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Nashville / California

LIFE AS IT UNFOLDS… BY COUNTRY MUSIC SONG WRITER ELVIS NASH

Whatever Happened to Traditional Country?

What’s your favorite country music radio station? Whatever it is, the odds are good that you listen to it a lot, and thus you hear a lot of modern country music. You hear Luke Combs, short-haired Blake Shelton, Kelsey Ballerini, and other modern pop-country stars. Though have you ever noticed that these are the songs that play when the radio is playing the top-20 hits, but you never hear them when people call in to request a song? When people call in to request a song, they’re picking George Jones, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. They’re opting for George Strait, not Florida Georgia line. Not that there’s anything wrong with modern music, especially if you’re a songwriter trying to become a hit country music songwriter. But we all know traditional country is the superior genre.

It might not be what record execs are after today, but who really cares about that when it comes time to listen to music? Sure, when you’re writing a song, and really hoping it’s a hit country song, you’re going to want to follow that template. Add your furniture to the verse, have a catchy chorus that you get to quickly, and keep the song short and sweet. Don’t get overly wordy or poetic with it, and make sure it’s something that people can relate to, as if it’s a regular conversation. Got it? Good. Now, put down your pen and just listen to some classic country!

Hypothetical situation. You get off work, you go home to kick your feet up, you crack open a beer, and you play some country music. What are you listening to? Do you have some fast, flashy song to play, or do you want some classic David Allan Coe? Hell, when you go to buy a country music t-shirt, are you getting one with a new artist on it, or are you going for those vintage country music t-shirts with your favorite artist? It’s a simple choice for most.

The music just meant more. Not to disparage modern country at all, but it just doesn’t have the soul that it used to have. Real life stories about drinking and cheating, love and loss, religion and death, and they’ve all been replaced by lines like “Oh, you make me wanna cruise.” There’s no comparison here. Sure, the latter is still country, but it just doesn’t hold a candle to country music written in that classic style.

The point of this piece is to remind you that record execs and money-hungry merchants who want to churn out fast music for a faster buck do not control your style or your tastes. If you want to be successful in writing in this genre, you’re likely going to have to adopt the mainstream attitudes about country music. But if all you want to do is enjoy music, then you know exactly where to turn. You’re cranking that classic country.

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