I Hate Country Music; Or So I Thought

I always told myself that country music is horrible. From the time that I was very, very little, I detested it and really rallied my mind against it. I honestly have no idea why. It was something that I made a point in letting people know when we discussed music taste. My response to it almost bordered on aggressive. It’s one of those things that I look back on and though I’ve tried to analyze my reasoning, I can’t come up with anything to defend my logic, except for the fact that I was immature and must’ve been trying to fit a mold.

Over time, I started to hate country music less and trend to a more indifferent feeling about it. My parents didn’t listen to country music, but they certainly never taught me to hate it, or hate anything for that matter. The closest thing that played in my house was Gordon Lightfoot, which is more Folk, but certainly has twang-y elements to it.  I’ve basically loved the fundamental instruments in country music all my life, which are no different from rock music, but it’s just a different style and a slightly different structure.

Still, having grown up outside of Philadelphia, I never understood the crowds that flocked to country music concerts in the summer, with cowboy hats and a Budweiser in hand. I’m all about being a patriotic American, and I realize that country music probably depicts the American persona more than any other, but where did these people pick up the taste for it?  Where did they come from?

It wasn’t until I realized my Uncle had a love for country music that I started to think about it in a different way. He was a city kid, grew up loving heavy metal bands in the 80’s and had the style and hair to rival bands like Van Halen in his day. He played in a metal band, loaded up with tattoos and although he never lost his love for a bad rock ballad, he loves country music now too?  As he is a person I respect, good for him, I thought.  Then I met my husband, who is from Iowa; who knew all the country songs when we went to a piano bar early in our relationship. Then I discovered the country station presets in his pick-up truck. He wasn’t wearing cowboy boots or anything, but I must’ve been slow to not see that coming.  I feel kind of sorry now, that he didn’t come out spurs blazing to show his country roots. I always wondered if neglecting his country roots publicly was his way of finding himself in another part of the country or if he was that concerned I’d dislike him for it.  That would be something I’d truly feel sorry for.

As I grow up, I’ve found there’s nothing more important than being open minded. Hell, I can accept most anything else in the world and look on the bright side of most any situation, why can’t I accept country music? Then it happened, crossover music. Though I’m sure it always existed in some form, country has crossed over into mainstream music in a very popular way over the last few years and onto mainstream stations.  There are even bands that I really like that use country elements. I think I might like it. Though don’t tell anyone yet, because I’m not sure I’m ready for that kind of commitment just yet. I haven’t bought a country album, but I may have programmed a country station on the second set of presets in my car. We’ll know for sure if it makes the top 10, but its tough competition.

I knew I was lost when I got hooked on the Mumford & Sons album last year and there was a heavy bluegrass and banjo vibe on it.  I’d really love to play banjo, once I get guitar down a little better, but I’ve convinced myself that maybe I’d focus on old Irish music to ease my way into this American genre. I know, none of it makes sense, but at least there’s no longer a deep misunderstanding about something that never truly deserved it.

Rock Star Incident of 1998

Perspectives really change with age.  I’m not quite 30, so I’m nervous about how many things I have yet to look back on and shake my head about, but needless to say, it’s funny how time changes things.

I heard the song “Shimmer” by Fuel on the local rock station tonight, WMMR.  I drove along and snickered a bit when I thought about my first “rock star” experience.  I was fifteen and Fuel was in regular rotation on the airwaves at my favorite Modern Rock station, Y100.  RIP.  They were holding a Sonic Session, which was a somewhat regular promotional event in which the station got a popular band to play a mini concert at a local recording studio as they breezed through town for a concert.  One of my best friends at the time won tickets and asked me to go.  If saying “OMG” was popular at that time, I would have said it about 150 times the day leading to and following this event.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  My Mom had been the type to idolize musicians in her youth and met the Bay City Rollers at a similar event when she was that age, so she understood the true excitement to it all.  My Dad on the other hand, was none too pleased about his little girl going into the city on a school night to drool over some guys in a band.  Looking back, it’s fair to say he was right to feel that way.  They both were, really.  Mom won and I went.

There weren’t that many people allowed into the small recording space, but it was pretty exciting as we sat on the floor and watch a band, which was signed to an actual recording label, jamming out in front of us.  The lead singer Brett was barefoot and blonde, and giving the full rock star vibe to the small-time performance.  The show ended and we were allowed to ask for autographs.  Guess who was first in line.

At that very moment, I remember thinking that I didn’t have enough things for the band to sign.  I should have brought posters or bought a second CD in case something happens to this one.  A bundle of excited nerves, I handed over my CD and introduced myself to Brett.  I probably just said my name and nothing else, afraid to throw too many words out there at the same time, in case they got jumbled.  He said it was nice to meet me and then in a quick panic and sheer brilliance, I thought at the time, “Can you sign my shirt too?!”  Of course he did, what a nice guy, to take the time to sign a barely developed girl’s chest.  Then he saw I had a camera and offered to take a picture. O-M-G.  We posed for a picture and then it happened.  He pinched my ass.

Now, if a guy today, even a popular musician did that, although I’d be flattered, I’d have the presence of mind to say, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”  I didn’t.  I glowed.  Since we were just fifteen, my friend’s Mom waited outside for us and I bounced around outside, in the car, at home and for a month following exclaiming “He grabbed my ass, it was awesome!”  I can only imagine what my Dad was thinking.  I clearly looked underage too, all big cheeks and innocence.  And by big cheeks, I mean the ones on my face.

