Tag Archives: country

Songwriting Is No Easy Task

I’ve written songs on and off from a pretty young age. Or I should say I’ve partially written songs. I almost never finish them, because halfway through or so I become hypercritical and decide I hate everything. There will usually be one part of the song that feels right, that actually says what I want to say and how I want to say it, while the rest doesn’t seem to measure up. When I do finish a song, that’s sort of the end of the road. I almost never share what I’ve written with anyone else.

For these reasons I was immediately hesitant when our final project was assigned that included the option to write an original song. I knew I could compile a playlist easily enough, but for me that felt like taking the easy way out. I’m pretty fond of expressing my opinion, and writing a song about a current social issue seemed like a great way to do that. If I could get it done. I was suddenly determined to finish a damn song, one I knew other people would get to see.

And so it began. The complete and total lack of any creative inspiration. I had no idea where to start, or even what I wanted my topic to be! Luckily, I remembered that on my phone I’d kept a few recordings of lines to songs that had popped into my head, but never been developed beyond that. I decided to listen back through them and see if anything sparked. There very first one I listened to was the lines, “Danger, Danger/I look it in the eye/ sometimes I get to wonderin’ why I’m not afraid to die.” I had forgotten all about them, but suddenly I could clearly see the direction I wanted to go.

Those lines became the basis for my chorus, which I was able to finish not long after. Then once again I was stumped. By now I knew that I wanted to tackle the issue of alcoholism, but I still wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to address it from. After thinking about it for probably too long, I decided I wanted the song to be written from the female perspective of someone who acknowledges she has a problem, if only vaguely, but at this point doesn’t believe she can change. While I didn’t want the song to be a cry into your Ben & Jerry’s type, I still wanted to convey some sense of sadness behind the wildness of the narrator’s life. I wanted to show that even though she tries to make it seem like she wouldn’t want things any other way, it’s more that she’s resigned herself to the pain.

Once that decision was made the song flowed pretty easily. Faster than any song I’ve written before. Even so, once it was done I still questioned/am questioning every line. The thought of other people reading what I have written, something that I care about, well it’s kind of terrifying. It’s a very vulnerable position to be in having others be able to judge something that comes from a personal place. I have such respect for the artists who do it all the time. Ultimately, I think it’s that vulnerability that can make music so unifying and beautiful.


Filed under Reflection

My First Country Concert

Luke Bryan ConcertMusic is a big part of life and people who know me know that I enjoy many genres but country music has not always been one of my favorites. While growing up I did hear a couple country songs here and there but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually started to listen to it. Ever since, I have come to love the style of music and it’s definitely one of my favorites now. There are so many different artists that I like now and would love to see live but I never bought tickets to see them, until just recently. I wanted to wait to see Luke Bryan first.

Luke Bryan was definitely the first country artist that I liked. I would look up videos on YouTube of his concerts and I would think to myself that it would be amazing to see him live. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really come to Austin much so I hadn’t had the chance to see him. A couple of months ago, I went on his page and saw that he would be in Texas this month and I knew I had to go. I bought tickets to the Houston concert last Friday and let me say, it was the best concert I have ever been too.

So ever since buying my ticket I was way too excited to go. I even asked for Friday off and spent the entire day in Houston. The drive there felt so long. I just wanted to be there already and for it to be 7p.m. so I could see him. Once the time came, I made my way to the venue, which was one of the nicest I’ve been to (the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands) and I found a place in the lawn towards the back of the pavilion. Yes I had to sit farther back compared to others and the grassy area was muddy because it had rained there the past days and the day of the concert but I didn’t care. I finally got the chance to go see Luke.

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

I was a bit nervous yet excited to be there. First of all, I was really looking forward to my first country concert. It would be a new experience for me. I had been listening to this great music for years now but I would finally get to hear it live. Now some people might think that country music is usually for Caucasian people but it was actually a diverse audience there. There were people of different ethnicities there all just to enjoy a night listening and singing country music. It made me happy to see so many different people there that all had one thing in common.

So first up was Cole Swindell and I enjoyed his performance. He definitely started the night well. Next came Lee Brice, one of my other favorite artists. He sang all my favorite songs by him like “Hard to Love”, “I Drive Your Truck”, and “I Don’t Dance”. But everyone couldn’t wait for the next person to come on stage. The lights went out, we heard Luke come on stage and the audience went wild including myself.

The concert was great, more than great. I knew every single song Luke would sing and I didn’t care if I did not have a great voice. I was singing my heart out. I loved how he sang his newer songs and also older ones, like “Do I” which is my favorite song by him. What I liked a lot was that everyone there were was singing and dancing to the songs that were sung and it was one of the best things that I have heard. It might sound like an exaggeration but to me it really was one of the best feelings ever. But out of all of the songs, there was one song that he sang that is very personal for me.

Once I heard him start singing “Country Girl”, I knew that it would be the last song of the night so I made sure to enjoy the last few minutes. Everyone went crazy during that song and I did as well. By then my boots were muddy and even though I had just recently bought them, I didn’t care if they got dirty. I felt like that was part of being there and the country life, which I grew up in. Then the concert ended and I was still in some sort of shock because I really couldn’t believe that I had actually been to a Luke Bryan concert. I guess that’s why I had post concert depression the next day.


Out of all the concerts that I have been to, this one is definitely be the best I’ve gone to. Being with all those people there was amazing and I will never forget that night even though I was losing my voice. Now that I have been to a country concert, I plan on going to lots more and I have a feeling that they will all be great. Being in a class where we talk about country music will hopefully give me the chance to hear about concerts that other people have gone to. So if anyone would like to share his or her experience about a country concert, Luke Bryan or any other artist or band, I would love to hear about it. I need to start a list of other country concerts that I should attend.

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Filed under Live Music, New Country, Reflection

Up Close and Personal

Luke’s Opening Number

I think we can all agree that concerts are pretty awesome. I think everyone can also agree that the closer you are to the artist(s) during the concert, the better the experience.

Luke Bryan has been traveling and performing on his “That’s my Kind of Night” tour. He played in San Antonio at the AT&T Center on September 18th. My friend was so generous and asked me to go see him along with Lee Brice and Cole Swindell. Not only were these floor seats, but these were aisle seats. This meant that we did not have to worry about squishing through other people to get to our seats. This was the best concert of my life and I am very fortunate that I was able to see a few of the hottest country artists up closer than normal.

The first song he sang was “That’s My Kind of Night” which makes sense because this was the name of his tour. My friend and I were both pretty amazed that there was a giant truck in the middle of the stage. How they got it up there is still a mystery to us.

Luke Bryan on the pier

Luke Bryan on the Pier

It was amazing how many props they were able to bring out. For anyone who has not heard the song “Drink a Beer” by Luke Bryan, here are a few lines of the song to make sense of why they used this prop.

So I’m gonna sit right here

On the edge of this pier

Watch the sunset disappear

And drink a beer

And if you look really close he also has a Coors Light beer can next to him.

Dance Moves

Any up tempo song that Luke Bryan performed you best believe he got his groove on. Anyone that has seen him perform before knows that he loves to dance. I mean even though he has a song that says he wants a country girl to shake it for him, I’m pretty sure that he loves to shake it for those country girls more. I mean from all the screaming that was going on in the stadium it was clear that everyone enjoyed his dance moves. And just in case anyone was wondering; No there was no zoom used to take this picture.

One of the parts I enjoyed the most was when Luke Bryan and Lee Brice sang “Crazy Girl” that is originally performed by Eli Young Band. Everyone in the crowd was singing along and the two of them together sounded pretty amazing.

Luke Bryan and Myself

Luke Bryan and Myself

Now I know it seems pretty impossible to tell, but in this picture LUKE BRYAN IS POSING FOR MY CAMERA. Let me explain exactly what happened. Since we were so close to the stage, people were standing next to it and taking pictures with Luke Bryan in the background. I decided to take it upon myself and do the same. Well when I was walking toward the stage Luke Bryan saw me! He nodded his head at me and struck a pose. I turned around as quick as I could and this was the picture that came out. Because the lighting was so bright on him and dark on me, it is kind of hard to see. But I promise he did. This was the best part of my night. I will never forget this night. Being the huge country fan that I am, I feel that this concert will top any other country concert that I go to.

