Last year I cringed when my dad told me I could write some good country songs about breakup stories. I hated country music. That was about the same time I stopped telling my parents about boys.
Last spring, my roommates invited one of our acquaintances, Holly, to live with us. That arrangement included a reintroduction to country music. It took a couple months, but I got to the point of tolerating it again. And then liking it.
When we invited our friend Mackenzie to live with us this year, I knew Luke Bryan and George Strait were going to become regulars. I was OK with it after spending the summer brushing up on my Brantley Gilbert, who happens to be one of my boyfriend’s favorites.
Part of the repulsion of country was rebellion. Growing up, our local station played all the one-hit wonders of country from the ‘90s, along with the same string of top five country songs. My best friends and I were all Taylor Swift fans before she joined the dark side of chart-topping music.
By the time we hit high school, country wasn’t cool anymore. My friend Spencer made the observation it was all about “my wife left me, and I love the taste of whiskey.” I thought he had made some sort of enlightening remark.
Let’s just say I wasn’t exposed to enough music genres in the ninth grade to know most genres follow some kind of format. Maybe country singers have similar priorities, but so do pop artists.
Most of the songs on the radio are love songs or break-up songs. Rock lends itself to guitar solos. People my age generally appreciate or experience the “I hate this town” attitude of pop punk.
Criticizing music based on the format of its genre is saying all cops are evil. It might be convenient, but it’s not necessarily true.
But that’s not why I was able to like country again. The other part of my aversion was related to my paternal grandfather. When he was in hospice before he passed away, we spent many afternoons back and forth between our house and his. The common element? GAC, the “Great American Country” station.
I don’t remember anything else being on when grandpa was sick. I was introduced to how much Eric Church loves mustard on his fries, and how people are crazy. My sister and I loved Darius Rucker and Carrie Underwood.
GAC was a constant in our lives for those few months, but shortly after my grandpa died, so did my tolerance for country music. Later, I connected it with suppressed grief. If music brings people out of hard times, why couldn’t I have gone through the opposite?
What happened with country was that I was able to see it differently. Mackenzie said it’s about enjoying the simple things in life. I’d say that’s true. Enjoying them, but not taking them for granted.
Any good music should be able to teach you that. We can’t have joy without pain. I think that’s why I’m able to remember my grandpa in country music rather than the grief of losing him.
Brad Paisley has a sort of parody song about what makes country, and it’s “this is your life in a song.” Maybe, Paisley, but I just like being able to hit all the notes while singing along. And the banjo isn’t bad, either.