Pretty quiet in country music, huh? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, country music has been anything but quiet. It all started last week at the 2015 Country Radio Seminar where Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton uttered the following infamous statement: “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” This has kicked off a giant shit storm in the world of country music. Right about the same time it became official popular Texas/Red Dirt country artist Aaron Watson had the #1 album in country music with his new release The Underdog. Watson doesn’t get played on mainstream country radio and yet here he was with the #1 album in country music. This created the “perfect storm.” This led to Watson’s interview with Trigger at Saving Country Music and Watson said the following in response to Overton: “My name is Aaron Watson. I’m not played on country radio. And I have the #1 record in country music this week. I do exist.”
Grady Smith of The Guardian (an excellent country music journalist I highly recommend reading) then posted an article pointing out how Watson’s success proves Overton wrong. It’s a great article and that is completely spot on. This appeared to be the end of it, but really it was just the beginning. This article prompted country radio shock jock/talk show television wannabe Bobby Bones to post a lengthy letter on his Facebook page. It has since been taken down, but luckily Trigger at Saving Country Music transcribed it here. Bones, as in most of his rants, is off-base and has no idea what the hell he’s talking about. I think he forgets that he’s just a talking head paid to parrot the company line. They definitely don’t pay him to think.
Of course it doesn’t end there with Bones. Aaron Watson, being the nice guy that he is, went to Bones’ studio to patch things up. But Bones refused to let him in the building because apparently Watson called one of his assistants sweetheart and this was considered sexist by Bones. This is despite the fact that Bones whores himself out as a spokesperson for bro country artists on his show, who use actual sexist and offensive terms in their music. I see nothing wrong with calling a woman a sweetheart, as long as it’s not said in an offensive way because the term itself is not offensive. According to pretty much everyone who has met Watson, they all reaffirm that he’s not a sexist pig. I’ll trust them over a shock jock. Bones eventually accepted Watson’s apology (which wasn’t necessary) after he extorted $1,000 out of Watson for Bones’ charity.
This caused many Texas country fans, artists and outlets to take to social media to respond. The most notable response of course was by Texas country artist Charlie Robison, who posted a scathing takedown of Overton, Bones and Nashville:
Then there’s the move that took this feud from an industry level to a mainstream level. Florida Georgia Line, of all mainstream country artists, came to the defense of Overton by posting the following tweets:
Robison then made the most appropriate response:
Now many Texas country artists are using the phrase “I exist” as a rallying cry and country music fans are taking sides. Really all that’s needed is a match to light all of the powder that’s just been laid in the last week. It’s a lot to take in and I’ve been thinking about it as I’ve watched all of this happen in the last week. Well is country music heading into civil war? I want to say yes, but these situations have happened often in the last five years. So for now I say no, however I think this should be the moment that sends country music into a war against itself.
I think is inevitable and quite frankly this is exactly what country music needs. To me this reinforces the idea of splitting country music. Take a look at mainstream country music in the last few years. It has progressively gotten less country each year when everyone thought it possibly couldn’t get any worse. First it was more pop influences. Then rap influences, followed by EDM. Now it’s just straight pop, EDM. Sam Hunt is the most popular country music artist right now and there’s not a damn thing country about his music. All the while the independent country scene has become louder and more prominent in the minds of country music fans. There’s no greater example of this than Sturgill Simpson, who went from obscurity to a major label quicker than anyone ever anticipated.
More people are realizing they can find alternatives to the music played on the radio through the Internet. They’re realizing they don’t have to listen to what executives are shoving down their throats and marketing as “country.” The listeners have a voice and the call for more traditional country music on radio is getting louder with each passing month. Texas and independent country artists know they’re worthy of being on radio and are tired of being passed over when they know they have plenty of fan support. Mainstream acts like Florida Georgia Line don’t want to lose their spot at the top, even though it’s inevitable that they’re just a fad band. Country radio sits in-between this cross fire hoping to appease both sides.
In-fighting in country music is what’s needed to heal the genre because it’s clearly broke. The creativity well in Nashville is drying up, as evident by all of the average music that Derek and myself have been reviewing lately. Female artists continue to struggle for radio play. Bro country is a dead concept. Streaming continues to hurt music sales and that’s causing division amongst artists too. Labels, artists, songwriters and fans all want more than what they have now and nobody wants to give an inch anymore. That’s really how we got to this spot in country music. Compromises were made and everything just snowballed from there. People have sat on their hands for too long and now it’s time for action to be taken.
Country music needs to face its problems head-on. It needs to force itself through a rough patch so to speak. I think many are afraid that may put it in a situation similar to rock music’s standing in the mainstream realm, but I don’t think that will ever be the case. Country music simply needs to find itself again and a little civil war might be what helps it find it’s identity again.
In the words of Dolly Parton: “I think country music is popular – has been popular and will always be popular because I think a lot of real people singing about a lot of real stuff about real people. And it’s simple enough for people to understand it. And we kind of roll with the punches.”
Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases
- Whitey Morgan will be releasing his new Kickstarter-funded album Sonic Ranch on May 19. As someone who got an early copy, I can tell you this is a great one you will need to check out. If you like honky-tonk style country, this one is for you. You’ll see my review on this in a few months.
- Tyler Farr announced he will be releasing his sophomore album on April 28. It will be called Suffer In Peace. The lead single from it, “A Guy Walks Into A Bar,” has been doing well on the charts. Hopefully his album will have similar songs and be nothing like the crap that was “Redneck Crazy.”
- Maddie & Tae announced they will be releasing their debut album Start Here on June 2. This one should be intriguing, as this duo was one of the hot topics of country music in the last year.
- Corb Lund wrote the following message via Twitter last week: “cutting a new record in april. writing feverishly. 11th hour. it’s not as easy as it looks on the television. psychologically hellish. erg.” So expect a new Lund album later this year.
- Kacey Musgraves is releasing her lead single from her second album on March 17. I’ve heard mixed reviews on this and still need to give it a good listen before forming an opinion on it.
Throwback Thursday Song
George Strait & Alan Jackson – “Murder on Music Row” Hey it was only appropriate this song was chosen this week. Who doesn’t like this song?
My Non-Country Song of the Week
Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud” – I’m surprised I haven’t bothered to listened to Ed Sheeran sooner, who by the way is a noted country music fan (actual country music). I’m hoping to listen to his album X released last year soon, as I’ve heard countless recommendations from people.
Tweet of the Week
Damn. Jason Isbell wins Twitter for the week again.
An iTunes Review That Will Make You Face Palm
This was left under Cole Swindell’s Down Home Sessions EP he released last year. And it features crawfish sex!
That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments!