There is something about country music that brings us home. Maybe it’s the soothing voices and country twang. Maybe it’s the simplicity of a banjo that can make you tap your foot to a catchy country song. Maybe it’s even the southern gentlemen ideal that comes with every sweet word sung that gives us women hope. All of these traits bring me back to my Country I-Pod Playlist when I’m searching for something more, or something familiar. But looking back, I realize I found something greater in these songs that drew me to this genre. I found stories. I found stories about love, happiness, losing faith, gaining faith, memories, and future goals… stories about life. In times of trouble the singer found meaning in their life. In times of trouble, they helped me find meaning in mine.
Living in the South for over 17 years… my culture, my taste in foods, and every now and then even my accent is soaked with southern influence. But I was not always a country music fan. Sure, I’ve lived in the south the majority of my life, but my family heritage was as far away from sweet tea and grits as you can get. Being raised by a Hispanic mom and an anthropological dad, I wasn’t really sure where I fit in this Country Music City.
I remember riding in my friends’ cars and rolling my eyes as they turned the dial and the voices of Kenny Chesney and Reba McEntire rang out through the speakers. All I could hear back then was the crying of the steel guitar that, coupled with the sad, slow voices, made every song seem like the singer was complaining. I heard no meaning, I heard only repetition... Repetition of the instruments and melodies that didn’t move anything inside me except my gag reflexes.
As life would have it I never appreciated a country song until I traveled thousands of miles away from the Music City. While lying in a hammock by the Amazon River, wooden hut with a palm leaf roof blocking the shade of the intense sun, and the mighty rainforest hiding hundreds of chirping parrots and chattering monkeys, I was experiencing one of the most defining moments of my life. However, at the time all I could think about was being home. I was enduring intense culture shock. Depression overwhelmed me and I was lost in confusion, confronted with a different language, poverty, and culture. I could not grasp the Amazonians way of life because I, in fact, did not have a concrete way of life back home to relate to.
At what could have been the breaking point on my adventure in the Amazon jungle, one of my best friends sent me a playlist. When the first song started playing, all the chirping and chattering of the jungle drew silent for just a moment, and was overcome by the strumming banjo. I grew silent with the rest of the animals in the jungle and together we all learned just how Eric Church goes about “Livin’ Part Of Life”.
“Tomorrow I’m takin me fishing. Hang a sign on the door of my life. Tell the world that I’ve gone missing and I won’t be back for awhile.”
The more I listened to that playlist, the more comfort I found from it. I found a little piece of home in every song. I realized just how much the southern lifestyle, including country music, was a part of my life and who I am. I found something to relate to. And through that I began to relate to where I was, and appreciate the people who live there… who were not so unlike me as I thought. I truly realized this as I sat on the bank of the Amazon River with new Brazilian friends, water bottle in hand, fish line tied around the middle and a hook at the end… taking a break from life to sit down and go fishing.