I was never a country music fan -- until recently. I discovered an affection for country music after I switched my reality-music-TV watching from "American Idol" to "The Voice." I wasn't very far along into watching "The Voice" before Blake Shelton's easy-going, strong as satin-wrapped steel demeanor struck enough of a chord for me to go into my Amazon Prime account and check out his music. And Blake connected me to country.
Why I had no appreciation for the genre before, I can't say. A whole lot of country music speaks of life with a "Southern Voice" (Love that one by Tim McGraw, BTW). My Southern eyes see life just that way. I've always adored Beach Music, the tunes to which Carolina Girls (Love that one by General Norman Johnson and the Chairmen of the Board) shag. The shag is the official state dance of South Carolina because its a step that was, like me, born and bred in the Palmetto State. Music connected to the South has always held an appeal for me, but for some reason, that didn't hold true for country.
Growing up, my neighbors and family liked country music and laughed at my love of rock and roll. It was scorned as "the devil's music." During my college years, most of us went out to clubs that played rock and roll, disco, and beach music. The clubs that played country were the haystick places where you didn't go unless you were armed and appreciated watching a good bar fight. My musical tastes matured as I grew, but somehow that never, ever included country music until "The Voice" introduced me to that "Playboy of the Southwestern World", Blake Shelton.
Blake's evangelism for the genre made me wonder how I'd never appreciated it before. Mr. Shelton speaks fervently of how country must be felt before its sung and of how it can only be sung well if it comes from the heart. Most great country songs revolve around the same core as my books - love, in all its good, bad, ugly and life-affirming variations. It might be first love, back seat "love for tonight," brokenhearted love lost, love never returned or forever love found - but if its love, there's a country song with lyrics that tell the tale. (Blake's amazing wife, Miranda Lambert, has one about a "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" that delights an insane duck lady. Any song that celebrates crazy is a good thing. I think Loretta Lynn said that first. )
There are country songs that celebrate having fun, loving family, appreciating friends and having a drink or ten while you're doing it. But I've come to realize that other than a love for pick-up trucks, the rebellious, raucous, loyal-beyond-a-fault country attitude describes my approach to life and writing. And it was something I was closed to - an automatic shut-off valve in my brain activated whenever a country song came on the radio. That was 'change the station' time. Now, I listen, enjoy and appreciate.
How much of life do we miss if we have automatic shut-off switches? Whether it's different ideas, different values, different views of life or love - why not let it in enough to consider, to ponder, to evaluate? There is much absolutely abhorrent out there, and I'm not advocating that we accept or endorse every idea floating around the universe. I'm just saying that what we should "shut off" are those switches that deprive us of the opportunity to grow and learn and to become and to keep becoming as long as we've life left to live.
Lots of folks who love country music may have their automatic shut-offs programmed to screen out over-the-top, avidly erotic tales of love between a man and a woman (Mary Anne Graham titles) or between two men (Olivia Outlaw titles - to date, but Olivia will expand too). Well, a whole bunch of those folks are missing some stories that will read a lot like a country song sounds. In my author's voice they'll recognize familiar notes sung in a different tone. If they give it a chance, their worlds might grow a little too, just like mine did when NBC's "The Voice" and country charmer Blake Shelton convinced me to override my shut off valve and re-consider country music.
I see it now -- my books read a lot like a Blake Shelton song sounds - and that's a very good thing.