Most of my life, country music lived in the margins. My dad would listen to it as he worked around the house sometimes. Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers, “You got to know when to hold ’em.” Or, as we drove to our cabin in the Up North of Michigan, the choices on the AM radio were static, talk or country in that order. Twangy stories of heart break and dead dogs, I couldn’t relate and wondered why anyone else would.
A few years ago my life perspective shifted. Part of my liberation of thought included buying myself a convertible. It was illogical and selfish and fun and just what the doctor ordered. And with all of the music available on local and XM Radio, I found myself tuning into country as the wind blew my hair into a frenzy.
My kid and I figured out that any good country song includes the elements of a truck, a girl, beer, America and sometimes God. Generally all within the first two lines. “Truck, Yeah.” Unapologetic. Free. Grounded in hillbilly, redneck, muddy pride. Country singers are storytellers who draw us into a different world. For three minutes, we become a girl pissed off that her boyfriend cheated on her or a father lamenting how fast life goes by or a man honoring the memory of his friend killed in the war.
I grew into this world of country music by letting go. I let go of pretenses and prejudices. I realized that whatever I thought I had been or was going to be, the core of it all is this short time we share together. And those simple themes in country’s stories capture the essence of living fully and unabashedly. Sometimes it isn’t pretty and sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we go looking for something bad to happen. Sometimes we hang out on a pontoon and sometimes we just love the ones in our lives.
And that’s how I grew into country music. Or maybe country music grew into me.