What is Country Music, Anyway?

For my final project in this Survey of Contemporary Bluegrass class, I have decided to look in to some of the ways that country music has changed over the years and how this change has effected consumers of the music, musicians, and educators (specifically in this BLUE program). I have researched many topics including things like style meshing in the genre and technological advances.

My interviewee for this project was Will MacMorran.  He is a former music student, current educational teacher in the BLUE program, and a current country musician touring with artist Dakota Bradley.  We discussed the meshing of styles as a marketing technique to bring two or more genres together.  He was knowledgeable in the combination style of rap and country that he referred to as “bro-country”.  MacMorran says that this is what the style is called in Nashville and has been used in a way to bring rap fans over to country and vice versa.  He has worked in studios, around songwriters, and been somewhat(very little) musically involved with this bro-country.

Not only have I researched style meshing but technology and lifestyle changes as well.  Will MacMorran said that today’s country is somewhat different than it’s roots because today’s performers may not face as many “trials and tribulations”.  We also discussed how technology has changed in ways to where one can sit down in his or her own home and record themselves without going to the studio.  The internet is a huge change as well.  This allows people even more freedom in what kind of music they hear and how they perceive music and musical styles.

The big question I discuss in this paper that has been discussed in class is the question of authenticity.  When I asked Will MacMorran if he would consider today’s country music as authentic he said it was “hard to say…it’s totally different than how it was originally intended to be.”  He labels today’s country as the new pop music.  I would categorize today’s country music as Credible in Current Context as Peterson describes.  Peterson also says in his book that “there is nothing synthetic about country music…country music is not manufactured but bred by years of living and feeling a situation…”  Even Will MacMorran describes country music as this “chameleon genre”.

MacMorran also emphasized the need to recognize this newly formed country music – especially if one has dreams to become a Nashville “star” in today’s industry.  He emphasized the need to learn these new country songs and complex chord changes in order to better prepare oneself for that life.  However, he also agrees that it is very important to know the tradition and history of country music that one is studying and performing.  The struggle he says is finding that balance.

So are the changes in country music a good thing or a bad thing?  This is what I’m exploring.  Will said something that I found very interesting in that “country music has meant different things to different people in different decades”.  I believe that this is very true.  Country music means different things to different people depending on their lifestyle, experiences, and music they are exposed to through family or media.

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