Category Archives: Austin

Country: Much More Than it Seems

Coming from Mexico, I was never really exposed to country music and simply dismissed it as a music genre I wasn’t too interested in. The primary aspect I failed to grasp was what made country so special to some people. It wasn’t until I began listening to much more variety of country music and engaging with the genre’s background and themes that truly sparked my interest.


  1. Take a picture with “Willie Nelson.”

When I first came to the University of Texas, everywhere I went seemed to have something to do with Willie Nelson. Whether it was t-shirts in the airport when I first arrived or walking past the Willie Nelson exhibit in the North End Zone every day, his influence seemed to be everywhere. When I first found out about him, he seemed like just another artistic type who gave off the impression of being famous because of his expressiveness and ambiance more than anything else. I couldn’t really imagine someone like Willie to be significant in defining any sort of movement, not just country music.

However, my entire perception changed when I started learning more about his personal background. He wasn’t just a dirty old hippie who never did anything meaningful in his life, but rather a man who had worked as an auto mechanic, saddle maker, and oil field manager; you can’t get much more “Texas” than those occupations. Yet he wasn’t just a man for followed a specific stereotypical trope, openly supporting the legalization of marijuana and publicly opening up about his issues with alcohol abuse, it allows a certain reliability for the country star, not being detached unlike many celebrities. It’s clear to see through Willie’s personal narrative how he uniquely represented the cultural foundations of Texas as well as the growing counter-cultural Indie subculture within Austin, making him truly revered as more than just a musical icon. No doubt Nelson has earned the honor to have second street named after him.


2. Read the Texas Music Magazine

When I was looking at the Texas Music Magazine, one article in particular caught my attention. Used to seeing album covers or posed shots of young artists, the mug shot of a 75-year-old cowboy certainly caught my attention. “As country as it gets,” Billy Joe Shaver’s life could be characterized as nothing less than badass, still touring in an old van just like how he did in 1970. His love for country, in my opinion, goes beyond many artists in all genres of music. Even the death of his mother and bandmate couldn’t stop this tough-as-nails Texas native from performing the next day. I have newfound respect for artists such as these whose dedication to the craft and the life that comes with it many would think to be borderline absurd, a passion that seems to be relatively unique to country music.


3. Watch a movie about country music

Having listened to a little Johnny Cash before, I decided to watch Walk The Line (2005), the biographical adaptation of the life of Cash. One of the most interesting aspects I found about this movie was how music was instrumental in nearly every aspect of his life. One of the clearest examples came when he was stationed in Germany for the US Air Force, leading him to find solace in writing music to help him cope with the chaos around him, developing some of his trademark blues songs such as “Folsom Prison Blues.” Another instance came when he proposed to his wife, June, saying that he would be unable to sing “Jackson” anymore unless she said yes, showing that even in one of the most personally intimate moments of one’s life, music still played a vital role for Cash. For country artists, it seems as if a circular effect is created, with their lives continuing to be influenced by their music while at the same time providing inspiration for future sounds.

In all of these instances, it is clear to see how country music is much more to the artists than just an occupation. To the singers, it affects their lives and livelihood, drawing not on the praise of others for fuel, but rather their own passion and pride for the craft. I believe it is this specific aspect that makes country music so much more special in comparison to other genres of music.


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 5, Reflection

So It Turns Out I Actually Love Country Music

I vividly remembering walking into the classroom for this course on a chilly January day. I remember sitting down in one of the rolling chairs and discussing the millionaire dollar question – what is country music and what about it makes it so, well, country? I had no idea what I was getting myself into then, but I’ve learned a heck of a lot along the way.

1. Lessons from Willie

IMG_4768To be honest, I didn’t really know a single thing about Willie Nelson before coming into this class. I read the Texas Monthly write-up on the statue, and I love that the statue was put there to help keep Austin weird, especially since Outlaw country singer Willie Nelson certainly has helped our city do just that. I also love the fact that our city changed the street name to “Willie Nelson” in his honor, seeing as how he’s part of what has made our great city the Live Music Capital of the world (and that’s far weirder than “2nd street”).

The funny thing though is that all I had heard about him was that he was a pot-smoking hippy still recording country music. But after studying him in class, especially seeing the clear cut picture of him as a young boy, it’s amazing to see just how much he changed his image over the years. That made me realize and gain a new respect for country artists who don’t just change to fit an ‘image’, but rather, those who are born a country boy or cowboy and just make music as one (like, you got it, good ole Chris LeDoux).

2. Reading the Texas Music Magazine
For Blog 5While reading the Texas Music Magazine the other day, I stumbled across this particularly intriguing article about Kacey Musgraves, a young singer-songwriter from a small, East-Texas town who is, as they said, “taking Nashville by storm.” The article discussed a hit single (“Merry Go ‘Round”) she wrote off of an album she released a few years ago. The chorus includes a little something like this “Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay / Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane / and Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.”

These subversive lyrics, and especially hearing how Musgraves and some fellow cowriters came up with them, shocked me a bit – these are very real struggles in a small town. When I came into this class, I truly thought the stereotype about country was true: that songs had to talk about romance (or cheating), drinking, or trucks or something to be “country.” However, this song helped me realize just how clever and realistic country can be too!

3. Two-Stepping at a Dance Hall
FullSizeRender (2)Now, I’m not the most coordinated guy out there, and I had actually been out country dancing once or twice last semester, but I didn’t particularly enjoy myself – the dance floor was too packed and I was too focused on the proper movements. I’ve had lots of practice since then though, and going to Dance Across Texas on Saturday night with my fiancé and a bunch of other couples was a blast! I genuinely enjoyed not only dancing, but especially listening to the nice country tunes that were playing.

My perception of country music has completely changed over the past few months. I came in judging the genre according to incorrect stereotypes that I’ve already explained a little, as well as being naive about artists within the genre, and I’m finishing this course recognizing that I truly, legitimately love country music now. I can’t wait for another chance to go to a Country Western dance hall, enjoying the dancing and the music.


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 5, Dancing, Reflection, Song Analysis

My Experiences with Country Music

Note: This is an example of Blog Post 5.

the-little-longhorn-saloonTecate TacoMy friends and I occasionally go to The Little Longhorn Saloon on Sundays for Chicken Shit Bingo, and while that’s a lot of fun, it sometimes becomes hard to watch the band and get your drink order because of the massive amount of tourists that flock there. Nevertheless, when a group of  friends I met at UT from New York and L.A. had friends in town and wanted to do something “Texan,” I had to bring them to The Little Longhorn for “Tecate and Taco Tuesday.” This event is perfect for any college student: $2 Tecate, Free Tacos, $1 Lonestar during happy hour, and free music. While the bar didn’t feature one of their usual old school country bands, they had a blues band, Kevin & the Krawlers, who ended up being a lot of fun to listen to. When we were leaving, the girls from New York told me that they felt like Texas was like an entirely different country. I had done my job.

Another “country” experience I had this semester was watching The Last Waltz (1978) about a week ago. This is one of my Top 10 favorite movies of all time; I’ve probably seen it 50 times and for some reason I own two or three copies of it. It’s a concert documentary about a band named “The Band” and their last concert before they broke up. The Band’s music is a mix of American roots rock: bits of blues, rock and roll, and country all mixed together. It was directed by Martin Scorsese and features many musical guests such as Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, and Eric Clapton among others. This movie was huge for me because it changed my sense of genre in music and I began to appreciate what blues, country, jazz, and rock and roll all have in common.

Lastly, I went to a festival at Cedar Park a couple weeks ago. The setup was a little strange: There was a large amphitheater which hosted some of the artists, while outside there was a dozen food trucks and an outdoor stage for the rest of the artists. I was there with my friends to see three of the artists: Dr. John, Leon Russell, and Asleep at the Wheel. Dr. John’s music is a weird mix of New Orleans voodoo culture with rock and roll and R&B (he is featured in The Last Waltz as a guest). Leon Russell started out as a studio musician and worked alongside Glen Campbell before going solo and making his own rock and roll mixed with a gospel style performance.

Asleep at the Wheel is probably the most country band that was at this show. They’ve been active in various lineups since the 1970’s and have won 9 Grammys. They mainly play Western Swing and Texas Country and commonly feature electric guitar, drums, bass, piano, multiple fiddles, horns, and mandolin. I think they’re a great band to go see live because its great dance music, they’re all incredibly good musicians, and it’s a good look into the past at what Texas country music used to be. They have nostalgic value to me because my parents always played their records when I was growing up. I’ve been able to see them quite a few times while living in Austin and they were nice enough to talk to my friends and I after the last few shows of theirs that we’ve gone to. They’ll be playing April 23rd for Austin’s Earth Day Festival as well as a couple shows at Gruene Hall in mid-May.


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 5

Leaving My Country Comfort Zone

I’m a firm believer that being totally immersed in something unfamiliar and uncomfortable to you is a unique and necessary experience. When I signed up for this class, I didn’t know that it would be one of those experiences because I was completely unaware of how much I didn’t know about country music. I realized this on day one of class, but instead of feeling unprepared and panicking like I normally do when I understand how screwed I am for a class, I felt really good about where I was. If you come in knowing nothing, you have so much to learn, and for the first time in a college classroom, I felt like the purpose of the course was for me to learn and grow instead of produce—work, projects, grades, etc.

Maybe knowledge of the country music industry isn’t vital to my understanding of the real world, or maybe it is. I think learning all that you can about a different culture changes who you are before you did so, all for the better. Before I understood the depth and history of the country music industry, I had little appreciation for it, but now I can say that I can understand the decades of emotion, passion, and effort that are a part of this genre.

Well, as they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” so I went and did some cool stuff to really “immerse” myself in the country music culture!

  1. Texas Two-Step Throwdown ft. Luke Pell

The “Texas Wrangler Mavericks” a.k.a. Wranglers, a men’s organization on campus, had a two-stepping event at Ironwood Hall downtown featuring the local country artist Luke Pell. While I did go for the two-stepping, I stayed for the music. As it usually goes with college boys, no one was really brave enough to ask girls to dance (or at least when I got there they weren’t asking girls to dance), so I was inclined to leave, but I figured I would give Luke a chance and I’m glad I did! If you haven’t heard of him, check him out—he is your typical traditional country boy.

  1. Coupland Dance Hall via BYX ft. Terry Lee Hughes and the Debonaires

    Me n Gabe. Gabe n me.

    Me n Gabe. Gabe n me.

My friend Gabe took me to his BYX date event at the Coupland Dance Hall a month or two ago and it was so much fun! Coupland is the saloon style venue that you picture in your mind when you think of country dancing. In Coupland, Texas, driving to the dance hall feels like starring in a horror film (there is even a myth that it’s haunted); the dirt road is empty and there are no street lights. Then, you ride up a hill and on the other side of it is the Dance Hall. The funniest part of this place is that there is a painting of a young naked woman above the bar and the manager, an old gray-haired woman, will openly admit to you that the painting is of her! I highly recommend Coupland Dance Hall and the Debonaires (who only covered songs, but they rocked it! My favorite/most accurate covers they did were Josh Abbott Band).

  1. Steve Moakler concert

    I could've posted a better picture of the set list I stole, but this was taken in an excited stupor and I thought it was funny that I couldn't even get the names of the songs in it.

    I could’ve posted a better picture of the set list I stole, but this was taken in an excited stupor and I thought it was funny that I couldn’t even get the names of the songs in it.

