Why I listen to Country

There’s no reason on earth why I should listen to country music. I’m British, grew up in London and live in New York. I dislike music that panders to god or shallow patriotism and country music often does that in the same sentence. It frustrates me when people make a virtue of ignorance (‘a little bit backwards here in the back woods, who cares as long as it feels good’), and a constant harking back to the ‘good ole days’ suggests a strong antipathy towards progress that sits uncomfortably with the tech entrepreneur side of me.

But I love country. And not just the old-timey blue-grass country that might win me some level of acceptance among my New York hipster friends but full-on Sugarland, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert country. And I find myself echoing the cries of my co-workers when they’ve come in early in the morning to finger-picking guitar and words pronounced with more vowels than they contain and ask myself ‘why, Tony why?’

I think there are two reasons. In country music, when they aren’t talking about a ‘hottie with a smoking little body’ they often deal with themes not so much of young love but of long-term partnerships, a subject that has been much on my mind over the last year or two. There’s far greater reference to love being about building a life together with all the difficulty and decisions that requires than the emotion-dependence of some other genres. Here’s a verse from Terri Clark’s ‘I Just Wanna be Mad’:

Last night we went to bed not talking
Cause we already said to much
I face the wall you faced the window
Bound and determined not to touch

We’ve been married 7 years now
Some days it feels like 21
I’m still mad at you this morning
Coffee’s ready if you want some

I love that last line for everything that it says about long-term relationships, the acknowledgement that no matter how angry or hurt she might be, she’s in it for the long haul and she acknowledges what that entails.

The second reason is far more personal. Country Music is probably the only major musical genre that I had almost no exposure to until recently. I’d never listened to a country song until I met a Pennsylvania girl who, despite my complaints, would play it constantly. I subsequently moved in with that girl and recently, in a triumph of persuasion over her better judgement, married her.

She introduced me to country, and without her I have no frame of reference for the music. Whenever I hear country, I don’t have a thousand different memories of people or places from my past competing in my mind, I only have her. Every country song is our song, because they are all indelibly associated with her. Every time some guy in an over-sized hat sings about love, or family, or a life together, to me he is singing about her, about us. When we’re apart, I can conjure her through my iPod and feel joy, when a country song comes on in a shop I am immediately reminded of her and how truly inexplicably lucky I am to have found the woman who is now my wife and my life. That, more than anything, is why I listen to country.

8 responses to “Why I listen to Country”

  1. I also have an inexplicable weakness for country, though there is definitely a lot of garbage out there 🙂

    Funny thing is, though I grew up in a city and never listened to country, and my wife is from a small town and grew up on it, I love the stuff and she can barely stand it.

  2. I love country too and not simply for the narratives that, unlike most pop music, aren’t a complete affectation pandering to the primal emotions of teenagers. The songcraft in terms of musicianship is superb. I’ll put the average Nashville musician up against anybody – those guys can play all styles well because they are journeymen, blue collar artists who do it 40 hours a week like clockwork, then play at night for fun. No bottles and models, just family and music.

  3. This is rather strange. I recently exchanged some emails with Maya and then interviewed her out at the farm for a story I am writing. On the top of my gmail page tonight, a link appeared to Tony Haile’s blog, preceded by “Maya =awesome…and from there, I clicked on a marriage link (at this point I had no idea who Tony was married to or who he was) and saw pictures of their wedding at the Rodale farm, which were posted on the photographer’s site. Why did Tony’s blog come up as an “ad?” lost in cyberspace..

  4. Hi Maggie!

    That google ad was a little sleeper surprise I set for Maya. I knew one day she would google herself and then see a little message from me at the top that would hopefully brighten her day.

    It’s just a geek like me trying to find a new way to tell a girl that I like her 🙂


  5. It has been a long, long time since we met (and have talked) … although I thought you were a great guy back then, I am completely in awe of the man you have become. *Intentionally* become. Kudos to you Tony, and much love to you, your bride, and your folks. XO Betsy (PS I’m a little bit country, too)