What’s Country in one country might not be Country in another…


One of my earliest memories is being taken to a John Denver concert when I was aged 5. I didn’t really know who he was, other than that he sang songs I liked singing along to in the car, like Grandma’s Feather Bed and Thank God I’m a Country Boy. In fact, as my parents like to remind me now, I was so overwhelmed by the event that I fell asleep after a couple of songs. I think that had more to do with being 5 than the music!

I remember the day at school when I found out John Denver had died in a plane crash. I was really upset and couldn’t understand why my other classmates were not only not upset, but had no idea who he was.

In the UK, Country music just wasn’t a part of my generation’s culture, and for many people it conjured up an image of people singing about their tractors and guns. Not things most teenagers in the UK could relate to I guess.

The strange thing is that Country influences a lot of popular music in the UK, but for a long time it was just never considered “cool”.

The times seem to be changing in the UK as more people are discovering that country music has many different sides and ranges from country and western, to bluegrass, to a hybrid of country, rock and pop. It helps that shows like Bob Harris Country on BBC Radio 2 open people’s ears to the infinite variety of the genre – Bob’s show has helped me discover some great artists like Tift Merritt, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Hank Snow.  http://www.bobharris.org/pages/default.asp

I have found out since moving to the US that the British and American ideas of what constitutes country music are surprisingly different. Many people back home in the UK called the music I make Country, I never really saw it that way. It has plenty of American influences and some rootsy sounds, but I don’t think you could call it Country. Interestingly, American audiences don’t ever seem to think of my music as Country. Perhaps because the country music industry and radio over here are so ingrained in the culture, people have a more definite idea of what’s Country, Folk, Americana or Pop.

But the line is becoming ever more blurred as the The Civil Wars recently demonstrated when they were nominated for awards in both the Folk and Country category at the Grammys, and lots of other musicians make records which could fit into two or more categories.

So maybe even the industry is finding it more difficult to see where the lines are drawn.

I think that’s a positive thing – we can all get too hung up on what label music is given and whether that genre is in fashion or not. I think if a song moves you in some way, then listen to it and enjoy it.

Anyway, even if you’re adamant that country music is not for you, I bet you can’t help smiling at a couple of these lyrics from some real country songs…

“It takes a whole lot of liquor to like her But when I’m liquored up, I like her just fine”

“I don’t know whether to kill myself or go bowling”

“When you see a deer you see Bambi, I see antlers up on the wall”

“If Whiskey Were A Woman, I’d Be Married For Sure”

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8 thoughts on “What’s Country in one country might not be Country in another…

  1. Lee Potter says:

    Lots of music that I loved from the 70s and I listened to on AOR stations would be considered country now; the Eagles, Loggins and Messina, Poco, Pure Prairie League, and, yes, John Denver. When I listen to your music I try to think what market you would best succeed in (so many really talented and listenable artists simply get ignored because they don’t seem to fit a radio format well enough). Adult contemporary would make sense (Sarah McLachlan seemed to end up here and your music has shades of her music), but it now seems over-run with dance beat. I like the acceptance of current country for a wide range of styles and even though I wouldn’t consider your music country, there is a similarity to some of what is played as country music now…maybe enough for you to try to get a video on CMT!

    • Hi Lee,
      Thanks for your comments. You’re right about the Adult Contempory genre – that seems to be a good description for a lot of music that spans these types of genres. I guess with all the merging of the genres it’ll be interesting to see what happens and which new artists emerge. I like your idea of getting my video on CMT! That would be so cool!

  2. segan093 says:

    Great effort…and I agree about the characterization of music as one genre or another…a lot of great music, yours included, resists pigeon-holing…thanks to the internet, more and more people are discovering music and artists one song at a time…hopefully, your fan base can go “viral”, and you’ll have greater commercial success…also informed all my Carolina and Tennessee friends about your gig next week, hope some of them show…

    • Hi Segan,
      Glad you liked my blog…it’s still brand new so I’m trying to get into the habit of writing them. Good point about people discovering music one song at a time – that way you don’t necessarily have to put the whole album in one section. It’s definitely all about word of mouth and spreading the music. Thanks for telling your friends about my show next week – that’s grass roots marketing in action right there!

  3. Laura Fox says:

    Interesting post! Many of my favorite musicians have been labeled as alt-country, although many are more rock, pop, folk, or blues than country. A few years ago, when I asked a friend with similar musical taste how he would define the genre, he replied simply, “good music.”

    I enjoyed meeting you and your husband on the Cayamo cruise (you graciously invited my husband and me to share your table before Shawn’s Monday afternoon Spinnaker show). You have a lovely voice and stage presence. I’m sorry I missed your solo show later in the week, but hope to catch you next time you’re in the D.C. area.

    • Hi Laura,

      That is a good way to answer the question! I heard anther artist reply similar in an interview once.

      It was great meeting you on the cruise. Glad you enjoyed the show!

      I think the closest gig to Washington DC I have coming up is April 21st in Roanoke VA. New dates keep getting added all the time so just keep an eye on http://www.callaghansongs.com/gigs !

  4. Tony says:

    It’s nice to see Whispering Bob get a mention, it was on his show that I first heard you. He’s a great champion of new artists and has introduced me to loads of great music. Mind you reading your post and the comments has given me some more bands to check out, I’ve never heard of the Carolina Chocolate Drops!

    • Hi Tony,
      Bob is a total legend! He does so much for new artists and is such a genuinely lovely man to top it off too!
      His show is such a great way of discovering new music (and i’m so pleased you heard mine on there!)

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