I remember last year my roommate telling me about the Rhetoric of Country Music class. I got so excited because it was the perfect rhetoric class for me to take. I have loved country music since childhood and knew that learning more about the genre would be meaningful. In the end, this class has really taught me so much more about country music than I had expected. Here are some activities I have participated in involving country music during the time I’ve taken this class!
Working at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Over spring break I worked as a video studio intern for the Houston Rodeo. As an intern, I was assigned to film the various livestock shows, the birthing center, and other fun events that go on every day at the Rodeo. The Rodeo has so much to offer for example, nightly concerts by the biggest names in country music, a huge carnival where constant country music is being played and of course all that fried food! Being an intern I got to experience some of these things through a camera lens and record it for others to see. My favorite place to be assigned was the birthing center. Although I never actually witnessed a birth of a calf or piglet, I got to play with the baby animals and videotape them live onto a big screen for people passing by to see. My experience working at the Rodeo was one like no other. I can’t wait to head back next year and do it all again!
Attending Kenny Chesney and Florida Georgia Line Concerts
A perk of working for the Rodeo meant free concert tickets and entrance to the carnival. Most days I was too tired from work to attend the concerts but I had to make a special exception for Kenny Chesney. Sadly, the free tickets I received weren’t for a specific assigned seat. So my friends and I had to hop around from seat to seat when people would come claim theirs. Finally, right before the concert started we found ourselves a good spot to watch. Kenny was so great! I was excited to see that I knew all of the song he performed. And, it turned out better not having seats because we got to dance around the whole night! A few evenings later it was one of my best friend’s birthdays and he really wanted to go to the rodeo. Unfortunately for us, that was the night Florida Georgia Line was performing. My other friend ended up getting us really good seats for free so we all decided to go. As you can see on our faces, we were not impressed. Everything from their vocals to their outfits were just plain terrible. I was astonished to see people in the crowd actually enjoying the disturbingly bad concert.
Country themed date event
A few months ago I was asked by one of my best friends Ari to go to a country themed date for his fraternity AEPi. The event was to dress up in ”country” attire and to come prepared to listen to country music and dance the night away. Lucky for me, Ari knows how to line dance so he showed me what to do. It was really fun seeing how people dressed up for the event; some went all out with a cowboy hat, boots and even a belt buckle. Also, the guys in the fraternity wanted the scenery to match the theme so they went ahead and put a very large haystack in the middle of the room, which ended up being a perfect place to take pictures!
In the end, this class has become such a great learning experience. It has made me listen to country radio with a new perspective and appreciate the artists who have made country music what it is today. I really do want to thank Dusty for being such an awesome professor and mentor and I am honored that I was in his last Rhetoric of Country Music class at the University of Texas!
The summer of 2006 is when I began anticipating songs that would play on country music radio stations. It was a time in my life when no other genre of music influenced me as much as country. I had always been so happy listening to songs in the car and singing along. However, my passion for country music grew much stronger when I discovered Country Music Television (CMT). I spent almost everyday that summer watching music videos on CMT. They had one show in particular that I loved; they would play the top videos of the year. Over the years, a few of those videos have been carved into my memory.
“Every Time I Hear Your Name” by Keith Anderson is my favorite song of that year. Keith Anderson had a few other hits in his career like “Pickin’ Wildflowers” and “I Still Miss You” but he never became well known as a country artist. “Every Time I Hear Your Name” was the first ballad Anderson released and it reached No. 7 in the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the accompanying video was average. Regardless, I think this music video has been stuck in my mind for all of these years simply because I loved this song. Whenever they aired it on CMT I would get really excited and sing along. Now looking back as an adult, I realize there is nothing special about the video; but it will always be my theme song for the summer of 2006.
“A Little Too Late” by Toby Keith is another music video I remember from that summer. Toby Keith is an outrageous person in general, so you can imagine the type of music video he would make for a song that’s about an ex-girlfriend. “A Little Too Late” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. I recall memorizing the entire video because of how often they would play it on CMT. The reason this video stuck out so much is because of its intensity. Toby tries to trap his ex-girlfriend in the basement and leave her there for dead. I was never actually afraid of watching it, but the video left a negative impression on me.
