Category Archives: USA

All I Heard Was Country

We had left at 4 pm two Tuesdays ago. My fiancé  Madeleine and I were driving to Tyler, Texas from the northwest corner of Arkansas. As the sun began to set, our GPS directed us to exit off Highway 59 and onto Mountain Gateway Scenic Byway through the Ouchita Mountains of Eastern Oklahoma. Although it wasn’t a Friday, the wind in our hair felt too good not to be blasting a song like Eric Paslay’s “Friday Night” on “the wide open road” with one another, especially taking in a view like this one:By the time we got closer to the Texas border, we had to stop in a tiny mountain-valley town in Southeastern Oklahoma for dinner at one of two local restaurants. We chose the Subway. And as we walked in, we were greeted by thick southern accents and country music playing in the background – sounded like Luke Bryan. We had begun to see a theme in the music we heard walking into restaurants and coffee shops. Even before we left the Fayetteville area of Arkansas, we went to Fayettechill outdoor store/bar/coffee, and we had heard, ironically, “Drunk on Your Love” by Brett Eldredge.

We finally made it safely (after two flat tires) to Tyler, Texas and linked up with my parents and my sister for a bit of family vacation. Although Madeleine had to leave for Houston, the country music definitely decided to hang around. It didn’t matter if my family and I went to a diner or a museum, we just kept hearing country music everywhere. I can’t say I was surprised to walk by the Skyline Café of Tyler’s Historic Aviation Memorial Museum and hear, you guessed it – country. To be fair, the Dolly Parton song playing at the time did seem fitting to a museum café with linoleum flooring that seemed stuck back in time (maybe the 70s).

IMG_4526What did come as a surprise was in the quiet of a barn at our Bed & Breakfast spot in Tyler, the Rosevine Inn. I sat on the comfortable leather sofa facing the warm blaze within the stone fireplace ahead of me, looking at this scene on the wall to the left. There it was. An American flag and a mounted deer head. Enjoying the silence and the crackling fire’s subtle attempts to break it, I walked over to take a closer look at this deer, whose placard said, “BE NICE OR GO AWAY.”

I hadn’t gotten up and taken two steps towards the deer before my heart skipped a beat. It turns out that this was no taxidermy – it was an animatronic deer! He introduced himself to me as his plastic, mechanically-controlled head jerked around. Then, this deer launched into song, lip-syncing a classic – “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks.

On this Spring Break road trip through Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the top of East Texas, I realized just how deep country music runs in the soul of the South. Whether it was a fast-food restaurant, coffee shop, museum café, or yes, even a talking deer head – country music was what I heard.

And so I have a challenge for you – next time you’re driving  North through these States in our part of the South (especially once you hit Oklahoma), whether you pull in to a Sonic or stop to check out a a local store, pay close attention to what’s on the radio. I knew country music was popular, but I had no idea that it was practically all I’d hear on my road trip. But hey, with music as good as I heard, I’m certainly not complaining.


Filed under Blog Post 2, Reflection, Uncategorized, USA

A Conservative’s View on Growing Up Country

The Dixie Chicks considered "radical" after unpatriotic outburst.One community that I take pride in actively participating in is the Conservative party community because I personally agree with the beliefs and actions of that particular group and I like to associate myself as one of them. I believe that country music does particularly figure into that community, as the southern stereotypical musician is more likely to be more conservative than liberal and the morals and actions of many country music stars and their music may cater to more of a socially conservative crowd. Many of the people that also identify as conservative in my social circle do enjoy country music over some other genres, because of its more realistic sounding nature and storytelling instincts. Particular country songs that I enjoy listening to within my community are some feel good songs by artists such as Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, and George Strait, because I have grown up listening to their music and enjoy attending their concerts. Patriotic country songs are also songs I enjoy listening to because they remind me of the importance and desire to preserve the respect for our country that so many people are trying to diminish during this time of immense change. I feel that the patriotic nature and humble attitudes are what may make the community enjoy the simplicity and reality of country music and may distinguish it from other communities. It is very stereotypical for a cowboy to be labeled as a conservative, but in many ways this is most often true. There are, however, plenty of great country artists who do not identify themselves in the conservative community, such as Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Tim McGraw, an active democrat, infuriated fans with statements condemning President Barack Obama’s actions. At a concert after 9/11, the Dixie Chick’s career was tragically put on the line when the lead singer announced she was embarrassed to be from the same state as George W. Bush. This was a turning point in their career because they seemingly went against the majority of their fan’s beliefs and have since then barely made a comeback within the community. The conservative party naturally turns toward tradition and is somewhat against change, that’s why I feel that the genre of traditional country music is so widely respected in this community because the musical values somewhat embodies the values of a conservative person.