Comment below with your thoughts about my night or about your personal experiences!


Filed under Live Music, New Country, Reflection

The Country Anthem

Dirt Road Anthem

Dirt Road Anthem by Jason Aldean

Although I don’t listen to country music very often, this is one song I like very much. When I think of the genre of Country music, I think of dirt roads out in the country, drinking beer, people smoking cigars, and just living carefree. Dirt Road Anthem brings out those feelings when I listen to it. Jason Aldean also has that “twang” in his voice which makes him sound even more country. In my opinion, Country music should be about anything that makes you happy and it should help the listener forget about their worries so that they can just enjoy the music for what it is.

In the music video for Dirt Road Anthem, Jason Aldean is either singing in the middle of an old country road, or inviting all of his friends to come have a good time with him. The music video clips show Jason driving down a dirt road further and further into the country. Then, as the video progresses, all of his buddies and their girls join him with their trucks to start the party. They drink beer and have a bonfire, just like Jason Aldean describes in his song, which helps put a picture to what he is saying.

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In a certain part of the chorus, the lyrics are: “laid back swervin’ like I’m George Jones, smoke blownin’ out the window, and ice cold beer sittin’ in the consol.” I believe this part of the song signifies to me what country is all about. It is about not caring about what the world is doing, but rather just hanging out with your friends listening to music and doing anything that you enjoy. I feel that this is what draws listeners so much to the idea of country music. It gives you piece of mind and helps you forget about the problems you have or anything else you may be going through, at least for a little while. Country music is also about the vibe that you give off, including what you wear. In the video, everybody is wearing jeans, cowboy boots, and cut off flannels. Jason Aldean is going even further and sporting his cowboy hat. This gives the perception that you are somebody who lives in the country and is very laid back as well. But, more importantly this genre is about living carefree and showing you don’t give a damn about what anybody thinks.

This song has turned me on to the genre of country music more than any other song I’ve heard so far. Jason Aldean is a very talented performer and it shows in his music. He’s got that certain “twang” in his voice that many look to achieve, and it seems that he has the ideal attitude of a country boy too. I still do not listen to a whole lot of country music at is it, but I definitely enjoy it more now than in the past.

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Comment and let me know what y’all think!!


Filed under New Country, Reflection, Song Analysis

Your New Brad Paisley Playlist

Brad PaisleyWritten by Dustin Hixenbaugh

Brad Paisley, if you don’t already know, has made a career that many performers would envy by singing songs that are just a little catchier, just a little smarter than the other fluff typically playing on the country radio. In the decade and a half since the release of his first album, Who Needs Pictures (1999), he has hit #1 on the Hot Country chart 18 times, won the Country Music Association’s prestigious Entertainer of the Year Award (2010), and built a large and (mostly) loyal following of country and country-pop listeners.

It is true that Paisley’s biggest chart-toppers have been of the Interchangeable Love Ballad variety, including “We Danced” (2000), “She’s Everything” (2006), “Then” (2009), and “Remind Me” (2011), the last of these a double-platinum duet with Carrie Underwood. But these predictable hits had their purpose. They kept Paisley affording the hats he likes to throw out at his live shows, and they lured new listeners to his albums, where they would be surprised with edgier guitar solos, jam sessions with Alan Jackson and Keith Urban, comedic banter with veterans like Bill Anderson, George Jones, and Buck Owens, and the occasional critical perspective on pop and southern culture.

Last year’s Wheelhouse album took the experimentation and critical perspective a bit too far in the eyes of conservative listeners. Although the record still reached #1 and #2 on the country and pop charts, respectively, none of its singles became major hits. “Accidental Racist,” the controversial duet with LL Cool J, topped out at #22, “Southern Comfort Zone” at #10. Even “Beat This Summer,” the album’s most toothless track, stalled at #9. Sure, a lot of artists would kill for this much radio play, but for Paisley it was a slap on the hand. The Wheelhouse singles rank among the least successful in his career.

This brings us to last Tuesday and the debut of his new album, Moonshine in the Trunk.

Moonshine in the TrunkI’m still working my way through it, but from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t seem to cover new ground as much as it returns to the themes and instrumentation that fueled Paisley’s rise to fame in the mid-2000s. Whether the radio will forgive him for Wheelhouse (“Accidental Racist” in particular) is yet to be determined. But still, Moonshine should reassure wandering Paisley fans that he’s still catchy, he’s still clever, and he’s still tossing back beers on the lake.

The Playlist

I always look forward to my favorite artists’ new albums because they give me an excuse to revise my iTunes playlists. My current Paisley Playlist has 24 tracks, though I suppose this number could change depending on how much I end up loving Moonshine. 

The ten songs I have listed below, however, won’t be going anywhere. Some of them are older hits people seem to have forgotten about in the midst of the Wheelhouse fallout, and some of them are album cuts that never made it to the radio. Whatever you think of his recent work, it is hard to deny that Paisley has performed some of the twenty-first century’s more moving/thought-provoking country songs. These may just be my favorites.

1. “He Didn’t Have to Be” (1999). Paisley’s first #1 hit, from the album Who Needs Pictures, casts an admiring look on the singer’s stepfather. It’s a syrupy song that shares some qualities with the Interchangeable Love Ballads I dismissed earlier, but I’ll forgive this since the story is told so clearly and with such sincere emotion. Paisley would revisit the theme of fatherhood in the more recent chart-topper, “Anything Like Me” (2010).

2. “Celebrity” (2003) / 3. “Alcohol” (2005). He doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for it, but Paisley is a gifted comedian. In “Celebrity,” from the Mud on the Tires album, he laughs about the reality TV phenomenon, which makes celebrities out of just about anyone (and which has become somewhat ironic given his new role as a judge on ABC’s Rising Star series). “Alcohol,” from Time Well Wasted, describes drinking-related incidents that are funny, but only when they’re not happening to you. Kind of like a hangover.

Brad Paisley & Dolly Parton4. “When I Get Where I’m Going” (2005). With Dolly Parton on harmony, this is probably the most spiritual track that Paisley has released as a single. His motivation to record it, I remember him saying, was the recent death of a favorite aunt. In any case, the song was an unlikely #1 in 2005–Paisley’s 5th, Parton’s 25th. It also features some of Paisley’s strangest imagery, including flying through the sky and running fingers through a lion’s mane. What?!

5. “364 Days to Go” (2006). The Brad Paisley Christmas album consists of mostly forgettable holiday covers like “Winter Wonderland” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” But this track, written from the perspective of a father relaxing on the couch at the end of a long Christmas Day, is special. We may have over a hundred days to go until the next Christmas, but that’s no excuse not to appreciate spending time with the people we love.

6. “Letter to Me” (2007) / 7. “Some Mistakes (2007). Following “When I Get Where I’m Going,” Paisley continued to express his nostalgic side, first in Brad Paisley Christmas and then in 5th Gear (which, for the record, is my favorite of his albums). In “Letter to Me,” he inverts the classic school tradition of writing a letter to your future self by thinking about the advice he would send back to his high school self. What would he change? Surprisingly, very little. “Some Mistakes,” which is an album cut that should have been a single, continues the carpe diem theme: “Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.”

8. “Ticks” (2007). In “Mud on the Tires” (2003), Paisley proved he wasn’t above singing about barroom romance. But in “Ticks” he takes the theme further, delivering with perfect comic timing some of country music’s best cheesy pick-up lines, ranging from “I wish I was your beer” to “I’d like to check you for ticks.” As I imagine him, this song’s narrator is just one beer shy of singing Paisley’s other great drinking song, “Alcohol.”

9. “Welcome to the Future” (2009) / 10. “Southern Comfort Zone” (2013). Even people who say they agree with the principles guiding “Accidental Racist” dismiss it as poorly written and performed. These criticisms certainly don’t apply to all of Paisley’s attempts at social relevancy. In fact, “Welcome to Future,” which reflects on the historic Obama election, and “Southern Comfort Zone,” which points out that even country folks can be open-minded citizens of the world, are some of the strongest recordings in his catalog. Also, of all Paisley’s songs, “Welcome to the Future” is probably my favorite.

Do you also have a Paisley playlist? If so, what’s on it? Share in the comments!

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Filed under Lists, New Country, Song Analysis