been holding on to the song written by Lori McKenna for several years and just couldn’t find the right time to cut it. Lori wrote the song as a message for her own children and he loved the song so much that he was so afraid to mess it up for both Lori and himself.

1439903983_484340666_tim-mcgraw-gracie-mcgraw-zoomHe decided to cut it after taking his oldest daughter, Gracie, to college and said that it was the perfect time to record it. He revealed that he was so emotional when recording it that “I would get through two or three lines, and then I’d fall apart.” He was so emotionally connected to the song because it reminded him so much of his daughter and the things he always wanted her to remember when going through life.

In my opinion, “Humble and Kind” is one of the best country songs that has been released and made the top charts in a while. Compared to other songs that are popular right now, when I hear “Humble and Kind” I actually feel emotionally connected and really take away life lessons from the lyrics, which is such a nice change. I hope those that haven’t already heard this song take the time to listen and reflect on the lyrics just like I have done.


Filed under Blog Post 4, Classic Country, Country Pop, Music Videos, Nashville Sound, Reviews, Tim McGraw

Cody Johnson: Give a Cowboy a Kiss

51-atxl1“I don’t want to be labeled as ‘Texas’ or ‘Nashville.’ I am me: Texas, outlaw, cowboy, country, and a God-fearing man using the gift He gave me.” That is how Cody Johnson, better known by fans as “CoJo,” describes himself as an artist and that is exactly why I think he one of the most unique artists out there today. He is a hard-working man from east Texas that is living out his dream to be a country artist. His music is downright full of talent and so relatable that he makes you feel like you’re living out each song. I became hooked on his music when I first heard “Texas Kind of Way,” but his latest album absolutely did not disappoint and got me hooked for good.

What I think is so unique about Cody’s music is its unique mix of Country and Rock, which resembled Garth’s enthusiasm and Chris LeDoux’s style to some extent. His music is honest, heartfelt, and meaningful, and he sings about parts of his life that contribute to where he is today. Growing up in East Texas, he was a country boy that liked to hunt and fish, and family was very important to him. His “ag science” teacher is actually responsible for convincing him for form a band, and he realized he was in love with the music and everything about performing at a talent competition. He starting singing in small bars and dance-halls and began selling CD’s out of the back of his truck during three years of bull-riding. He is a true cowboy, born and raised, and his dedication to his dream makes me respect him as both an individual and an artist.

Cody is a pro at packing dance-halls to max capacity, and even better at holding smaller acoustic shows. I have seem him perform on three separate occasions, and each of those I had the absolute best time singing his songs at the top of my lungs. His music is exactly what I think of when discussing what “real” country music is. He gives each show his absolute best effort, whether it’s a crowd of thousands or a just a few. He genuinely loves the music and that is extremely evident after going to a few of his shows.

After releasing his latest album, Cowboy Like Me, Cody had me so obsessed that I marked my calendar 6 months in advance for his concert at Midnight Rodeo in Austin. Up until the day of the concert I learned every song on the album backwards and forwards, and I have listened to each song so many times its as if he should know me based on number of Spotify plays! There’s no other way to explain how big of a fan I am other than to mention that I somehow ended up with his concert setlist that was taped to the stage in front of him (of course I had it signed)!!!

FullSizeRenderHis album is jam packed with upbeat, two-stepping songs that make me come out of my seat every time. “Dance Her Home” is the first track on the album, and its about a cowgirl walking into a bar and him hoping she’ll “give him have a chance at romance” so he can dance her home. “Me and My Kind” is a catchy tune about how his ex-girl just cannot deal with cowboys like him anymore. “Baby’s Blue” is a heartfelt love song about how his baby needs him by her side when he’s at work late, but he is more than willing to walk away for her. “Cowboy Like Me” is a unique story that touches every heart, pouring out honestly about how “every time I go home, I think I’ll find her gone, but she’s still there and still wants to be, in the arms of a cowboy like me.” Finally, “Give a Cowboy a Kiss” is a song with a story line that resembles “if you give a moose a muffin,” talking about what happens after you give a cowboy a kiss. Hot dang, would I love to give that cowboy a kiss!!


Filed under Blog Post 3

Who Will Fill the Shoes of “The King of Country”?

Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 8.36.02 PMOver the weekend, I made a trip to Friendswood, TX, where I was born and raised just south of Houston. Like I usually do on my drive home, I pressed shuffle on my Spotify “country faves” and listened to my favorite songs that have accumulated over time in one playlist. The majority of my playlist is so-called Texas Country songs, including artists like Cody Johnson, Randy Rogers, Aaron Watson, and Cory Morrow. Side note – I absolutely love love love those guys and respect their passion in staying true to traditional country music, staying away from the mainstream vibe that most artists tend to evolve into.

Now back to my drive, I listened to all 109 songs in my country playlist and finally made it home.
My love for country music is definitely a result of my parents, who mostly only listen to country music, with the occasional pop hit that my 12-year-old brother likes to interrupt them with. My mom is from Dallas and spent her younger years dancing the night away at country saloons, and my dad is from Tennessee, where he quite literally has never listened to anything other than country radio. Thankfully I love country for my own reasons, but they definitely had something to do with how I started listening to the genre in the first place.

