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That’s one of the greatest tragedies in this stretch of life for me. Because I’ve been inspired as much or more by women artists, equally, than I have as men. So if there’s only a couple that are getting the opportunity to really knock it out of the park at radio, then you just go, ‘What about Patsy Cline/Kitty Wells/Tammy Wynette/Loretta Lynn?’
I could go on and on and on and on and name you about 50 great female artists. And I don’t know why that is. To me, they’re making much more… interesting records. They’re saying more things I’d prefer to hear, lyrically and song-wise, and that’s compelling. This Ashley Monroe kid, she writes songs like she’s 80 years old. It’s remarkable, and it’s not dumbing it down. It’s not going for the lowest common denominator. It’s so refreshing, you know? ●
— Vince Gill on the lack of radio support for female artists.
I think that as a storyteller, songwriter and as a woman, we need her. She’s waving the banner high for intelligent, beautifully crafted songs. ●
— Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild on Kacey Musgraves.
So when a woman who knows personally having been on the receiving end of bias opens up her paper and reads that some radio know it all says… 15% females… she THINKS… that’s wrong, that’s bias, and certainly sexist. Well she’d be wrong… but I understand EXACTLY why she thinks that. First the metric is so low. 50% would make sense to her. Heck 40% would be disappointing but she’d say… ok. But 15%… that can’t be right!!! Prima Facia… planet population statistics can’t square with that! But she’d be wrong. Mostly because she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. And that is that radio will do whatever optimizes audience and revenue. If 80% females garnered the highest ratings THAT’S WHAT WE WOULD PLAY. ●
— Keith Hill, still talking, in an open letter to CMT’s Leslie Fram.
And during a recording session, in country music, that [having a bar in the studio] doesn’t detract from anything. That just helps the experience, I think. It’s not like we’re doing intense, complicated jazz. You don’t need to be completely 100 percent present. It’s just country music, folks. ●
— Brad Paisley likes to keep it loose. Because it doesn’t matter much.
But these strategies only emphasize the fact that women, to be authentic, have to be clever about it, while men can be stupid—and that the stupidity itself serves as a kind of authenticity. Hill’s salad metaphor is so frustrating because it’s so self-fulfilling. Women aren’t seen as real country lettuce because country authenticity at the moment, at least on the charts, defined in large part by the performance of masculinity. To be normal, to be real, to be rural, to be unaffected on country radio, you don’t have to take a stand against sin or know the difference between Paris and Texas. You don’t even have to be talented or funny. You just have to be a guy who likes staring at women. Which is why women performers with talent and taste are sidelined, while bland male lettuce rules country radio. ●
— Noah Berlatsky on “The Marginalization of Women in Mainstream Country Music.”
I don’t want people to skip certain songs because one made them feel down or blue, or negative. Don’t get me wrong. I love sad songs as much as anyone, but I’m also a big fan of making lighter music. I just want everyone to be happy. ●
— Billy Currington on his cheery, unchallenging new album.
As far as what I said about this being a self-fulfilling prophecy…..it’s a fact that if female artists start out with this kind of discrimination (I can’t really think of a more appropriate word) then it’s harder to get record companies to take chances on signing and marketing a female artist. And songwriters need to make a living at the end of the day just like everyone else. They want and need hits. And if the percentage of female hits each year is as small as it is…well, then the chances of songwriters spending time writing great songs for women go way down. I know that the song finding process has been much different for me this time around (I start my new album this week) than it was last time around. There just aren’t a ton of great songs to choose from. ●
— Martina McBride, taking to Facebook to elaborate on previous comments.
I’m really glad Keith [Hill] made that statement, because we women of country music have been talking about and dealing with this for the past five to seven years, and I don’t really know what happened. As a female artist, we have seen it get harder and harder to get played on the radio — almost to the point that we feel that we have no genre anymore. They just will not play women. It’s so ridiculous. The reason I’m glad that Keith Hill made the statement is now we have a way to talk about it. It’s a touchy subject, because you don’t want to offend the people that you need to play your records. Since he brought it up, we can respond to it. ●
— Sara Evans on the upside to all the hullabaloo.
I don’t think he phrased what he was trying to say especially well. It did strike a little bit of a nerve. The best song wins, and some weeks that’s going to be tomatoes and some weeks it’s going be lettuce. ●
— In case you were hoping country radio might take SaladGate as an opportunity for self-reflection, here’s what the PD at a station averaging 9% female current/recurrent airplay got out of it.
There are a lot of uptight women. ●
— Keith Hill, to The Washington Post’s Emily Yahr, on what he learned from SaladGate.
It’s not a great time for women. When Lorrie [Morgan] and I came out, it was. But it’ll swing around. Miranda (Lambert) is championing other women and that’s a good sign. ●
— Pam Tillis.
I couldn’t be more excited to be living out my dream of hosting a late night talk show on CMT. There is no better home for my brand of comedy that most call ‘intelligently stupid.’ ●
— Josh Wolf, host of “The Josh Wolf Show.” Finally, something stupid on CMT!
Country radio is not country music.
Think about that. ●
— Yes, do take a moment. What passes for profound commentary at Taste of Country.
He’s easy to work with. It may seem [difficult], but I’ve studied him, and he really has a path, and he knows which side of the beat he’s going to land on. Once you realize what he’s doing, and he does it twice, you know where he’s going.
Some of the places where he comes in ahead of the beat, you just leave that alone, let him do that. You don’t try to put a harmony over it. That’s just Willie. ●
— Merle Haggard on singing with Willie Nelson.
