I’m sure most of you who read this title were a little confused, while others of you probably could think of a few times that your favorite country artists said something that went against the staunch-republican-country grain. What may surprise you, though, is that there are more country artists that lean left (in one way or the other) than you think. Here’s a brief list of artists that don’t fit the conservative stereotype of country music completely like you might think they do:
- Kacey Musgraves
Alright, this one might be blatantly obvious. Kacey Musgraves’s second single was “Follow Your Arrow,” a song advocating, well, doing whatever the hell makes you happy. This was a very risky decision considering she was just starting out in her career and didn’t have a solid foundation yet, but it’s been met with approval (and some disproval) by her younger target audience. The most obvious “offense” against the stereotype that Musgraves commits is the mention of “kiss[ing] lots of girls, if that’s something you’re into”—it’s no secret that Kasey is a supporter of marriage equality, but did we know that she also supports the use of marijuana? “When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight, roll up a joint.” She also makes mention of sex before marriage *gasp*. So risqué, Kasey.
- Toby Keith
Are you shocked? I am. With his harsh twang, I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that Keith is a “bleeding heart liberal,” but apparently he is. According to the Witty Bitches website (The name makes me question credibility), Toby Keith advocates for marriage equality, universal healthcare, and women in combat. But, here’s the kicker: he banned guns from his Virginia restaurant. WHAT?! Toby Keith hates the Second Amendment??? Okay, I’m clearly hyperbolizing, but still.
- Tim McGraw
Wipe your tears, everyone. Tim McGraw told People magazine that “It’s innate in me to be a blue-dog Democrat.” He and his wife vehemently support President Obama. SURPRISE he also advocates for gun control. And you thought you knew him…. It’s a crying shame.* Actually surprising, though, is that his song “Red Ragtop” touches on the issue of abortion and lyrics indicate that a couple who becomes pregnant decides not to keep their child–very controversial, indeed.
- Garth Brooks
Depending on how much you know about Garth Brooks, this might be surprising. Brooks sang at Obama’s 2009 inauguration and is a “long-time democrat.” His song “We Shall Be Free” speaks about being free to love whoever you chose and “worship from our own kind of pew.” He apparently also sings songs about civil rights, race, and domestic violence, some less controversial causes.
- The Dixie Chicks
Possibly one of the most obvious on this list, the Dixie Chicks are known for their criticism of President George W. Bush. Perhaps this doesn’t make them liberal, but it certainly puts them at odds with many conservatives. At a show in London in 2003 (introducing the song “Travelin’ Soldier“), lead singer Natalie Maines told the crowd “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”
- Willie Nelson
This list would not be complete without our pot-smoking, quasi-religious, country folk star. It is said that once he offered up a joint to Jesus (sweet Willie), but he still believes in reincarnation and wrote a book called the Tao of Willie, detailing Taoism. As you can probably guess, he advocates for the legalization of marijuana. Despite all the criticism that he receives, many country-lovers of every sociopolitical background love their Willie Nelson.
There are many more that make up this list, but these I feel are the most relevant. Regardless of political agendas or causes advocated, we still love our favorite country artists—Keep on keepin’ on.
*note: I am being highly sarcastic and exaggerating in this entire article, especially here.