Country music can make us feel empowered. Feel inspired. Feel comforted. Indeed, Country music can make us feel. Some would say it’s the genre’s greatest strength. Look no further than the lyrics of Michelle Wright’s recent single Strong for evidence of this. She’s strong as steel, forged in the fire, fighting through the scared and the tired, set on moving on. Strong enough to bend but never breaking, strong in the face of the battle raging, till all the weak is gone, she’s strong. Just imagine the many listeners who have embraced this song as an anthem and felt strengthened by its message.
I asked several Ontario Country artists (Riki Knox, Tianna Woods, Elyse Saunders, Cory Marquardt & Brea Lawrenson) for their thoughts on Country music’s power to change us – starting with Riki Knox.
“Music has an incredible ability to touch on human emotion, both the good and the bad,” explains Riki. “It makes us feel things we want desperately to feel again, and brings back feelings we’ve worked hard at forgetting. On the other side of the coin, music can make us forget feelings altogether. A fun, carefree song can take you to a place far away from worry, if only for the few minutes that it lasts. Music will stand the test of time, because even as styles and content changes, human emotion remains the same.”
In Beverley Mahood’s song Hope and Gasoline, the message is about new chapters, new dreams and the courage to move forward. Freedom is calling my name, I just wanna go somewhere I’ve never been, and I’m gonna get there, all that I need is a little hope and gasoline. You can’t help but think about where that new road ahead will take you as you listen to this song.
“When I first heard my latest single Every Angel Needs Some Heaven, it inspired me and touched me emotionally,” recalls Tianna Woods. “This is a story about a young girl that lives on the street and only has a dollar in her pocket, but gives it to someone that has nothing. This song communicates how we need to help the less fortunate people in the world. Every little bit helps and can make a difference.”
Today I’m Gonna Try And Change The World – written by Johnny Reid & Brent Maher and recorded by Johnny – has a message for the singer and for each of us to make the world a better place with our words and actions. I’m gonna say hello to my neighbour, gonna greet him with a smile, shake the hand of a stranger. sit and talk with him for a while, gonna tell someone I love them from the bottom of my heart, Today I’m gonna try and change the world.” I know for many songwriters the songwriting process is a cathartic one. The song’s meaning resonates with them first and then, after it’s released to the world, it affects listeners who ‘find’ a part of themselves in it.
“Every time I write a song it always comes from a real place and my hope is that people can be empowered by my songs in some way based on my experiences and what I have learned along the way,” says Elyse Saunders. “I believe that songwriting should be about inspiring or empowering people or to at least make them forget about their problems for a little while. Songs should be able to uplift you but also make you feel like you are not the only one going through the tough times.”
Sometimes the song’s message isn’t a gentle one but is instead one that stirs the fighter in us who knows that a dream is something we must defend and feed – despite the critics:
All blowed up like a loud mouth pup, never been in a junk yard fight. But if you’re gonna bark at the big dog boy, you’re gonna get to feel the bite – lyrics from Keep On recorded by Eric Church. “These lines make me think – no matter who gets in your way, or tries to bring you down – if you have a goal or dream in life – work your tail off and live it,” states a determined Cory Marquardt.
“Music has empowered me ever since I was a little girl,” admits Brea Lawrenson. “I have always used it as a way of expression and I believe everyone everywhere can use it to heal and inspire. One of my very favourite songs is by Jann Arden called Good Mother, I can relate to every word in that song. What’s so amazing about music and lyrics is that people can relate to them, we have all experienced the same emotions and music is a gift that helps us cope in life. Some lyrics from my song Hold On, written for my mother, always remind me just how lucky I am and as a singer-songwriter, I know it’s my responsibility to empower others.”
Artists only hear a portion of the stories about the impact a song has had in someone’s life. How amazing it must be to know that a song that you’re a part of has what it takes to empower, inspire or comfort. Here’s hoping a song you write goes on to do just that.
Visit the Ontario Country artists who contributed to this column at the following websites: