flashback to a few weeks ago -- my soon-to-be boss asks me if i like americana music. immediately i recount the alabama shakes show i saw a few weeks prior at forecastle. my eyebrows perk up with an i-got-this enthusiasm, right as he laments, “everyone that replied to my job posting talked about how much they love alabama shakes, but there’s so much more to americana than just that.”
my eyebrows sink back to their natural positioning as i compose a response, racking the music collection in my brain. what else is americana? does shakey graves count? is that the only other americana artist i know? what even is americana??
flash-forward a few weeks -- it’s a saturday morning & i’m listening to merle haggard.
i’m laughing along to merle haggard & willie nelson’s collaboration for the song + video “it’s all going to pot”. “A poet of the common man,” the New York Times’ obituary labeled him, & that rang true to me as i found myself relating to his timeless truths, that i had previously assumed could only make sense to my grandparents’ generation.
at our radio launch event, i was pleasantly surprised at will hoge’s appearance singing his song, “even if it breaks your heart.” remembering the times not so long ago that,
“Downtown is where I used to wander.
Old enough to get there but too young to get inside.
So I would stand out on the sidewalk,
Listen to the music playin' every Friday night,”
reflected the actualities of my too-young-to-go-to-the-basement moment, despite having already graduated college. remembering another experience the previous summer, getting turned down with a bad fake ID in NYC, not even wanting to drink, but yearning to get into the hip LES venue to shoot a friends’ show, i was surprised that this song that Music City Roots adopted as a bit of their own anthem, could reveal the sentiments of young people born decades apart.
realizing that if these music industry and radio veterans could appreciate a song that i blasted driving to 7/11 with friends in high school, maybe there was value to the older artists i had written off as before my time.
which brings me to the place i am right now. thinking i could come in and make the station and americana seem “cool” so young people will join the ranks of our fan base, but realizing that maybe my goal is instead to help the young people see that this music is inherently cool. we must instead adjust our perception to be open-minded to the value of these albums we may have found in our grandpa’s record collection or the dusty stacks of vinyls at thrift stores.
as my boss explained to me - these people taught jack white. they’re who inspired everyone from eddie vedder to ryan adams, even alabama shakes.
this isn’t just our grandpa’s music. and i’m overjoyed to be a part of a community that’s helping the rest of the world realize it.