He spent his youth at rock concerts, and now he’s into country. How did this all get turned around?
As the Coachella music festival is getting ready for its second weekend, the Stagecoach festival 2015 is set to take its place the following weekend. Occupying the same desolate desert venue, Stagecoach is the country music equivalent of Coachella. I went to a see a lot of live music growing up in Los Angeles and was lucky enough to see bands like The Clash, The Jam, and X in their prime. My musical taste also included classic artists like The Who, The Stones, and the Beatles. You and I would both think I’d be more excited to attend Coachella with its indie artists and AC/DC playing then Stagecoach. Although my music taste hasn’t exactly changed it’s come to be dominated by country music. I wonder how this happened.
I started listening to country music on the radio and it was pretty new to me. Country music had changed a lot. It wasn’t Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson or Patsy Cline sounding or even Kenny Rogers or Dolly Parton. At first I got a kick out of the songs I was hearing. The lyrics were simple, you could hear every word, the music sounded more like pop rock sung with a country accent, and the radio played the same songs over and over again making artists superstars in that world.
Primarily what interested me the most was that the songs painted a picture of what it was to be a southerner and a country music fan. I realize the songs portray an idealized and/or contrived image, but it interested me that people were responding to it and while other parts of the music industry were collapsing country music was growing. I think I know more about and can relate to people from France more than this subset of my own country.
When I first started listing Martina McBride, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw were the big stars and although they are still around I’d say they were the precursors to what I’d call contemporary country. Contemporary country I’d say isn’t very country at all. It feels like a tin pan alley situation (and for most parts is) where writers write the hits and give them to artists who are pumped up for their personalities more than their skills.
Not to say that the artists aren’t skilled, country musicians are probably the best in the world today. Listen to Brad Paisley play guitar. Taylor Swift probably had a lot to do with taking the country out of country, she’s from Pennsylvania and her songs were more pop than country and has since left country to become a pop singer and moved to New York City of all places.
Toby Keith had a hit with “I Love This Bar” in 2003. I couldn’t believe somebody could write this song, sing this song and have it be a hit.
I’ve seen short skirts, we got high-techs
Blue-collar boys and rednecks
And we got lovers, lots of lookers
And I’ve even seen dancing girls and hookers
And we like to drink our beer from a mason jar
Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this bar
Yes I do
I like my truck
I like my girlfriend
But I love this bar
I felt like I should start writing country songs and maybe everybody feels this way and maybe that is some of the appeal. Mention Beer, Trucks, Tractor, Dirt Roads, Tequila, girls in shorts and you have a hit. I thought I was liking the music ironically, but I kept listening more and more. Can you listen to something all the time and just have an ironic passion for it, I don’t think so. I’m a country music fan and I’m about to join a whole bunch of others at Stagecoach.
Since I’ve never been to a single contemporary country concert I’m really more interested in the fans than the artists and performances. Are they the people in the songs? I hope to be with people who care more about their bar, their truck or their tractor more than anything else in their lives. I expect to see everybody wearing cowboy boots and cowboy hats (although the artists don’t do that anymore for the most part), cut off shorts and big hair. Not knowing what to expect is a feeling I haven’t had in going to a concert or festival since I was a teenager.
Some exemplary contemporary country lyrics:
She thinks my tractor’s sexy
It really turns her on
She’s always starin’ at me
While I’m chuggin’ along
She likes the way it’s pullin’ while we’re tillin’ up the land
She’s even kind of crazy ’bout my farmer’s tan
She’s the only one who really understands what gets me
She thinks my tractor’s sexy
She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy Sung by: Keney Chesney Written by: Jim Collins and Paul Overstreet
Beer, Tequila and Tractors. I wonder if anybody will be riding up to the festival on a John Deere.