Ace-in-the-Hole-Band-with-George-Strait-Debut-at-Cheatham-Street-Warehouse-10-13-75.-Courtesy-of-Terry-Hale.1-1024x682One night while I was home, we went to dinner at our favorite Cajun restaurant to have some crawfish and beer with some family friends. Of course, the moms had a few too many and ended up on a tangent about their memories of their absolute favorite country artists, George Strait, from when he was just starting out. They talked about how much of a “heart-throb” he was, and how they would give anything in the world to meet him. My mom also reminded me of how close she’s been to him for he 100th time when he was a part of Ace in the Hole Band, “I touched George Strait’s Boot!!!! He should know me!!!” It is safe to say that like most women in their late 40’s, George Strait was her first love and to this day she would probably pass out if she could give him a hug. I don’t really know how to explain how deep her love is for him… hopefully sharing that she actually cried during his entire Cowboy Rides Away tour gives an idea.

All of the talk about George Strait’s younger days had me thinking about the guys I listen to at small concerts all over Texas, much like my mom and her friends did when George was just starting out. I can’t help but wonder if any of my favorite Texas country artists will end up being as legendary as The King himself one day. The first person that comes to mind is my all time favorite, Cody Johnson. Like George, his music strays away from mainstream and he hopes to keep traditional country in country music. Some of my favorites are Diamond In My Pocket and Ride With Me, which remind me so much of some of George Strait’s classics, like Write This Down and Blue Clear Sky.

51-atxl1While I believe in Cody and other Texas country artists’ potential to be huge one day, it doesn’t really seem possible to have 60 number 1 hits, more than any other artists in the country genre, which makes George Strait “The King”. Everyone knows who George Strait is, whether they listen to country or not. He is an icon to the country music industry and while a girl can dream, I’m not really sure that anyone has big enough feet to fill the shoes of the King of Country! George Strait’s success is what every country artist dreams of, and I hope to see one of my favorites work as hard as he did to achieve that and reach the top one-day.



Filed under Blog Post 2, George Strait, Texas

A Walk Down Memory Lane


To me, a community is made up of two main components. First, the place you feel the most at home. That place for me is my hometown, Friendswood, TX, where everyone knows everyone and I know I can completely be myself there. Second, a community consists of the people that make you feel the most at home even if you are not there. The adorably cliché quote, “home is wherever I’m with you” is pretty much on point when it comes to describing who those people are. “My people,” are the group of girl friends that I started elementary school with, experienced the most awkward of life phases with, and celebrated with after walking across the stage on graduation day in a tragic royal blue cap and gown. Fast forward almost 4 whole years and I would still say that even after distance separated our friendships, my “Friendswood friends” will always be my most important community.

With a group of friends that are as close knit as mine are, we all obviously have a lot of characteristics in common, but we are all very different and quirky in our own ways. We tend to have our own styles, have different hobbies, definitely different tastes in guys, and an extremely broad range of “favorite” genres. From jamming The Red Hot Chili Peppers to Queen Beyoncé, we would all overwhelmingly agree that country music brings out this uniting factor among us that other music just can’t do.

I can’t really come up with one aspect of country music that connected us, but man did we make a ton of memories through loving the country genre (or love daydreaming about George Strait). Maybe it was the cowboy boots, cutoff blue jean shorts (that wereprobably extremely inappropriate looking back on it), or the “red-dirt” Texas country concerts we couldn’t miss on the weekends. Whatever it was that made country music consume our lives created an extremely vivid timeline of events that never fails to keep my people literally stuck like glue– thanks Sugarland.

34265_401679317899_5778759_nIt seems generic to say that a song can bring back 1000 memories almost instantly, but that’s exactly what happens when I shuffle through an old playlist and come across songs that just hit home and bring a flood of emotions pouring over me. Growing up two-stepping at Garner State Park is such a great example of how country music kept us together as a group of close friends. We always went on trips to the Frio River to obviously have a blast floating, but we mostly went to enjoy a great Gary Allan album as we were floating and to go dancing with ‘randoms’ at Garner. That tradition still continues today (maybe without the random guys) and the memories of everyone singing “I’ve got lightening in my veins and thunder in my chest” while floating down the river won’t ever be erased!

Another thing about country music that makes it so important to my friends is the way a single song takes you back in time for 3 short minutes and remember exactly what we were going through, what party we were at, or what stage of life we were in when the song was a hit. To this day, when I hear Check Yes or No I think of my junior high boyfriend and how ridiculously “in love” I was at the age of 14. If I come across Red Light by David Nail I remember my best friend asking me to replay it over and over again because she was obsessed. When I shuffle through old playlists and come across songs that I would listen to on blast in the car, sun roof open, windows down, screaming at the top of our lungs, I am so thankful to have fallen in love with country music. No other genre kept my friends together over the years like country music did and those memories are irreplaceable.


Filed under Blog Post 1, Country Symbols, Dancing, Texas, Women