It’s amazing how universally it’s accepted. It’s like it’s no big deal to the fans. It’s like they just hear good music, and when they hear good music, they want to go buy it. And if they like your voice, they’re going to buy it. And if they see you and you’re good, they’re going to come back again. The fans just want music. Ninety percent of the fans, all they care about is the music. So those are the people I’m trying to reach. Anybody that it matters to them, that the color of my skin makes them not want to listen to my music, I don’t want them to listen to my music anyway. ●
— Darius Rucker, African-American country star.
Country music is such an eclectic format with people from all walks of life, and other formats are kind of marrying in to the country demographic. Right now, country music is all about a great song, there’s not necessarily a particular sound. ●
— Kellie Pickler, seeming to back away from the traditionalism of her past couple albums.
Being invested in making country music better involves little more than committing to listen to better country music. Stop complaining about Bryan and fantasizing about Johnny Cash descending from the heavens on a ring of fire to save us all from Florida-Georgia Line, and find yourself some decent country music. ●
— From a fangirled-out Dallas Observer piece on Shelby Lynne.
I got hustled, straight up. I got distracted by these dudes in the bathroom. This guy has a flat board with three caps and a piece of paper under one of them. Everybody’s betting on where the piece of paper was. I had these hundreds in my pocket from bowling that afternoon, and was like ‘This looks like fun. I could easily win this game.’ ●
— How bright is Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard? He lost $700 betting on a (notoriously rigged) shell game. In a bathroom.
That said, [Chris] Young isn’t quite ready to swipe the gleaming smile off of Luke Bryan’s face or steal Blake Shelton’s chair on The Voice, and that’s all right. Those guys are as talented at being charming media personalities as they are musicians, and having a loose, showboat side really does matter in today’s country music stratosphere. Young doesn’t immediately excel at being this kind of professional celebrity, and that has actually worked in his favour. He has developed his craft below the radar, and built a foundation on music alone without the intense scrutiny or accolades of mainstream fame. While that may be a less than enticing approach for many aspiring artists, it has allowed Young to focus on quality first as he learned how to showcase his best asset: that incredible voice. ●
— The Guardian’s Grady Smith: “How Chris Young (not-so) suddenly became one of country’s biggest stars.”
I was always kind of fighting with the format. I got tired of that. I went to my lawyer and my money people, and I said, “If I live very modestly — I am not into things — and if I live the way I live right now, do I have enough money to just quit? And I’m serious about that. I mean quit.” And they said yes. I said, “OK, then I quit.” And that’s what I did. I quit having a No. 1 record the week before. Most people fade away, but I just quit. It wasn’t fun, and if this business is not fun, it is brutal. ●
— K.T. Oslin. Now she’s (sorta) back with Simply, her first album of new recordings in 15 years.
There’s a quiet diligence to country fandom. These are people who buy every copy of your record at Walmart and give them to their friends. It’s like spreading the gospel. These are people who wait out by the bus until two in the morning just to hand off baked goods that they spent all day making. And the expectation they have of you is, ‘Hey, keep making music.’ It’s a beautiful thing. ●
— Charlie Worsham, quoted in a Peter Cooper-penned story for Parade.
I’ve always stayed of the mindset, I’m the furthest thing from a big showman. I’m a musician. As a fan of music and as a fan of watching people live, what I love most is a great singer and a great song and a great musician. And jumping around and running around and screaming and any of that that they call being very showy and all that kind of stuff, it’s never entered my mind to be that. To me, my favorite people that I’ve always loved, whether it’s Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard or Emmylou (Harris), they just stand there and sing great songs, and the bands play their brains out. And that’s all I ever have tried to accomplish and never really gone that other way of going, ‘OK, how do I really put on a show?’ and all that. People know when they come to see me, it’s all just gonna be about music. ●
— Vince Gill on keeping it simple.
In the past, I’ve tried to use video production and other stuff sparingly and focus on the music and the band, but it’s called the Sounds of Summer Tour, and fireworks were a big part of my summers growing up — you know, explosives and putting half-sticks of dynamite in people’s mailboxes and lighting stuff on fire — so we thought pyro would be a cool thing for this tour. ●
— Dierks Bentley on making it more complicated.
Paisley performed for almost two hours, accompanied by eye-catching visuals on the giant video screens, a big-headed mascot version of the country star and a squirrel on a jet ski. (Just another day at a country music concert.) ●
— Brad Paisley, ever in search of new complications.
[In the music industry], they want young people who don’t have their own thought process, to sign whatever and do whatever to become a star. I just didn’t come from a place like that, I came from a family band. What they’re selling is a product, and that was my biggest disappointment in coming to Nashville — it’s a business and a product. For me, I take all those aspects of being an artist and having integrity and make that into my own product. ●
— Rhonda Vincent.
I think country music is something that’s meant to be messed around with. It’s not cultural preservation. It’s not the Gettysburg battlefield. It’s an art form. It’s supposed to shape shift and change with the times. It just so happens that culturally it’s a reflection of some pretty stale times. You leaf through USA Today and wonder why country is so milquetoast. It’s just a lot easier to get all your buddies together and go down to the beach and do Jell-O Shooters than it is to talk about Ferguson, Mo. and Baltimore, Maryland, bombs falling on Afghan villages.
Wouldn’t you rather just go to the beach with your friends, listen to Luke Bryan and get a tattoo of some animal on your bicep? Or barbed wire theme on your pecks? There’s a kind of healthy delusion to it. The stuff that’s going on is really severe. I don’t think that country music wants to watch the polar ice cap melt. It’s a honky tonk kind of thing. Jamboree. I can’t really blame it for wanting to sing a party song. ●
— Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor.