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”