Ah, the things you start to think about when you are a music geek. I’ll tell you, the amount of time I spend thinking about music has caused me to pay more attention to things like song writing. Rather scary in a way when I stop and think about it. While I don’t pretend to be some master of words, I have certainly become more analytical in how I view music. It’s not just hearing another catchy song. There’s more to music than that.
I recall being younger and having more of an interest in what each song sounded like than what was sung. I suppose that’s only natural because when you’re in middle school or below, you haven’t experienced enough yet to truly grasp the meaning. If we look at a lot of the songs on the radio today, you can have 3 brain-cells, 2 of which are flickering on and off, and still get the song. There is such little substance nowadays that you can just listen passively. Beer, girls, trucks, bonfires, boats, chillen’. Rinse and repeat. That’s it. You can shine it up and twirl it around 20 times for all I care. There is very little to get in most mainstream country music.
My thoughts on an artist who writes versus someone who performs other songs, is not cut and dry. We are in an age where there are more distractions and things are artificially enhanced. No I’m not just talking about a boob job. It’s everything. From magazines, to movies, to our ever decreasing sensitivities to violence and foul behavior. It has become increasingly difficult to tell what’s real from what is fake. Country music is one of the largest offenders.
If we think back to the days where country music on the radio was actually country, we probably didn’t think as much about who wrote the songs. A good song is simply, a good song. Today however, many of us are more critical because of how fewer big name artists take the time to write their own material. The Nashville landscape has been largely responsible for this with the emphasis placed on large amounts of writers per track. What may have started off as a well intended song soon changes into a different animal that several artists attempt to reserve and sometimes fight over. I find this to be a tough environment to flourish in and my instincts tell me that many turn to the Texas arena because of how open it is. Artists that are independent are able to collaborate with who they want and in turn, keep the material true to original form. That’s what makes so many of these artists so admirable to me. Not only can they sing, they can either pen stories based on their own experiences, or take on a fictional persona and make it believable.
That being said, let’s look at artists like Alan Jackson, George Strait, Garth Brooks and the like. Did they write every song? No way. And in those cases, I don’t think it matters. The past era of country music had more emphasis placed on song selection. What did I write earlier? A good song is simply, a good song. In an article from CMT.com, George Strait even says how he would find good songs from Nashville writers. While he regrets not writing more of his own, can you blame him for producing hit after hit? I certainly can’t and he’s like the Richard Petty of country. Everyone and their grandma knows him - even if that means they only know All My Exes Live in Texas…
When we think of George Strait, we don’t hold his lack of song writing against him. He is an incredible performer and largely has had solid song choices. Someone like Stoney LaRue is the same way. He doesn’t write every song, but listen to his albums and it’s hard to find one you don’t like. It’s about how well executed each track is and their live performances. I can say with certainty, Stoney is one of the best artists you’ll ever see live.
The romantic idea of music, especially country, is that artists channel their own struggles and triumphs into song. It’s a wonderful thought, but sometimes artist are able to relate in some way to a song that someone else penned. So much so that we never even question it. That to me is more powerful than saying you wrote a song.
What are your thoughts?
Just a Massachusetts guy supporting Texas and other independent country/Americana artists.
Check out my spotify for good tunes!