I hit my breaking point.
I’ve independently made a decent living in the Canadian music scene for the better part of the last ten years. Out of high school, I began writing music with the intent to sell. I read every publication I could get my hands on and found that the DIY mentality resonated. Write, record, hustle, repeat. The punk/metal/rock/indie communities championed the innovative, those who could boast sales and remain outside of the industry machine. When the industry came knocking, ‘on our terms’ was the mantra. This worked for many and crushed many more. For indie musicians, the disappointment of being ‘passed on’ wears on a creative mind and financial hopefulness. So one finds themself in a discussion of compromise. A dialogue between the gut and the ‘give a fuck’. “I’m willing to…”.
“I’m willing to sacrifice lyrics to be more accessible to a listening audience.”
“I’m willing to play the game to get to where I need to be, then I’ll be able to do what I want.”
“I’m willing to pander. I’m willing to beg. I’m willing to blow.”
The mainstream country music communities in both Canada and The United States capitalized off of this artistic compromise and fed it to the listening masses like a salty hot dog. Tell them it’s food but it’s nothing but lips and assholes. This isn’t even a discussion about production – a genre needs to evolve and have it’s sonic boundaries pushed. Buddy, Elvis, Waylon. This is a discussion about the acceptance of a lack of quality. Of soul.
The Canadian Country Music Awards is an industry event that I’ve been a part of. One I benefit from and like to attend. Sure there are still a few circle-jerk panels where a couple radio trackers are still hustling green artists by feeding them the perfect amount of bullshit based on their “professional opinions” and “personal relationships with program and music directors” but overall, it’s a gathering of friends and a welcoming to artists regardless of operating budgets. It’s expensive. By the time one factors in travel, accommodations, delegate passes, and the copious amount of booze the average attendee such as myself used to take in, it’s a $3000+ tab.
Three-thousand dollars. What I could do with 3G. The music I could discover. The country I could see.
Yesterday morning, what would have been Buddy Holly’s 80th birthday, I jumped in my van and peaced. I headed south. I’m writing this from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Reclaiming the spirit of America’s country music. Real country music. The artists, players, venues, and communities that had the conversation of compromise and said, fuck that. There is an essence and spirit that must to be represented, honoured, and cherished.
Country music can’t even be defined anymore it’s been manipulated so badly through a lack of quality. But there’s a spirit that’s alive and well.
United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stuart described his threshold test for obscenity (hardcore pornography) in Jacobellis v. Ohio as “I know it, when I see it”.
Real Country Music – I know it, when I see it.