Beyond tractors, beer and heartbreak: country music is more relatable than you think

Courtesy of Margot Heron/The Occidental

What comes to mind when you think of country music? You might picture cowboy hats, plaid shirts, John Deere tractors and guns. When a lot of people think of country music, they associate it with small towns, small minds and bigotry. Of the many musical genres, it is one of the more controversial because of its conservative connotation and seeming lack of diversity. However, the judgment surrounding country music does not accurately reflect the genre. Country music today is diverse and focuses on bringing people together through common experiences.

Modern country music isn’t all twangy guitars and old guys drawling about beer, tractors and heartbreak. The diversity of country music today reflects its long and interconnected history with other genres. It draws inspiration from bluegrass, jazz, rock, gospel and pop music. If you only listen to one type of country music, then you aren’t getting a full picture of the genre. Songs like “Bartender” by Lady Antebellum, “Love Story” by Taylor Swift, “Round Here Buzz” by Eric Church, “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton and “One Day” by Zac Brown Band are proof that not all country music sounds the same. These songs have crossovers with pop, blues, folk and rock. The diversity of country music makes it possible for people to find at least one song that suits their personal music tastes.

I agree, however, that country music could be more diverse. Historically, commercial record labels have racially segregated country music. Current big-name musicians like Kacey Musgraves, Kane Brown and Darius Rucker have called for greater support for minorities in the genre. I hope their voices will show that increased diversity is needed within country music to connect with more people of different backgrounds.

Within the country music genre, there are many strong feminist voices. Kacey Musgraves tells young girls to be true to themselves and not worry about outside judgment. Danielle Bradbery dares anyone to deny her worth and advises women to keep their standards high. Taylor Swift, former country singer turned pop artist, also advocates for women’s rights. While Chris Janson is not a woman, his song “Drunk Girl” sends a clear message that it isn’t acceptable to take advantage of women and explains how to take care of someone who is intoxicated. Country music is about fostering a supportive and inclusive community, and its artists emphasize how people should learn to relate to each other and treat others with more respect.

One pervasive theme in country music is its emphasis on respect, kindness and commonality. On the surface, country music may seem to divide us into camps: those who listen and those who don’t. If you listen a little deeper, though, you’ll find that the genre speaks to common human experiences like love, loss, friendship, summertime and heartbreak. These topics convey aspects of humanity related to our connections to others rather than political affiliations. Kenny Chesney’s song “Get Along” calls for people to appreciate everyone, focus on living rather than hating and try to remember what we were taught in kindergarten. It is an example of how country music emphasizes what we have in common rather than what divides us.

Country music is an appreciation of a small-town lifestyle. Living in a small town is a different experience from living in a city. People take the time to pause and say hello. The air is fresher, the surroundings greener and there are fewer houses. It is likely that you’d pass more cows than people. Rodney Atkins’s song “Caught Up In The Country” captures what country life is like. His song emphasizes the commonality between people who share an appreciation for that type of lifestyle. Someone living on a ranch in Wyoming can relate to the lyrics just as much as someone who lives in a small town in Georgia.

In a way, country music speaks to a common experience that those who appreciate life outside of cities share, and what that lifestyle offers. This includes stunning sunsets, distance from the noise and pressures of city life and a slower pace of life. Anyone who values nature, hard work and community can appreciate the simple joys country music describes.

I am not saying that country needs to be everyone’s favorite genre, just that it isn’t fair for people to flat-out refuse to listen to it without first giving it a chance. Closing your ears to music is a missed opportunity to gain something valuable. Country music may not be your favorite music genre, but if you take the time to listen instead of changing the song, you may find that there is at least one song that you can relate to.

Mariel Rossi-Devries is an undeclared sophomore. She can be reached at