Click the bullet after each quote to visit the source.
Some people who take life too seriously may not enjoy it as much as they should, but whatever happened to a song that feels good? ●
— Jerrod Niemann on Jake Owen’s “Real Life.”
It’s funny, because music is constantly evolving, so whatever someone calls country now, that wasn’t what country was even 20 or 30 years ago. For example, we look to George Strait as pretty traditional country, but I guarantee you that if Hank Williams had heard George Strait, he wouldn’t have thought it was straight-up country. Clearly it evolves and changes. ●
— Jerry Flowers, co-writer of Sam Hunt’s “House Party.”
No, I never listen to it, I have to be honest. Unless it’s by accident. When I do hear it by accident, it doesn’t relate to me at all, for the most part. There are some exceptions. I long for [artists like] Waylon Jennings. I don’t want to be the person who says “Country music has to be like this, and it can never change!” I came in [to country music] and I think I had something to do with changing it, Rodney did too, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, all changed things in a subtle way. Or maybe a bigger way. But it took a strange turn at some point. And maybe it’s when it got really popular, I don’t know. To where it doesn’t seem to be, as a friend of mine would have called it, “washed in the blood.” ●
— Emmylou Harris on mainstream country music.
But excellent songs have become the exception, while unfortunately the rule is becoming mediocre lyrics and musical production that has frequently driven me to change the radio station. Sometimes I can’t take listening to country radio for one more minute, and I have a feeling that I’m not alone. […] Those who expect more out of today’s country aren’t living in the past. We want the songwriters and artists to use today’s sensibilities to create music that is equal to their predecessors in quality and substance in whatever style they choose. ●
— The Tennessean’s Beverly Keel: “Country music experiencing a ‘crisis in quality.'”
I think there could be a little more diversity, at least in the subject matter. Someone said putting out ‘Wild Child’ was a huge risk. Since when is putting out a song that rhymes and touches people in different ways a risk? Five years ago that wouldn’t have been a huge risk. I do think it’s interesting that more females haven’t broken through [in country music]. I wish overall the songs were better and had more diversity. I don’t think I’m alone with that thought. ●
— Kenny Chesney on mainstream country music.
Let’s be clear here: [Luke] Bryan and [Jake] Owen are not victims of the music industry. They have better careers than 99.9% of musicians, and they can make the music they want to make, and I would hope they could stand by it confidently, not defensively. Thinking deeply about their artistic output does not make you a dick, and desiring substance in popular music does not mean you want stars exclusively singing about being strung out on drugs. Those are both unfair statements meant to reframe legitimate criticism as baseless, antagonistic chatter. ●
— The Guardian’s Grady Smith on bro defensiveness.
Montana, 17, said, “I don’t really feel totally safe. Not really. There are creepy dudes. They invite you to their trailers and give you alcohol.” Her friend Emily, 16, stated, “I feel safe at Craven. I’m an independent woman.” Both Montana and Emily then showed off bead necklaces they had earned by showing their breasts for a group of men. Shortly after, we encountered a campsite booth that read “Tits fer Fireball,” the idea being women show their breasts for a shot of whiskey. A dozen men jeered at passing women to expose themselves. When asked if their catcalls crossed any moral lines, Matt, a mouthpiece for the booth, said, “Everybody is in good spirits about this… It’s a thing that happens here.” ●
— From Noisey’s write-up of the Craven Country Jamboree in Saskatchewan. “It’s a thing that happens here” might be my least favorite justification for anything ever.
I’m not very interested in people whose lives resemble `Entourage.’ I don’t want to write songs about my agent. He’s probably got a hell of a story, but I’d rather write about people who hate their jobs but still get up and go to work everyday. ●
— Jason Isbell to the Wall Street Journal.
In a time obsessed with commoditizing Southern culture but ashamed by its past, no one captures this dichotomy as poignantly as Isbell does. He knows that the mythology on this side of the Mason-Dixon line is often one haunted with terrible ghosts, but he also understands that there are people still fighting small battles here daily: fighting to be heard, make rent, to stay sober. That Palmetto Rose might have thorns that sting, but Isbell can see that sometimes the person selling them might just be trying to put dinner on the table. ●
— Nashville Scene’s Marissa R. Moss on Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free.
The world believes a soul must suffer mightily to give birth to a good song, and to have a song ring with authenticity. But the great songwriters who’ve been able to sustain noteworthy careers through significant life events, sobriety, stylistic changes in themselves and in music at large, are the ones who can pick up on universally-resonant themes and communicate them in a way that mesmerizes with its simplicity. Everything else is simply a distraction to someone with an open line of communication with themselves. ●
— Saving Country Music’s Trigger on Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free.
