Tyler Childers, in an interview posted on Spotify, pegged the new Nashville in a perfect way. He said of the city that is “the largest growing and developing city in the nation”, one traditionally known for country music, “Once you’re immersed in that, then there’s just a disconnect to the reality of what country life is.” In my opinion, Childers gets it right.
To fully understand country music, I think you have to have some sort of shared experience in the culture of the rural South. Once when my older daughter complained about not having enough money, I explained to her what “poor” really means.
I told her about my mother’s parents who lived in a country house where the bathroom was outside, and the light fixtures were bare bulbs hanging from a wire. I told her about her sharecropper grandfather, who picked cotton to feed his growing family. I told her about their experiences during The Great Depression when a hungry child had to be satisfied with less food than he or she needed. I told her more than that, but you get the picture.
I listened the other day to a rap song. I don’t remember the artist, but the lyrics embraced the poverty of the rapper’s youth. It struck me that his story was so much like that of my mother’s as a child although their skin color just happened to be different.
When my husband tunes in to country music on TV, it’s hard for me to listen to most of it. There’s heartbreak, for sure, and themes of alienation, but roots are sorely lacking. Country has morphed to pop, and it is most unfortunate the greatest exposure for art in this genre revolves around songs that are almost instantly forgotten.
My younger daughter considered moving to Nashville. She thought long and hard about it, visited several times, and in the end, she decided to stay in Jacksonville because technology now permits an artist a stage from anywhere in the world. She and her sister write many songs inspired by our trips home to South Carolina. I try very hard to enlighten them on our roots, where we came from, what our ancestors faced, and how their hard work paid off and their faith produced strong family ties.
Art is a product of an individual’s life experience. The greatest art touches on the human condition all of us are subject to. As Nashville continues to boom with Vegas-style glitz, much real country music will find no welcome mat.
Kudos to Childers for doing things his way, and for doing them successfully.
Saving Country Music has a writeup about Childers’ remarks and links to the Spotify article as well.
The photos I included with this story were made this past week when we were in South Carolina. My body’s in Florida, but my heart will always be up there. By the way, the deer were urban deer grazing on the yard across the street from my mother’s house. The town has left enough forest fragments to sustain some of the wildlife.
(Kay B. Day; October 9, 2019)