People always look at me with skepticism when I first tell them I like country music. I'm a bespectacled nerd who comes from California and has no trace of a Southern accent. I seem to like the antithesis of what country music stands for - beer, trucks, rough Southern living. And in a way, yes, I am not your typical country music fan. I'm definitely not the audience that country artists envision when they make their music. Yet, I cannot bear to let go of my first true love, the music that defines America.
Interestingly enough, my parents were the first to expose me to country music. Some of my earliest memories are that of myself riding around on my pink tricycle in the backyard of our New Jersey home, listening to Hank's twangy voice at our family barbecues. It was a family tradition - pun intended - to listen to country music at our outdoor events. It wasn't something I questioned, being a child; I simply embraced it and loved it as part of myself. After relocating to California at the tender age of 9 years old, I lost touch with what little country roots I had. My music devolved into listening to renditions of Suzuki violin school (being a violinist needing to learn her pieces) and the occasional 80's or pop songs that my mom and I would listen to on the radio on the way to and from school. The country music of my childhood faded into the deepest part of my memories, until sophomore year of high school. A friend of mine from Chemistry told me to try out Spotify on my phone, as I'd never heard of the service before then (using only Pandora) and enthusing eagerly about the diverse and various amounts of music available. Interestingly enough, I was excited to listen to Ed Sheeran on it, as I recall, replaying 'Thinking Out Loud' and 'The A Team' over and over as much as Spotify would allow.
A few weeks after discovering Spotify however, my whole life would change. I had been having some personal problems at the time and was missing the simplicity of my childhood when I suddenly realized that it had been far too long since I'd heard Hank. I pulled up my shiny new Spotify account and started listening to his oh-so-familiar voice, and I was instantly hooked. I listened eagerly to almost all his music, and through Spotify recommended discovered Alan Jackson, and then Zac Brown Band. Shortly afterward, I ended up relocating to Virginia (which is a much better spot for the country music lover than California, in my opinion).
From there, my love of country music absolutely took off. I went to a Hank concert, my first concert ever, in Virginia Beach. A few months later, I saw Zac Brown in concert. In Virginia, I discovered a litany of other amazing artists: Willie Nelson, Jason Aldean, Josh Turner (please listen to his rendition of "He Stopped Loving Her Today"), Chris Young, Randy Houser, George Strait, to name only a few. Most recently, I've been fixated on Luke Combs and will be seeing him in concert twice this year ("She Got the Best of Me" is incredible and "This One's For You Too" should've won album of the year). I basically only listen to country music now.
I know a lot of people dislike country music and are probably wondering why I love it so much. My love of country music has a lot of dimensions. Firstly, it's gotten me through difficult times. "Warm in Dallas" by Hank Jr. got me through the toughest cross-country move of my life; Luke Combs sang his way through my college admissions process; Zac Brown chinned me up and kept me awake on tough nights of work and homework; Alan Jackson's "Where I Come From" wakes me up every morning as my alarm. Besides being a crutch to help me stand, I love the message behind much of it. Sure, a lot of it is beer and trucks and whatnot, but a lot of the music is about simplicity. It's about being proud of who you are, where you come from, treasuring what you have and knowing that you can make it through anything. Off the top of my head, Zac Brown Band's "Roots," Chris Young's "Voices," Luke Combs' "Be Careful What You Wish For" and Alan Jackson's "You Can Always Come Home" are all songs with incredibly positive messages.
I'll be the first to admit there's some god-awful country music, especially in more modern circles, but when country music is good, it's amazing. I will happily allow people to laugh at me as long as I get my hit of country music - because, at the end of the day, I ain't country because people tell me so, I'm country because I choose to be.