By Evie Fowler
Most of the people who do not like country music have most likely not given it a try. Hopefully, this article will change that by showcasing the dedication, hard work, and love that several of the industries best songwriters, singers, and producers have for the genre. So, what are you waiting for? Read this article and spread the country love!
I love country music. Now, I know what you are thinking: Country music… the genre stereotypically marked by big trucks, bigger boots, and the biggest southern accents? Let’s face it, some country music was and often is that way. However, I have come to fall in love with a different side of country music — a side comprised of singers, songwriters, musicians, and producers all dedicated to using music to tell stories. In pursuit of spreading this country love, I talked with some of country music’s greatest producers, songwriters, and singers who have a lot to say about the force that connects them all: music.
No one knows about the love surrounding country music better than a country music songwriter. Phillip Coleman, a freelance songwriter from Nashville, has been in the music industry for quite some time. In his early twenties, Coleman went to Nashville and knocked on the door of Don Henry, a successful songwriter who was an idol to him. After looking at some of Coleman’s songs, Henry advised Coleman to pick up an instrument. Coleman then moved to Nashville to pursue his songwriting career. Little did he know that, several years later, Henry would call him to set up a writing session. “To come up here and get that advice from him and then years later, him calling me and wanting to write with me was just huge.”
Henry and Coleman wrote a song during this time called “All Kinds of Kinds,” which was picked up in 2011 by Miranda Lambert. Coleman said that the one time you hear ‘Yes. I am cutting your song, and it’s on the record.’ It makes the thousands of ‘no’s’ that you’ve heard go away.” Coleman further elaborates on his views of the music industry by adding, “It’s who you know, and you have to be present to win. Everything else is just a gamble.” This “gamble” referred to by Coleman is not only experienced by songwriters, but by artists themselves.
Russell Dickerson is a hot new country music singer-songwriter who grew up in Union City, Tenn. and later Nashville, Tenn., signed with Triple Tiger Records in 2016, and in Oct. 2017, released his debut album “Yours.” Dickerson, like his fellow artists, knows that it is hard to make it in the industry. “It takes a lot of patience and perseverance to keep going and to keep writing no matter what. No matter how many people said ‘no,’ you had to keep going toward the goal.” He definitely has shown that patience and perseverance will pay off because on Jan. 22, 2018, Dickerson’s song “Yours” hit number one on the country charts.
Russell Dickerson, like other artists in the current country music industry, is working in a time where the genre’s overall sound is being molded into many different sounds, as opposed to the typical guitar picking sounds of the past. Ryan Hurd, another up-and-coming country music singer-songwriter, summed up this phenomenon nicely, stating “the thing that, first of all, makes country music special compared to other genres is our lyric is so special and is still so bulletproof. The thing that sets our genre apart from everybody else’s, and if you notice, the sounds of country music always change. You can have Sam Hunt and Kacey Musgraves and Eric Church all in the same genre but the lyrics are all very similar. They still read like a country song and they all have country themes and they all rhyme the same way… It’s still country music even if it sounds different or it sounds a little bit more progressive. That’s the thing that it always comes back down to is that lyric. That’s why I think country music is still so special.”
This concept of a mixed sound coming out of country music these days is echoed and appreciated by Arturo Buenahora, the co-founder of Little Louder Music, a publishing house in Nashville. Buenahora has been successfully working in the music industry for years and observes, “I think that no matter what period of time you are in, people are going to be complaining about how it doesn’t sound like it did the ten years previous. I am all for a very diverse format.” He continues by explaining how he believes that there should not be more than one artist with the exact same sound. “When things cease to be unique, they are much less interesting by definition.” Buenahora has worked with many well-known artists in the industry such as Taylor Swift, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, and Dierks Bentley. He appreciates the unique sounds each artist he has worked with brings to the table.
While most of the people who I had the opportunity to speak with for this article are all male, I would be cheating you all not to mention the impact being made by female country artists. It is “an extremely exciting time for females in country music who are just now breaking through,” says Caroline Watkins, a student at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Watkins is this year’s recipient of the Miranda Lambert Women Creators Fund, awarded to one female student at Belmont every school year who is majoring in songwriting, entertainment industry studies, or music business. In 2016, Lambert established this fund to help women in country music, since it can be harder for women to become successful in this industry. Although there have always been female country artists, more opportunities for women are available in the country music industry today then in years past, which is a trend I am truly heartened to see.
If you are new to country music and want to give it a try, you may be wondering where to start. Watkins recommends the music of Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, Lori Mckenna, Kassi Ashton, Eric Church, and Charlie Worsham. Ashley McBryde, another female country music singer-songwriter, puts her own plug in for country music, noting that country music is worth listening to because “all [country artists] do is make the truth rhyme.” She would know, as McBryde is taking her rhyming truths up to the top of country charts these days.
In addition to the artists, country music fans are pretty great, and if you do not believe me, take it from Jay Demarcus, founding member and bassist of Rascal Flatts. “Country music fans are the best in the world! They are loyal and we are so lucky to have the most incredible fans who have followed us in our career from the very beginning. Without these great fans, we would not have a job and feel so blessed they have loved our music over the years.” Dickerson echoes this sentiment. When asked to describe his fans in one word, he answered simply, “FAMILY.” These are strong words that you will hear echoed genuinely throughout the country music community. What’s not to love?
So, next time you are listening to music and want to try something new, do not forget about or shy away from country music. In the words of Buenahora, “If you are a music lover. There is a country music song somewhere that you will love. I just know there is.”