Thursday, March 14, 2013

She's Country- My Musical Evolution

When I was little, like most kids the only music I heard was what my parents played.  My mom was an Elvis fanatic, and my dad listened to old school country- Christy Lane, Chrystal Gayle, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson.  He also loved a few folk groups from his youth in the 50's and 60's, his favorite of all time was Peter, Paul, and Mary, consequently I could sing If I Had a Hammer and Blowin' in the Wind from memory by the time I started school.  I think this early introduction to music molded me more than I would care to admit when I was a teen.

As a school kid, I listened to the same trendy pop music that everyone did- Wilson Phillips, Tiffany, NKOTB.  I will never forget begging my mom to let me buy my first cassette in 5th grade; it was Whitney Houston's first album and I had to sell my parents on how positive her lyrics were because they were so religious that they didn't trust pop rock.

In middle school I didn't really know where my musical tastes lay.  My two favorite artists from the late 80's were Garth Brooks and the Indigo Girls.  I suppose with folk and country I was headed back to my roots, but I got side-tracked once I hit high school.  Growing up I never had many friends, was bullied and a loner.  In high school I finally found people who liked me- the misfits.  That was the early 90's and in Washington state the big alternative movement was Grunge.  I discovered Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth, Jane's Addiction, Nine Inch Nails and many more.  It was at this time that music became intensely important to me.  Music was what our entire identity, from our clothes to our art to our parties, was built around.  We went to concerts nearly every weekend, local bands who were trying to make it in the Grunge scene.  I started exploring the 80's metal that I had missed in my sheltered youth, Metallica, Alice in Chains, Ozzy.  This music shaped my life all the way through college.

After college I went off to Germany and lost music for a long time.  I had no CD's, no radio.  Once I had babies, all I listened to was Barney and lullabies.  It wasn't until we moved back to the US in 2005 that I dove back into music.  At that time I was angry, I was drinking, and I was a mess.  My musical choices reflected that- Evanescence, Blue October, Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin- the 2000's version of alternative.  I would drive to work or school, blasting hard rock at the top volume in my car, screaming and crying.  What appealed to me in the music, just as with grunge in the 90's, was the anger and pain.  I felt that I was different from other people, I lived on the dark side, I felt all the anguish of the world.  The lyrics to Soul Asylum's Runaway Train summed up how I felt:

Can you help me remember how to smile
Make it somehow all seem worthwhile
How on earth did I get so jaded
Life's mystery seems so faded

I can go where no one else can go
I know what no one else knows
Here I am just drownin' in the rain
With a ticket for a runaway train

In 2009, I got sober.  Somewhere around the same time I started listening to the country station when the kids were in the car.  The only alternative station in the area had really crass, disgusting DJs and it wasn't appropriate for kids.  I couldn't stand mainstream, mindless, shallow pop music, I still can't.  That left country.  Over time listening to the radio it grew on me, until I find myself now with a collection of over 1000 country tracks on my iTunes, listening to the radio or a Pandora country station all day at work and exclusively in the car. 

A couple of days ago, when I was re-reading this blog I listened to the Linkin Park song I had posted here.  It made me wonder if I had strayed to far from myself by this obsession with Country music, so I put on my old alternative channel on Pandora with all my old favorites.  At first it was okay, some bands I still love, specifically Linkin Park, 3 Doors Down and Blue October.  But a lot of the songs just seemed like sad, angry noise to me.  Then the song Call Me When You're Sober by Evanescence came on and I was transported to 2006- driving to class at Wayne State and bawling my eyes out because I was so miserable in my life.  I felt that misery all over again, and became instantly depressed.  That's when I knew that music wasn't for me any more.  I switched to my Country station and knew I wasn't going back.

People say that Country is sad- that it's nothing but break-ups, beer and tractors.  To be honest, there are quite a few songs about those things, but that is not all Country is.  Country is love, it's hope, it's freedom, and it's grace.  Country music is uplifting, it's about being the best you can be and making the most of the life you have.  That's why I love it, it makes me happy, it restores my soul.  I am Country.

1 comment:

Alicia said...

I grew up on Elvis and old-school country too. I love that you and the girls share the love of newer country in common. I have to settle for "Call Me Maybe". lol.