Filed under Blog Post 1, Class work, Classic Country, Politics, Reflection, Texas, USA

A Different Perspective

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 9.25.59 PMBorn and raised on the other side of the world in hot and humid Singapore, I never listened to country music. I was surrounded by every genre of music except country. We associated country music listeners with rednecks, hicks, and cowboys.

I came to the U.S. under the impression that I would always despise the awkward sounding twang that always seemingly sang about trucks and religion. This different perspective of mine would change when I committed to swim for the University of Texas.

I am a part of the Men’s Swim and Dive Team, and even on my recruiting trip, guys would listened to all types of country music. I sat there pretending to like country but in reality, tried to block it out by either talking to others or play on my phone.

A year and a half later, I’ve slowly become accustomed to country music. Guys on the team such as Will Glass and Jack Conger listen to songs such as, “Outlaw Women” by Hank Williams Jr. and “Creepin” by Eric Church. I wouldn’t say the Swim Team uses country music to distinguish us from the rest, but most guys on the team are from Texas so they grew up listening to country.

However, we could relate ourselves to country music. In my opinion, country music symbolizes a laid back lifestyle with strong morals and beliefs. Most guys on the team are religious and very family orientated. I’m an only child, but I feel as though I have 35 brothers. We eat, swim, and even study together on a daily basis and that allows us to form a strong bond.

I can’t think of another group on campus that has to jump into a freezing pool and 6am in the morning, go to class, and then hop into the pool again at 3pm. Now, you might question what does this have anything to do with my community and country music. Well, country music reminds me of my family and home. When I listen to country, it transports me 10,000 miles away back to Singapore where I’m with family and friends. It reminds me that I also have a family here and that very thought gives me a sense of security that I can rely on any of my team mates for help.

Who would have ever thought that country music would have brought me closer to my team by appreciating what they have given me- comfort and love.


Filed under Austin, Blog Post 1, Outlaw, Texas, USA

Is Country Music Red or Blue? Part II

USA-3In my last blog post “Country Music and Politics: Is the Genre Red or Blue?” I used opinions from the democratic and republican platforms in order to demonstrate that country music does not fall completely to one side of the political spectrum, but rather straddles the line. I discussed Steve Grand’s song that expressed a more democratic opinion on gay marriage, while Matt Kennon’s record had a republican opinion on abortion. But just like there is never only one political debate before the big election, there similarly should not be only one blog post. There are countless controversial topics to discuss in country music AND politics, and I’d like to introduce you to a few more in order to get a more comprehensive view of if country music is red or blue.

“Guns” by Justin Moore

Gun control seems to be one of the topics that gets the most attention these days, especially around college campuses. With the recent statistic of there being 294 mass shootings in the first 274 days of 2015, there have been heated debates on the balance of restricting gun access vs. making self-protection available, but there is no question where Justin Moore stands. In his song “Guns” he asserts his right to bear arms, spitefully singing “I’m going to tell you once and listen son/As long as I’m alive and breathing you won’t take my guns”. He uses the argument “Somebody breaks into my house, I’m gonna need my Colt .44” to appeal to the logical argument of self-protection. So looking at the following statement from their political platforms, you can determine if Moore lines up more with the left or right:

Democrat: “We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition…We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation…so that guns do not fall into the hands of those irresponsible, law-breaking few.”

Republican: “We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, a right which antedated the Constitution and was solemnly confirmed by the Second Amendment. We acknowledge, support, and defend the law-abiding citizen’s God-given right of self-defense.”

“Travelin’ Soldier” by Dixie Chicks

The real political agenda of this song was heard, not in the lyrics, but rather when the Dixie Chicks introduced this song at a performance in London. Band member Natalie Maines boldly proclaimed “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” This performance took place while George W. Bush (republican) was in office, and that controversial statement effectively put an end to the band’s career. “Travelin’ Soldier” tells the story of a young girl falling in love with a boy who left to go to war; in the end her love was in vain as he lost his life fighting for his country. Using the following platforms as guides, do you think the Dixie Chicks have more democratic or republican opinions?

Blue: “We have responsibly ended the war in Iraq…there is no greater responsibility than protecting the American people. We also understand the indispensable role that the United States must continue to play in promoting international peace and prosperity.”

Republican: “The Republican Party is the advocate for a strong national defense as the pathway to peace, economic prosperity, and the protection of those yearning to be free…Sequestration of the nation’s military budget would be a disaster for national security.”

I hope that through reading both articles you have seen that country artists have strong opinions when it comes to controversial political topics, and that not everyone in the genre agrees about what is right or wrong. I think that is the best part about country music; you are never going to hear the same thing and by listening to the radio you will be exposed to a plethora of opinions. While I don’t expect your favorite song will dictate your political views, I do hope that it will get your gears turning to think about what you do believe in, and that it reminds you TO GO VOTE!

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Filed under Blog Post 4, Politics, USA

Country Music and Politics: Is the Genre Red or Blue?


Our political views are often shaped by the community we live in: what our families believe, what we watch on TV, and even the kind of music we listen to. All of these aspects of life influence what we put value in. So as a fan of country music, and with the presidential election just a year away, I found myself asking how the genre views hot topics in politics today.

This piece is not meant to advance a political agenda, but rather serve as a platform for you, the reader, to be exposed to songs about social issues and decide for yourself to which side the genre swings. I do not pretend to be a political expert, so all statements on the views of the DNC and GOP will be derived directly from their published 2012 platforms. So without further ado, let’s see if country music is red or blue.

“All-American Boy”

Steve Grand’s new song “All-American Boy” was released in 2013 and immediately went viral; people went crazy for country music’s “first openly gay country star”. The story his music video portrays is the all too common predicament of wanting someone we can’t have, except this time it is from the perspective of a gay man crushing on his straight friend. Grand is always the first to point out that he has predecessors in country music who were also gay, but there is no doubt that Grand is making a splash with fans for his openness. Use the following to determine if Grand lines up more with the left or right.

Democrat: “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples.”

Republican: “We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

“The Call” by Matt Kennon

Abortion is a touchy and emotion-charged subject, and the decision to support “pro-life” or “pro-choice” is not one that is usually taken lightly. In Matt Kennon’s song “The Call”, he tells the story of a young couple getting pregnant and the man encouraging the woman to get an abortion. But just as the girl is in the doctor’s office he calls her to tell her that he changed his mind and wants to raise the baby together, and the girl is overjoyed. At the end of the song Kennon expresses the importance of phoning a friend every so often, he says “They might be glad you called.” So what do you think? Does this song express Democratic or Republican ideas?

Blue: “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay.”

Red: “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

“Made in America” by Toby Keith

I hope you’ve seen in this article that country music is not totally red or blue, but perhaps…purple. People tend not to lean totally to one side, and neither does country music. But if there’s one thing the two parties and the genre can agree on it’s that they are proud to be American, and that the American Dream is something worth fighting for. The perfect summation of this pride is Toby Keith’s song “Made in America”.

DNC: “We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.”

GOP: “The pursuit of opportunity has defined America from our very beginning. This is a land of opportunity. The American Dream is a dream of equal opportunity for all.”


Filed under Blog Post 3, Politics, USA