October is country music month — what better time to spread some love for a genre that’s adored by half the country and reviled by the other? Country music is a pretty standard life soundtrack if you live in the South or any rural area, but if you live in a city, especially a super liberal, quinoa-eating, Ralph Nader-voting, Arcade Fire-worshiping one (ahem, Portland), being a country fan can be pretty lonely. In fact, when I lived in Portland, I was convinced I hated country until a couple of my friends basically forced me to listen to it. Now I live in Nashville. Coincidence? Kind of. Mostly. But really, I love country music and am always excited and perhaps overly willing to convince other people to love it too. Wondering how to get your hipster friends on board the country train? Here are some tips…
1. Tell them Jack White lives in Nashville. Because he does, and hipsters are generally very enthusiastic about all of Jack White’s life choices.
2. Debunk some country myths. As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of people hate country music because they assume it’s just a bunch of middle-aged white guys bragging about their trucks and whining about their lost dogs. This is only, like, 65 percent true. Introduce your friends to the unexpected messages and surprisingly progressive voices in country music. Have them listen to Miranda Lambert’s “All Kinds Of Kinds”, which is basically “Just do you” in song form. Tell them that Loretta Lynn wrote a song called “The Pill” in 1975 that’s about how awesome birth control is. Tell them Brad Paisley wrote a song celebrating Barack Obama’s election (and then he wrote “Accidental Racist,” BUT he’s learning from his mistakes!). Send them the lyrics to Ashley Monroe’s “Weed Instead Of Roses.” Use every opportunity to remind them that a lot of their negative conceptions about country are not even true.
3. Make them a playlist tailored to their tastes. My friend Katelyn, for example, hates country and favors moody, alternative, female singer/songwriters. In preparation for her Nashville visit I made her a country-ish playlist full of songs by Alison Krauss, Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert, and the Dixie Chicks. Upon first listen she texted me and said, “I don’t not like it.” Hey, progress!
4. Force them to watch the video for “Chattahoochee.” Alan Jackson in ripped jeans, a neon life jacket, cowboy hat, and aviators is an inadvertent hipster God. Your friends will have no choice but to bow down.
5. Reel them in with classic country. Classic country is a completely different animal than modern country. Even the most avowed anti-country hipsters understand this, and are required to list Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard as some of their top musical influences in order to seem well-rounded and cool. Encourage them to use these artists as a jumping off point to explore classic country artists who don’t get quite as much mainstream love: Patty Loveless, George Jones, Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe, Buck Owens, etc. Pretty soon their “most played” iTunes list will be so full of country crooners that they won’t be able to deny their affections.
6. Tell them that country superstar Eric Church once played at Lollapalooza with Bon Iver. But maybe leave out the part where Eric called Bon Iver a pussy.
7. Introduce them to country artists with hipster-worthy beards. For example, this is Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band:
Doesn’t he look like the kind of dude who would show up at your house party with a bottle of organic homebrew and start a Van Morrison singalong on the patio? What a cool guy!
8. Remind them how uncool it is. No matter how much country music changes and evolves, it will always be proud of its roots as music for ordinary people. For this reason, the country genre is pretty much the definition of “mainstream.” Hipsters hate anything mainstream, but they also love things that everyone else hates. Use this confusing paradox as a selling point for country music. If your hipster friend really wants to go against the grain of their indie music-obsessed peers, they’ll show up at their neighborhood coffeeshop rocking a Jason Aldean concert t-shirt and humming the chorus of “Jesus Take The Wheel.” Country is so far from cool (at least in hipster circles) that getting really into it will instantly make them SO COOL. It’s confusing, but trust me, it will make perfect sense to them.
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