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
To 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
While 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
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.