Most of the time that turns into a train wreck — probably 90 percent of the time actually. ●
— Dale Watson on making up songs while performing.
People would come up and instead of asking for a song they would say, “Can you play a ‘tush push’ or a ‘slappin’ leather?’” I’d say, “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. If you can give me the name of a song. I’m a singer; I’m not a choreographer.” That’s when I realized I was going back to Texas. We dance in Texas, too. Somebody would say, “You got a two-step? You got a waltz?” I grew up with that and maybe I don’t find it offensive because it’s two people dancing together. Two people asking for a waltz – I’ve been used to that all of my life. But if they ever ask for a tush push or a slappin’ leather in Texas, they’ll have to move somewhere else. ●
— Dale Watson on why he left Southern California.
I feel like the 7th member of our band is unbridled joy. I really love unleashing it upon the audience. We have a lot of fun doing what we do and the thing is you’ve got to. When you play the style of music we play, you can’t fake fiddling. It just can’t be done. It’s such a physical relationship. It’s really hard not to do with a smile on your face honestly. ●
— Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor.
My life, and the people around me, I can influence and change. The world has become too big … That’s why people are looking at things that are smaller. People are growing their own food, making their own clothes. People are making their way toward local politics more so than ever because they realize that’s the only thing they can change. ●
— Pokey LaFarge on keeping it small-time sustainable.
I don’t think I could ever wear a sleeveless shirt and a chain on my wallet. I would feel silly, that’s all. I just couldn’t do it. But I’m proud of them. To put yourselves out there and open yourself up to all of the criticism that comes in this business, and then open your family up to all of that — it’s a meat grinder, and it’s a neat thing to see people succeed. ●
— Pat Green on Florida Georgia Line.
I think it’s funny that people thought I sold out. I’m like, ‘Nothing changed; I just got paid more.’ Certainly, there are times when you’re on a BNA or RCA [label] when they’re like, ‘We’ve gotta polish this up for radio.’ That’s the way it goes. But I think everything else sounded like what I would do, anyway. ●
— Pat Green on Pat Green. His new album, Home, will be out next month.
Maybe she’s singing all this “be yourself” stuff into the mirror. And maybe she hasn’t figured out who that self is just yet. Do we ever? ●
— Chris Richards with an interesting take on recurring themes in the Kacey Musgraves oeuvre.
I’ve got another good five years, probably. ●
— Tanya Tucker on her future in music.
All I do is play music (and) go fishing. What is there for me to retire from? ●
— Alan Jackson to The Tennessean’s Juli Thanki.
Most of my fans are between 30 and 40 year-old dudes and they are just excited to get to go to a show and this stuff is what reminds them of the older stuff they listen to. They’ll be up there screaming, ‘(expletive) pop country Whitey’ and that makes me laugh… ●
— Whitey Morgan on his fan base.
The first time I went to “Nashville,” I wound up in Nashville, Arkansas! I was hitchhiking, you know, and when I got there, I asked “Where’s everything happening at?” An old guy sitting in front of the courthouse, whittling, said, “You dumb shit! Nashville, Tennessee is on up the road.” I figured it out after a while (laughter). ●
— Billy Joe Shaver.
To me it’s starting to be a little more common. Kind of like with Aldean’s ‘Dirt Road Anthem’ song, written by Colton Brantley, that has both genres kind of mixing in. But you know, country lovers love rap, and rap lovers love country. ●
— One of the Moonshine Bandits on country-rap. I think he said “Colt and Brantley” and the interviewer was too uninterested to look it up. Supporting evidence: Befuddled interview questions like “How did you fall into country rap?” and “What is the appeal of your music and your shows?”
I’m not politically motivated at all. I’ve never felt like using whatever leverage I may or may not have because of my popularity with music to promote anything politically or religiously, or anything like that. I just always felt like that was just not the right thing to do.
I don’t know, there’s just something about this that’s different to me, and I don’t feel out of line sayin’ what I think about it. ●
— Don Williams in 1985, wielding his star power in support of… bringing back classic Coca Cola.
I love to see what’s going on in country music, and I think I’ve got the coolest thing in country music about to come out. ●
— Taylor Swift, introducing special guest Sam Hunt at a show in Chicago.
If you drive by the Union Pacific railroad on the way home, tell ’em I said, ‘(Expletive) you.’ ●
— Former railroad worker Sturgill Simpson, hollering over band at concert’s end.