Anonymous asked: do you like country at all? i mean, besides tswift obviously lol. honestly you (and a couple other things) have inspired me to approach *any* music with an open mind, but i find it particularly difficult to empathize with most country singers (men, mostly). as a gay man i find the "things were so much better back in the good ole days" mentality that pervades so much of the music to be frustratingly backwards and a huge turn-off.
yeah, i do
i mean like firstly i think it’s worth noting that there are a lot of interesting and progressive figures within country music, and that some of the most successful country artists of the last few decades have also been some of the form’s most politically defensible. i’ve talked about natalie maines from the dixie chicks a little bit on here before, and i mean she’s a total hero who took on social issues directly with her lyrics and managed to make huge, genre-dominating hits out of political sentiments that outsiders might assume their audience would have trouble with. garth brooks’ sister, who is a regular fixture of his backing band, is an out lesbian, and afaik he’s always been unwavering in his public support of her. his song "we shall be free" is a little on the nose but the sentiment is pretty thoroughly acceptable and it was inescapable when i was a kid. shania twain had that video where she inverted the robert palmer video archetype and performed in a suit in front of a bunch of scantily-clad male models - like, that’s the country music that i grew up with. that’s what my mom was always listening to, that’s what kind of shaped my perception of the genre, that’s the stuff that still influences me now, and what probably makes it easier for me to embrace something like taylor swift. i never really learned to associate the sonics with confederate flags or violent hate crimes, i mean generally the kids who were beating me up and calling me unrepeatable words in school probably rode harder for nirvana than they did for garth brooks or the dixie chicks. i completely understand what the sound of the genre signifies and suggests that is problematic to people, but i personally just never really learned to connect those dots in my mind when i was a kid. i grew up with a country landscape that was populated by people who were selling millions of records challenging gender roles and preaching tolerance. and i mean that’s not even getting into the older stuff i looked into as an adult like willie nelson or whatever that is now pretty universally well regarded as art in a way that transcends genre or tradition.
like right now country radio is a pretty dire place compared to when i was a kid because it seems to have kind of swallowed up the “modern rock” radio format, like the nickelback/kid rock/puddle of mudd axis of sludgy, angry, vaguely twang-y working class rock music seems to have absorbed itself into the fabric of the country radio format utterly. i tried to watch some country awards show thing with my parents last month and i didn’t know who any of the bands were and they were all just kind of playing like riffy power chord rock about how “i’m the kind of guy who drinks beer and drives a truck and doesn’t take shit from people who don’t get it" and it sort of just sounded to me like the sound of people realizing that the more that people like kid rock and puddle of mudd abandoned the pretense of being Rock Artists, like the more they laid off the eddie vedder posturing, the more relatable they became and the more accessible their music would be. a lot of the stuff that seems to be succeeding in the country radio format right now seems to have more to do with that weird post-nirvana 3 doors down/nickeblack/creed grungy red state rock moment than it does with what was actually happening on country radio itself at that time. like, when i was a kid, it seemed like a lot of the time the callbacks to pickup trucks and whiskey were wrapped around genuine pathos the way that bruce springsteen or billy joel songs would attach big emotional payloads to songs about hot rods or the local diner or whatever. like, "small town saturday night" by hal ketchum hit #1 on the country charts when i was a kid, and while it might not be “born to run” or whatever, i feel like it’s operating at a much higher and more affecting level than most of the stuff that’s occupying the country radio format today.
so i mean yes i do like country music, not necessarily where it’s at right now in terms of what’s doing well in the radio format, but i grew up with country music and i like it and it influences me. the things i am working on right now are very influenced by country music, i’ve been spending a lot of time pushing stuff in that direction and i’m always shocked by how comfortable it feels to work with those kinds of sounds, how well the melodic sensibility of country music and the sounds of like, harmonica and slide guitar or whatever fit in with all of the other sounds i use. jim o’rourke once said that the steel guitar is his favorite instrument, that he doesn’t feel like it’s a regional instrument, that he doesn’t like it because it evokes a specific cultural or geographic setting or anything like that, that he just loves the way it sounds. i like that
while i am talking about this i also want to mention the movie "pure country" which was made in 1992 and stars george strait as a fictionalized version of himself and tracks a character arc that begins with strait was a stubbly, flashy billy ray cyrus style pop country showman and follows him as he mounts an escape from the excesses of fame and finds love and happiness as a clean cut cowboy crooner in the small town his grandma raised him in. john doe from X co-stars as strait’s rough-and-tumble right-hand man. it is one of my favorite movies ever and everyone should watch it. i think about the old man’s monologue about chicken shit almost every day.