An Open Letter to country music

Dear Country Music,
Rascal Flatts. That’s where it all started. My dad let my siblings up way past our bedtime one evening to watch one of the countdowns on CMT, and “These Days” was the most recent single by the rising trio. I’ll never forget Gary Levox pointing up to the sky while he belted out his powerful vocals. That’s when I knew you had drawn me in.

From that moment on country music was a vital part of life for my family. We found some of our favorite singers and most relatable songs. I will never forget seeing my dad cry over the kitchen sink due to the death of his father. That one moment is only brought to surface when I think of a very specific Tim McGraw lyric: “I don’t know why they say grown men don’t cry.” When I was younger my daddy was my superhero and represented everything that strength was in my little girl eyes. I know that losing his own daddy was the hardest moment in his life and when I was little I had no idea how symbolic it was when he finally let his emotions become more important than staying strong.

When I think about CMT Top 20 Countdown I think about a talent show where most of country music’s best artists compiled into a two hour event. So many of the songs I heard on the radio were being performed in my living room and watching that special became a routine for me. To this day, watching Top 20 is definitely a calming routine for me. If I’m ever having a bad day I always feel better at least having it on in the background. Not only am I hanging out with most of my favorite artists as well as bring introduced to newer ones as well.

Another thing that you’ve given me is the inspiration to find undying, true love. When I first heard the song “Johnny and June” by Heidi Newfield I thought it was just going to be another one of those tunes that gets caught in my head every once in a while. I was wrong. There was a reason that I grew to appreciate that song on a much deeper level and it had everything to do with the tumultuous relationship of the named couple. Today’s society highlights relationships like Beyonce and Jay-Z or William and Kate because they seem to embody the perfect relationship. I always tell those people that they should watch “Walk The Line” and get back to me. I firmly believe that Johnny and June truly exemplified love. I visited the Johnny Cash Museum in September and there was a section of the museum where there were momentums that Johnny had gotten for June and never in my life have I been more moved by an inanimate object then when I laid eyes on a valentine that said “June: my love, my life, for life.” I will admit that there may have been a tear shed. Through all of the tribulations of their marriage it was known that Johnny loved June with all of his heart. They are what a realistic marriage is to me. There is no perfect happily ever after. Couples fight and they yell and disagree but at the end of the day they rely on each other. They are my inspiration for love. Thank you for introducing me to what I needed to know in that area of life.

Not only do you remind me of what love really is, but you also remind me of pure happiness. Whenever I am home from school, country music is what I like to blast on the radio while I drive with my windows down. It’s that ray of sunshine when it’s wintertime and I need an escape from a dreary Midwestern reality. It’s summertime in the pool with my friends. It’s concerts at the county fair. It’s my fearless nights dancing in bars with my friend as we took on our very first road trip out of missouri and Illinois. It’s home on nights where I’m too far away to be with my parents and I need a good cry. It’s comfort and happiness and home all rolled into one. Thank you for that as well.

Finally, you introduced me to my future home. No, I’m not an aspiring musician or singer, but the minute I set foot on Broadway in downtown Nashville, I knew I was home. There was a really comforting feeling when I was exploring Music City, which was really unique to me. For most of my life I believed that I belonged up near Chicago, not only because I would be close to home but because it’s all I knew. The minute I stepped out of my comfort zone and into something new, I realized what I had been missing. The first time I went for a full weekend with my friend Taylor, I felt a sense of independence I had never known prior to that. I was dancing in honky thinks and singing with street performers. I was meeting new people and having the time of my life. It’s a weekend I look back on with no regrets and 100% pure elation over the fact that it was made possible. Taking in the entire history of country music in such a beautiful city is unlike anything you could ever experience.

What’s hilarious is that most people don’t give you a chance. They assume that each song is about beer chugging, blue jean wearing, twangy woes. When they finally give you the chance, they are in for a whirlwind romance. There are so many outlets to go down and find your niche. From Jason Aldean to Carrie Underwood to Cassadee Pope, there are artists with stories that deserve to be discovered. Other genres in music overlap in some form or another, but country is a genre that stands on its own. Maybe that’s why I feel my special connection to it: we both share an independence unlike the rest. That’s something to treasure and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Forever a fan,
Claire

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