“Gutted” was a good word. That’s the way singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters, she of “Independence Day” and “Chill of an Early Fall” and “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am,” described her feelings about the closure of The 9513 on Twitter yesterday.
Over the last 4.5 years, The 9513 had come to define the online country music space. Its reviews, interviews, and articles set the standard for intelligent discourse. Its news roundups, continued so faithfully for so long by Brody, created community where there had been only a mess of different country sites cranking out content in isolation. The comment section was always alive with discussion and debate, to an extent that sometimes became exhausting toward the end.
Speaking personally, my own involvement with The 9513 over the last 2.5 years has been one of the most thrilling experiences of my young life and career. When they asked me to become a contributor, I was amazed that they would have me. Despite feeling somewhat like the second cast of “Saved by the Bell” or like that nephew they brought in to replace Ron Howard toward the end of “Happy Days” — the writers to that point (Matt C., Jim Malec, and the Verchers themselves) had set such a high bar — I seriously considered shuttering this blog on the spot. After all, I was writing at The 9513. I could hardly believe it.
It didn’t help my inferiority complex much as they added great writers like Juli Thanki, Karlie Justus, Blake Boldt, Sam Gazdziak, Stephen Deusner, Ken Morton Jr., and all the rest, but I did my best to keep up and contribute where I could. When I expressed interest in trying my hand as an interviewer, they hooked me up not just with a phone appointment with Jesse Dayton, but also with the recorder I’d need to capture the conversation. The Verchers were, and are, a class act.
Country California survived, but mostly — to my own way of thinking, anyway — as a supplement rather than a ‘real’ blog in itself. What’s the difference? You could read only The 9513 and know almost everything you needed to know about what was going on in country music. Conversely, if Country California was the only blog you were reading, you were getting a (deliberately) skewed sense of current events. I’ve always assumed the reader’s familiarity with discussions happening elsewhere.
Which is why, with the closing of The 9513, there’s a gaping hole at the center of the online country music universe. Those “discussions elsewhere” are happening less and less, and without news roundups, there’s nobody tying them all together. I don’t think any single site will ever fill the void left by The 9513, but those of us remaining can do our best to move inward a bit and take on some of the varied roles it played.
As for me, I’m in no great hurry to pursue a regular gig anywhere else. What made writing for The 9513 so worthwhile was that it was actually and legitimately a site I loved, whether I was contributing to it or not. At present, there aren’t any other sites I feel that same way about.
That leaves Country California as my main focus again, which could be kind of nice. I’ll do my best to keep you up-to-date on all the good music that’s coming out. (In fact, I’ve got a behemoth of a “Prime Cuts: April” in progress as we speak.) I’ll link out more to show you where some of the best online coverage and discussion of country music is happening. We’ll keep the Quotable Country and Fake News rolling (with special thanks to Trailer for all his work on the latter this past month).
The 9513 might be over, but country music blogging isn’t. Let’s all do our best to carry the legacy forward.