I wrote about Steve Moakler earlier in the semester because he is one of my favorite singer-songwriters gone Country. The concert was at none other than Stubb’s Barbecue. Sweet Steve raked in approximately 30 people, most of whom were middle-aged couples, whereas in his hometown of Pittsburgh, he sold out a show at the Rex Theater. My roommate and I were giggling to ourselves the whole time because all of the sudden this Pittsburgh native had a country accent that he incorporated not only into his add-lib, but even his songs (pre-country phase). Steve is always a good time, though. It was probably one of my favorite concerts solely because I could stand with a lot of space around me, only 10 feet from the band, and listen to the music without being shoved or hear people screaming the lyrics so loud you can’t even hear the artist. 10/10 would recommend smaller artists like Steve Moakler before they get big! (and Stubb’s BBQ of course)


I thoroughly enjoyed being brought out of my comfort zone by this class in order to gain an understanding of something that is loved by so many people and I believe that to fully understand another person, you have to understand what they like/dislike and why. It’s kind of like a more fun version of sociology–you get the point.

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Filed under Austin, Blog Post 5, Concert, Dancing, Lists, Live Music

Unexpected Influences

Note: This is an example of Blog Post 5.

Country music has been a huge influence on me as a person ever since I can remember. Everyone knows that I am passionate about the genre and constantly listen to it throughout each day. The genre has instilled beliefs and values into me that make me the man I am today, and I am thankful for that. I will even go as far as to say I would be a much different person if I had never adopted listening to country music. Although I have been around country music all my life, I still have a lot to learn from it. When I signed up for this class I expected to learn a lot about the genre, but wasn’t sure specifically what it would be.

PATThe first activity I completed this semester was to go see a live country show. I have been to so many country concerts in my life, and didn’t think this one would be any different. The only thing I did differently at this concert was to be aware of how this environment influenced me at that particular moment. The concert I chose to attend was a Pat Green concert here in Austin at the Fiesta Gardens. The concert was smaller than a usual Pat Green concert, because he was playing for a student organization to help them raise money for charity. The concert was as anyone would expect. People dressed in jeans and cowboy hats, and of course beer and fried food were being sold. What this concert taught me was how important a good venue is for a concert. The Fiesta Gardens is an open-air venue surrounded by a large lawn, setting the perfect tone for country music. The barn like feel gets you excited to hear country music, and the food and drinks that are available also set a good tone. When picking concerts to go to I now research the venue beforehand to see if looks fitting, I would recommend doing this.

COUPLANDThe second activity I completed was to go two stepping at a dancehall. I went to The Old Coupland Dancehall in Coupland, Texas. I went just last week, and there was a small country cover band playing. It is safe to say I have two left feet, and openly despise dancing. Despite that, I was forced onto the dance floor at the beginning of the night for what felt to be the longest three songs of my life. What this experience taught me was that you do not have to be listening to a big name singer to enjoy a dancehall. This cover band was a local Austin cover band that no one knows; yet I still had a great time. Now I am confident that I can go into a small dancehall on a random night when a local band is playing. After all I could have just as much fun doing that as I do seeing a famous artist.

Last Sunday I ended my semester activities by watching the Academy of Country Music Awards. The event was held in Las Vegas this year and hosted by Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley. When I watched the awards I noticed how many people it takes to make an album or send a star on tour. During the acceptance speeches the artists often spoke of many names that I did not recognize that helped them earn the award. All the fans hear about is the stars, not about the producer who is working long hours to make sure the album is perfect. We also don’t hear about band managers or the guys that are working behind the scenes at a concert. These people are just as important and need more recognition.

All in all I have learned more about country music this semester than I would have ever imagined. It is something I enjoy learning about, and am eager to learn more. I have now realized I have so much more to learn, its just a matter of opening my eyes and looking at the music and its surrounding in more depth. I am excited to continue my journey of learning about country music, and cant wait to see what else the genre has to offer me.


Filed under Austin, Awards, Blog Post 5, Dancing, Texas