Category Archives: Country Pop

The Most Famous Stuffed Horses in Country Music

IMG_1091My family and I have attended many country concerts across Southern California in the past eight years. In 2012, we began to notice stuffed horses in the front row of concerts for artists such as Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, and Keith Urban. After seeing two grown men dressed in red, white, and blue suits get on stage with Luke Bryan and perform “Country ‘Boy’ Shake it for Me” while holding stuffed animals and wearing flashing horse necklaces, I had to know the story. I learned that this was not the first time they performed with Luke Bryan on stage. In fact Luke called them out from the crowd by name at a concert in Georgia and invited them on the stage.  (Video of them begins at 1:05)

My family and I met Joshua Zeyak, 30, in October 2013 IMG_3253at a Luke Bryan Concert in San Diego, CA where he was tailgating wearing a bright green shirt with his name printed on the front, hot pink shorts, a horse belt buckle, and cowboy boots. We recognized the stuffed horses sitting on top of his truck right away and began the conversation.

One day in 2009, middle school teacher Leo VanWarmerdam, 28, used small plastic animals to reward his students for good behavior in his classroom. Later that night, at a bar in Corona Del Mar, CA, he discovered the animals were still in his pocket. Having some fun, Leo placed a small plastic horse on the rim of his drinking glass and passed the others around to his friends. Soon after, the entire bar wanted to join in the fun leaving Leo with no more animals.

The next time out country music fan, Josh, a friend of Leo’s, brought a bigger version of the plastic horse for his cup, and the obsession grew from there. Whenever the horses were brought out strangers at every bar, party, or concert wanted to get involved!

IMG_1092Eventually the horses grew in size and now are familiarly recognized at country concerts across Southern California. Men and woman of all ages are drawn to the horses and the personalities behind them.

After meeting Josh and his sister, Jenna, in San Diego our families began to plan what concerts we were going to next. Three years and over 25 country concerts later, I can say that Josh, Jenna, and the rest of the “pony” group are like family to me.

In order to capitalize on the popularity of these horses we finally decided to create a following for them on social media. As a Public Relations student I was automatically chosen to take charge of this task for “experience” as my dad said. I don’t know how promoting stuffed horses will look to future employers, but in the end it was all for fun and games.

IMG_4111We now have a Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and website for Pony Boys USA! Here is where we share our fun experiences within the country music world. Whether it’s on stage at concerts (pictured on the right with Eli Young Band) or backstage hanging out backstage with artists’ people get a kick out of the crazy fame these horses have gained.

It may be a strange connection to country music, but Pony Boys USA and all the people involved have enhanced my experience as a country music fan. Not only do I attend more country music concerts but I also get the chance to learn how to make a website and promote a new brand. I have no idea where this will go, if anywhere, but the bottom line is we have a great time and I enjoy the added benefits of watching my “brother” sing on stage with Keith Urban all because of some small horse obsession.



Filed under Blog Post 2, Concert, Country Pop, Keith Urban, Live Music

“Nashville” Brings Reality To Light

I always wondered what life would be like as a country music star.



As a little girl who pretended to be like Shania Twain, a ten year-old fifth grader who wanted to be Hannah Montana, and later as a middle school and high school student was a mega Taylor Swift fan, I pondered what the life in the bright lights would be like.

While, the “Hannah Montana” show did not exactly portray the real life of a country music star, (she was in fact partly country music), ABC’s debut of the “Nashville” in 2012 certainly showed me the more or less reality of country music stardom,  but the series taught me a something little deeper about what the country music industry is facing.



The series is centered around the original, experienced Queen of Country “Rayna Jaymes,” who is portrayed by Connie Britton, and the young, rising country-pop starlet “Juliette Barnes”, portrayed by Hayden Panettiere. Britton’s character struggles as an aging artist who is trying to maintain her role in the country music scene, while Panettiere’s character is trying to overtake all of country music’s listeners with her poppy, upbeat style.

While the series involves love triangles, family issues, deaths, secrets, lies, etc., like any ABC drama would, “Nashville” reveals the eternal country music culture war: the battle between old music vs. new music, twang country vs. pop country, home, close knit label head vs. big label heads. Additionally, in depth the series explores the how the various artists, songwriters, managers, and other characters deal with the consequence of fame and finding self-identity in the bright lights.

Besides all those elements to the series, “Nashville” has some killer country music.



In the series, each artist struggles with the eternal country music culture war, and it is shown even in the music. Therefore, using the two main characters “Rayna Jaymes” and “Juliette Barnes” Here are a total of four songs. Two songs that are more pop country, modern, and two songs from the old, twang style.

“Rayna Jaymes” Pop country, Modern Song: “This Time

In Nashville, this experienced country music queen has won awards upon awards, and is adored by all. However, as soon as she tries to be competitive in the country music scene, Britton’s character is challenged with producing and singing music that is not her sound…also known as pop country. With up and coming young stars like “Juliette Barnes” it is forces “Rayna James” to fight for her voice to be heard.

“Rayna Jaymes”  Old, Twang style Song:  “The Rivers between Us

The blessing of being the original queen is that no matter what, your first fans always stick with you, and their daughters, and their futures daughter will too. That is the blessing “Rayna Jaymes” receives as she is faced with the adversity of maintaining relevancy in the county music scene. Unlike “Juliette Barnes” who showed up to county music as the new hot starlet, “Rayna Jaymes” is able to use her history of hard work and current determination to uphold a revenant spot in the spot light.

“Juliette Barnes” Pop country, Modern Song: “I’m a Girl

At the beginning of the series, Panettiere’s character’s music grabs the attention of tween and teens. Dressing in tight, sparkly dresses, “Juliette Barnes” goes the extra mile to capture audiences as the young, new sexy starlet. Her modern sound and sassy, headstrong personality is “Juliette Barnes’s” “in” to the country music scene. While her voice does have a southern accent, these two songs certainly display what pop country songs sound like.

“Juliette Barnes” Old, Twang style Song: “We are Water

As mentioned above, early in the series, Panettiere’s character represents how young females in today’s country music have to use a combination of their femininity and country pop sound to snatch a general audience of tweens and teens, but also within the industry, old, powerful men. However, as the series progresses, “Juliette Barnes” is able to take her poppy vibe to her true country roots. Panettiere’s character is able to slow down her sound, and hopes that her tween and teens fan will be able to appreciate the same “Juliette Barnes,” just with a different or actual country music sound.

Whether you love to listen to the queens of country music like “Rayna Jaymes” or the new starlets like “Juliette Barnes,” one can agreed the ABC series “Nashville” does an fine job using the characters and music bring light the war country music faces. (After all, the series is on its fourth season.)

But the question I propose is has the war always been going on? Have we failed to see it just until now? Or has the war begun recently in the 21st century?


Filed under Blog Post 3, Country Pop, Nashville

Best Female Country Songs of the 90s

When you think about 90s country, the success of the female country scene comes to mind. This was the age that brought a more contemporary sound to country music. This was the period when huge stars like Faith Hill and Shania Twain made their career debuts. Women were leading the charts with their girl-power hits. Women became serious contenders in country music, and these hits could give bro-country songs a run for their money. There are so many great hits from men and women during this era that changed country music, but here is a look at my opinion of the top 5 female country songs of the 90s.


5. Trisha Yearwood “She’s In Love With The Boy”

Writers: Jon Ims

Album: Trisha Yearwood (1991)

This forbidden love song told a story of a young small-town couple trying to gain approval from the father. It spoke to girls everywhere who were experiencing young love in the rebellious teen years.  It was Yearwood’s lead single from her debut album, made it to No. 1 on the singles charts, and launched Yearwood’s wildly successful career.


4. Faith Hill “This Kiss”

Writers: Beth Nielsen Chapman, Robin Lerner, Annie Roboff

Album: Faith (1998)

This song was every girl’s anthem with the up-beat music and catchy lyrics like “centrifugal motion” and “perpetual bliss.” It brings to life the feeling of a first kiss with your crush. This song was one of Hill’s early crossover hits, which launched her into the pop direction. You can still hear this one on the radio, as it remains relevant in contemporary country.


3. LeAnn Rimes “How Do I Live”

Writers: Diane Warren

Album: You Light Up My Life: Inspirational Songs (1997)

This song launched Rimes’ career as it stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 69 weeks. Rimes was only 14 years old when the song reached success. Although Yearwood also recorded this song at the same time, Rimes still earned a Grammy nomination, and it remains one of the biggest standout songs of the 90s.


2. Martina McBride “Independence Day”

Writers: Gretchen Peters

Album: The Way That I Am (1994)

This song may have never made it to No. 1, but it was one of the greatest and most controversial country songs in music history. The song received mixed responses due to the depiction of domestic abuse, which was visualized in the music video. However, McBride won two CMA Awards and a Grammy for Best Country Song. In 2014, Rolling Stone ranked the song in their list of 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time.


1. Shania Twain “You’re Still The One”

Writers: Robert John “Mutt” Lange, Shania Twain

Album: Come On Over (1998)

Shania Twain was one of the best country singers of the late 90s. “You’re Still The One” was Twain’s first Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit and remains one of her most successful singles. This song, written by Twain and her then-husband, won two Grammys and beat out Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” Now that’s a pretty remarkable achievement. Twain went on to be one of the most influential female country singers of the 90s.


Filed under Blog Post 4, Country Pop, Lists, Reflection, Women

Country Music Forever

It’s really interesting how country music has had such a big impact on my life growing up, especially since I’ve lived in the south my entire life. It wasn’t until I moved to Texas when I was 11 years old that I actually fell in love with the genre. Country music has a deep history in Texas and popularized some of the best country artists to this day (and my favorite, George Strait). From the places I’ve been to the shows I currently watch, the country music lifestyle is continuing to influence my life in pretty subtle ways. I love this class because it has really made me appreciate my loyalty to this genre.



I went to Threadgill’s a few weeks ago with my friend not knowing much about it other than the fact that it was another Austin hot spot. You walk into the restaurant and there are pictures all over the walls of some of greatest artists throughout the history of country music. Country music lover Kenneth Threadgill opened the restaurant in 1933. Fun Fact: he was the first person to own a beer license in the county. Janis Joplin even made a few appearances in the restaurant. If you want to experience live country music while eating good ole’ southern cooking, Threadgill’s is the best place to go.

Nashville (TV Show)


I started watching this television show as soon as it aired on ABC in 2012. The show stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere and focuses on their character’s clashing careers. Country superstar Rayna James (Britton) struggles to uphold her career with the contemporary direction country music is heading. Her stardom starts fading when Juliette Barnes (Panettiere) becomes the hot new star, appealing to the younger audience. There’s a lot of speculation if the show is based off real life situations that have happened in country music. Maybe Rayna represents Faith Hill’s diminishing career as rising country star Carrie Underwood, played out as Juliette Barnes, comes into the scene. Because Hill and Underwood had rumors swirling several years ago about tension between the two, maybe the creators based their lead characters off their public debacle. Regardless, I am a huge fan of this show and all the drama that is played out on the screen. It really shows the struggle of making it big in the industry, and it even features the renowned Blue Bird Café where several big-time artists were discovered.

2015 CMA Awards

chris and luke

I have been tuning into the CMA Awards for as long as I have been a country music fan. All of my favorite artists coming together to show-off their best work is my favorite awards show of the year. The show has been hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood since 2008, and as their careers are better than ever, I don’t see them slowing down. The Entertainer of the Year award of course went to Luke Bryan, the hottest singer in country music today. Female Vocalist of the Year went to Miranda Lambert while Vocal Duo of the Year went to Florida Georgia Line. It seems that country music is starting to accept a pop sound and these successful singers are focused on creating crossover hits. Probably the biggest shock of the night happened when Chris Stapleton won Male Vocalist of the Year. His debut album was released in May, and he walked away with three awards that night. This is an artist I think all country fans can get excited about. He’s bringing back the traditional country sound with his hits like “Tennessee Whiskey” (which he performed with Justin Timberlake on the show) and “Traveller.” With all the mainstream country music, I’m glad to see that people will still appreciate the classic sound that popularized the genre through the 80s and 90s. Chris Stapleton won some incredible awards that night for someone who has only been on the radio for a few months. Who knows, maybe Chris Stapleton will be the next George Strait.

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Filed under Austin Food, Awards, Blog Post 5, Country Pop, Movies and TV

Maybe The Band Perry Won’t Live Forever

We all have accepted the fact that Taylor Swift has flown away from the land of country music, and those few fans that admired her country tunes are still somewhat offended by this realization. Pop is trendy. Pop is in-the-moment flare. Pop is, well, overplayed and nothing special. I lose almost all respect for country artist that desert their home for the five seconds of fame in Pop Land (yes, I did just make up a new continent). The country music genre is home to meaningful, insightful, legendary stories in the form of music that lives on for decades after. Who has ever said the same of Pop music? Oh that’s right, no one. This leads me to my topic of frustration today: The Band Perry’s treacherous venture into the land of Pop-Rock music.

The trio’s new single, released in mid-August, title “Live Forever,” is anything but country. Let me tell you, the first time I heard this song was on a Pop station on my XM radio last week. I paused on the station I normally would’ve immediately skipped when I saw the name of a band I admired. Confused as to why a Pop station would play music from a country trio, I quickly became horrified. I stared in disbelief at the screen displaying the album cover and the song title. There is no way this is the same band that plays so many of my favorite tunes, I thought to myself as the upbeat, Disney-theme-sounding chorus played through my speakers. I don’t get it! I thought bands weren’t allowed to copy each other’s names… and why would someone else want to call their band “The Band Perry” as well? I was trying to think up any alternative other than the truth, which was that the song playing through my speakers was, sadly, The Band Perry.

It’s not that I despise the song itself. It’s catchy and decently written by the trio. Take a listen yourself in the music video I posted up top. The video, on a quick side note, is also very creative and brings back nostalgia for summer freedoms and being with friends, just as many country songs do. The thing that really gets my hair in a knot is the fact that the band decided to turn to the Pop-rock genre for this single. The song isn’t played on country stations. Why? Because it’s not country. It’s played on Pop stations. Popular country music blog, Taste of Country, gave the song positive reviews with praise for its “big,” “vivid” sound. I just can’t stand the fact that great, successful country bands think they need to drift over to the Poppy side of music to stay popular. Are we country fans not good enough? It’s almost like a stab in the back. We like these bands because they play music we like in a genre we love, not because they belittle themselves to the pop-culture and make crappy, not-at-all original tunes. I don’t see the overwhelming need for The Band Perry to join the Pop side of things. Stick to country music please, your fans love you for that.


Filed under Blog Post 4, Country Pop, Song Analysis