“Not Ready to Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks is the last memorable music video from the summer of 2006. This song is the band’s biggest hit to date. It’s about the band’s reaction to the impending Iraq war and the controversy over a comment by lead singer, Natalie Maines. At a concert in London, Maines stated, “…We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” This remark caused the Dixie Chick’s music to be banned from country radio and damaged their careers. Back then, I didn’t understand the controversy or what this music video is about. However, I became frightened when CMT would air it because of it’s dark themes. Mostly I remember this video as the one with all of the black paint with creepy people. For an 11 year old it’s understandably an intense music video. Today the Dixie Chicks are making a comeback. And, I can’t wait to see what they have in store!
Even though these songs seem unrelated, they have a permanent place in my memory. It’s strange that out of all of the videos I watched, these three are the only ones that I specifically remember. I continued to watch music videos on CMT and YouTube growing up, but never as often as I did during the summer of 2006.
Although country music is a big part of my life now, I wasn’t always the big fan that I am today. When I was growing up, neither of my parents liked country music. My Mom was raised in Texas, but found the genre to be rather irritating and my Dad is from Israel so he had no concept of this type of music. The people who really introduced me to the genre and sparked my love of country music are my maternal grandparents. Although they lived in Massachusetts for most of their lives, they still loved listening to artists like Johnny Cash, George Strait and Alan Jackson. I remember my first encounter with the king of country music, George Strait, when I was about 8 years old. I was in the back seat of my Nana’s car with my little brother Micah. Nana always played the albumGeorge Strait: Live from the Astrodome anywhere we drove. Even though I didn’t know any of the words to the songs at the time, I wanted to trick my brother into thinking I did; so I pretended to sing along.Write This Down was actually the song playing when I decided I knew all the words and has became one of my favorite songs on the album. This led to Micah wanting to know the songs since his cool older sister knew all the words. My Nana heard us trying to sing along in the backseat and ended up giving us our own CD to take home.
That little prank I pulled on my brother is what led to our obsession with the country music genre. After listening to this album over and over we realized there are so many other incredible country music artists. That’s when country radio came into our lives. Not too long after finding country radio, I somehow knew all the words to all of the songs that would play. My family members would buy us all sorts of country music CDs for Hanukkah and birthdays. Soon our music library had an equal mixture of the Dixie Chicks, Rascal Flatts, Faith Hill, and Keith Urban to balance out the Shlomo Artzi, David Broza and Gidi Gov, three of the top Israeli recording artists.
Over the years, my Mom has admitted that she has been a fan of what she terms progressive country. She introduced us to Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. That said, when Micah and I wanted to listen to Country music on the radio, my Mother would balk. She said it was twangy nonsense. Through my brother’s and my love of Country, my Mom has gained an appreciation. It may have taken a good 15 years, but she has come around. The other night my folks were in Austin to visit. We stopped for a drink at Cedar Street and listened to a local band called Encore. When they performed Little Big Town’s recording of Girl Crush, my Mom and I debated whether it was truly country. She said it is and I said it isn’t. She said it could be performed with a fiddle and a steel string guitar (even though it isn’t) and had the makings of a Country tune. When I think back to my childhood and how I had to beg for her to even put a country music station on the car radio, I know that the genre has won her over. We may disagree on Girl Crush, but we are both Country music fans!
This blog may appear to be braggadocios. Folks may think that I’m only concerned with name dropping. I see it differently and I hope by the end of this post, you will understand. When I think about sharing country music experiences with y’all, I want to include some of the my most exciting moments. I love the genre and the artists. In fact, I really enjoy meeting celebrities, especially those whose music is woven into our collective culture. So for me, meeting some of my favorite artists has been a dream come true!
It all started with Taylor Swift. I was a freshman in high school. This was back when Taylor Swift was considered country. I had Fearless Tourfloor seats. My friends and I arrived early with an elaborately decorated poster and entered first. We had barely taken our seats when a producer came up and asked us questions. Next thing I knew, Taylor’s Mom came out to meet us. Mrs. Swift took us on a backstage tour and into Taylor’s Green Room! Taylor visited with us and then we took some photos. It was definitely one of the best days of my life.
