I’ve had the opportunity to interview country artists from Canada and the States (and beyond) for the last 5 years. It’s something that has never lost its thrill or appeal to me. Learning why artists make music – and how they go about making music – is something I’ve always been interested in. There are several subjects that come up on the show that are worth highlighting here.
Country music has songs that impact its listeners’ lives. These are the kinds of songs that help us get through a tough time, or let us know we’re not alone. It might be Beverley Mahood’s “Hope and Gasoline”, or Emerson Drive’s “The Extra Mile”, or Michelle Wright’s “Strong.” These songs make a personal connection with listeners – the kind of connection that you find most often in country music. It’s always amazing to hear a guest share stories about feedback they’ve received about a song’s impact. To know that the song was written by one or a few writers, and went on to do so much good, is one of the biggest rewards that music can offer. Go back through country music’s history and you’ll find a long list of songs that have advice or encouragement to give – and some that will keep you keeping on.
Country music artists support each other. Again, this seems to be something more prevalent in this genre than others. Canadian artists always talk about their experience of heading to Nashville and finding a support system for their writing and performing; not just from fellow Canadians living there, but from other writers and artists. The ones who have earned success are willing to share their lessons and help the new artist reach that point with the help of their wisdom. Countless stories are told of this on the show. And I know that this is something the new artists will turn around and do when they’re in a position to mentor someone who looks up to them. From the CCMA to the CMAO and to every other provincial chapter, country music is a family that is proud of its members when they succeed – and are there to help them do so.
Country music goes in cycles. We hear listeners talk about their thoughts – good and bad – on what has been labelled as “Bro-Country.” All through country’s history, there have been periods where the style swings between traditional and a pop sound. Popularity of a certain sound breeds more of it. It was Randy Travis back in the 80s that helped bring back a traditional movement back to the genre. And, artists like Shania Twain helped move it to more of a pop sound. But liking or disliking current trends depends on your musical taste. Some would want nothing but a Bro-Country style playing on their radio, while some would want to hear a sound more like Alan Jackson or George Strait. I’ve always liked the variety in country music. As long as there’s a bit of each of the flavours that make up the music, all listeners can find something they like. Right now, Small Town Pistols (made up of sibling duo Amanda & Tyler Wilkinson) have a great new song at radio – with a traditional feel to it – called “I Only Smoke When I Drink.” Amanda Wilkinson has called the song a “wild card” in terms of how it fits with everything else being played on country radio. But a quality song like this, done by a popular duo, can make it big with fans and open doors for more of the same.
You don’t have to be from the country to love country music. This would explain the success of the radio stations that reach Toronto, and the two new country bars in town. While many artists and fans are from farms and small towns across this country, you don’t need to be, to identify with what you hear. There’s always something we can relate to in most songs. And, the emotional content in the genre is something we have all experienced, no matter where we lay our hats or boots or suits at night! Even my show, In The Country, doesn’t broadcast from the country – it’s a country state of mind. And I’ve asked many of my guests if they had friends who got into country music because of them – friends who might have stereotyped it and not given it a chance. There are lots of cases of this happening – one artist opens the door to a lifetime of appreciation of the whole genre. To quote Alan Jackson, they’ve “gone country”… even in the city.
I invite you to check out the show’s website (listed below) to hear past and present radio shows. I think you’ll get to know each artist and, in some cases, discover a new favourite. I’m always looking to showcase new talent on the country music scene, so please use the contact form at the site to get in touch!
To hear episodes of In The Country with Dave Woods – including a new interview with Tianna Woods and hit songwriters Kerry & Lynn Chater (Alabama, Reba, George Strait), please visit www.inthecountryinterviews.com