I don’t have children, but I’d be torn about whether or not I’d let them go to something like that.  Experiences like that as a whole, minus the groping, don’t happen often.  It spurred a nearly ten year concert spree that I am currently still paying off, which included hundreds of concerts and memories that always make me smile and that I’d never give back.

(Don’t worry Dad; this experience never turned your little girl into a groupie.)

I Can Eat a Quart of Ice Cream Because I Ate an Apple Yesterday (and Other Excuses)

I did it again.  I woke up in the middle of the night, eyes wide open.

“Damn, I didn’t post!”

But, Tuesday hasn’t technically started for me, even though its 3:00am, so I can write now and it will still count for yesterday.  It’s still Monday night, right?  I mean, I didn’t mean to fall asleep, I had plans to write.

Then I starting thinking how late I’ll be if I woke up now and became functional, only to go back to sleep for two hours until my work alarm goes off.  So I got up, turned the TV off, lights off and hit the shower.  Better to get ahead of the game, plus I do some of my best thinking in the shower; except that I usually get on a mental “roll” in there and forget what I was going to write by the time I’m done.  I started thinking that I should keep a recorder outside of the tub in case I have any ideas that are earth shattering.  Then, because it’s 3am, I came up with a silly line about I can make a joke about those plastic flute-like recorders 4th graders get, and how that wouldn’t help my blog writing.  Sure glad I didn’t use that one.  Whew.

But really, I’m sure I’m not alone in the incessant excuse making.  I don’t think I use them when it comes to others, pretty much just for myself.  I’m a selfish excuse maker.  Here are some of the best I’ve come up with in the last week.

  • I’m not going to the gym.  Those people who never go and make a New Year’s resolution go and it gets too crowded.
  • I’ve gained a few pounds.  It’s probably because I’m stressed at work or my metabolism is starting to slow down at 28.  It can’t be because I’ve been on a cookie diet since Christmas.
  • (To my husband)  Yes, I saw the apples went bad.  Why didn’t YOU eat them?  I didn’t eat them because I didn’t want leave you without any.  (Ok, so maybe I’m not so selfish with myexcuses after all.)
  • I had to buy those boots, because they sent me a $10 coupon and then there was another sale ad for 20% off.  It would be like wasting money if I didn’t use them.
  • I know we just bought the Girl Scout cookies, but if we don’t eat them it’ll be like the tragedy of 2011, when we forgot about a box of shortbreads on top of the fridge and they got stale.  (Reference second excuse here)

At least I’m not murdering people or doing harm to others with my excuses.  They are really harmless.  Oh man, I just tried to validate my excuses.

For the Love of Music

Shannon enjoying music early on, before walking. Most likely listening to Mom's Elton John. (Disregard the hand, it's an unintentional gesture)

Music is crucial to one’s existence for many people. I am one of those people.

From an early age, it impacted my life. I remember waking up, pre-Kindergarten years and pulling out my Mom’s vinyl, trying to figure out how to play them before she woke up. I’m happy to say I never did any damage and I also inherited the collection when I moved out on my own.  What a great collection.  I attribute my passion for music from her.

As time went on, my allowance of $1 per week went toward cassettes.  The purchase was always a huge decision because it took a good deal of time to save the money, and I treated each one like an investment. More than one song had to be appreciated to buy a whole cassette; otherwise it would get taped off the radio.

By the time Santa got me a CD player, I found CD’s pretty expensive for my habit. My first CD was given to me by my Mom after I had some painful dental work. My gauze-filled mouth was all smiles when I had the joy of painstakingly opening my first CD, even with all those unnecessary and impossible sealing stickers. At one point I considered only purchasing CD’s from the labels who gave the convenience of those little pull tabs on the plastic wrap to get the CD open a good two minutes faster.

Eventually in high school, the money I made at my first job at a Hallmark store went almost exclusively to music.  Maybe a little went to gasoline to get to shows.  The towers of CD cases I accumulated were staggering and alarming to my Dad, who at one point asked how I afforded them.  He didn’t want to ask if I was stealing but looking back, I can see how he might have thought it to be impossible to make $5.25 per hour for a few hours a week and create such a collection.  I can tell you in all honesty though, each was legitimately purchased.

Today, my iPod is now full, of music ranging from the 1930’s to today, in any genre you can think of. Music impacts our lives and can help define moments, which is probably why I seem to have generated a playlist for so many routines and events.  So many of us recollect moments in conjunction with a song, immediately allowing us to recall events and slip into old emotion, even years later when an old song is played.  Though it’s probably morbid, I even know what songs I’d play at my funeral and my husband has strict instructions to do so. We must be a good match because he agreed he had some defining songs he’d already chosen post-mortem for himself.  My playlist is called “After”.

Alongside writing, for a short time I studied sound engineering and my Professors agreed that I had a knack for it.  Instead of following my heart, I decided to divert to more logical courses of study while feeding my need for sound on growing piles of debt, of which only ticket stubs and memories remain the acquisition.  These are the best investment I ever made.  The culture and experiences that music provides is overwhelming and never ending.  Today, surviving on the basis of music seems to be becoming more difficult and unfortunate.  For the rest of us, we can peruse our way through our daily lives with little devices that fill our heads and ultimately our souls with escape and inspiration.