The next country artist I met was the Rascal Flatts. My friend, Ariella’s Mom had been listening to the radio for chances to meet the band. After a week of calling the station, Landa won a pass for two! We met Rascal Flatts and participated in a live Q&A session that aired on 93Q! Both Ariella and I skipped class to go meet them. They were such nice guys! It was the best “sick” day I had ever taken from school.
I was also fortunate enough to meet Keith Urban. This story is similar to my last one about the Rascal Flatts. Landa became unstoppable at winning prizes on the radio. She also gifted us with passes and a private concert with Keith Urban! After he performed a few of my favorite tunes we had a photo op. Keith is kind and an incredible guitar player.
My most recent country celebrity encounter is my favorite. Last year I signed up for Grammy U, a program for college students who love music. I never went to any of the events until I got an email last semester about a free sound check for none other than the Zac Brown Band! I got to the venue and was pleasantly surprised to find out that we were actually going on a backstage tour. The tour guide told us that in the past, the groups never had a chance to meet with Zac. However, lucky for us, Zac Brown himself joined our group and spoke with us for about 20 minutes! I stood right next to him while he explained his process in writing a new album. He even named some of the music he currently listens to, none of which is country. I mustered the courage to ask him if he ever gets tired of performing the same songs over and over for so many years. His response was that he loves performing his more popular singles because those are the songs fans respond to the most. The energy of the audience is what keeps Zac and his peers pumped on long tours. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a picture with him.
My experiences in meeting these country music celebrities has enriched my love for the genre. I am grateful to the artists and my dear friends for these moments that I will always cherish. I’m also looking forward to my next country artist encounter!
Freshman year, I chose a different path. I had an opportunity to participate in a Gap Year in Israel. To date, Year Course has been the most extraordinary experience of my life. During the first few days we were divided into two sections. The resulting community has become very special and close to my heart. My section of Year Course was filled with about 60 young men and women from America and Europe. The vast majority of students in Section One were from the United States. Most of them were from Northern states. There were just a few people from the South and only four of us were from Texas. Unfortunately, this resulted in an overwhelmingly large unawareness of country music. Nevertheless, us four Texans love this music genre, and made up for our terribly deprived cohorts. From the beginning we took it upon ourselves to introduce our fellow Year Coursers to quality country music.
At first everyone thought it was cliché that the Texans loved listening to country music. We were even ridiculed. But, the other Year Coursers quickly learned that country music is truly exceptional. The three other Texans in my section have become some of my best friends. They are the guys who lived one door down from me. I still have fond memories of them blasting a few of our favorites,Dierks Bentley,Blake Shelton andZac Brown Band. After a month of getting use to us, the other people in our building learned to enjoy the country music genre. By the end of the year, listening to country music and identifying with Texas became so admired that putting up the Hook’em sign became one of the most popular poses to make in pictures! One of the people who made fun of us Texans the most for our stereotypical taste in music was our counselor Josh. He is from Liverpool and thinks he knows a bit about music. His attitude changed the day we introduced him to “Chicken Fried” by the Zac Brown Band. Josh was hooked. This song became one of our Year Course anthems. We would turn it up so loudly that the entire apartment complex could hear it. Even the Brits would gather in the hallways to belt out the words! This song truly united us as a group. Even today, every time us four Texans are together when “Chicken Fried” comes on, we will send Josh snap chat videos of us singing along. He always replies with a smile. (Skip 0:53 into the video for beginning of the song)
Another example of sharing my love of country music with my new friends in Israel was when I would talk about the Houston Rodeo. “Not only is it the biggest rodeo in the world,” I would tell them, “But it’s the most fun month of the year!” Some people legitimately laughed out loud when they heard this crazy Texan talking about a Rodeo. They couldn’t believe such things existed outside of movies and television shows. But once I showed them pictures and explained the whole concept of the rodeo and the country music concerts, people became interested. A few of my friends even told me that they want to come visit me in Houston during the month of March just to attend this incredible event. Overall, I know that my Year Course community grew closer due to the country music my friends and I shared with them. Although the country music genre is broad, at least one song brought us together and left us with memories that will last a lifetime.