A guest post on whether country singers are as "country" as their music.
Did you consider when looking at where they were born, most people living in small towns weren’t born there? My home town had about a thousand people and no hospital. I was born in a nearby, larger town with a hospital. Whether we sing country or not there may be fewer than 30% of us who grew up in small towns actually born there.
Great stats. However I think the official definition of small town probably is a bit low. If a country singer is from a town of 10k is he closer culturally to a small town as defined in the census, or a city dweller? I don’t know where the boundary for this exactly is but it’s probably higher than 5k. To me, below 2,500 is village territory.
So happy to have stumbled upon this! Absolutely fascinating. As someone from a small town (Danville, PA - population 4,200) who grew up listening to these artists, I think I always had some innate skepticism about whether they could actually relate to my experience. As I’ve gotten older and lived in Philly for years, though, my view of what defines a small town is less about population and more about lifestyle, culture/diversity, landscape, socioeconomics, etc. For example, my friend is from Altoona, PA which has a population of around 43k, and I still look at our upbringings as analogous. :) anyway... loved the piece!
I don’t think the trope of being from a small town has that much to do with actuality. My mom came from a rural village in Vietnam and definitely knew how to farm. Did she go around identifying as being from a small town? No. In fact she was adamant that people left farms for a reason -- that is, sustenance farming is really hard and unstable. Thus the trope of being from a small town has more to do with a particular form of identification rather than fact. In the Aldean instance it’s the question of what is he communicating with his audience to identify with. I find Tressie McMillan Cottom argument the most disturbing. She’s argued that country music is the last “race” music in America and what commercial Nashville country does is repeat the same tropes again and again to shore up that identity.
I was born in 1945 in a 10k town in mid OH and can plow a straight furrow.
I write country, blues, folk, Liberal political, pop, etc and have my tenth or so recording of my song Don't Cry Blue coming out as a single. See YouTube.
Some part of my personality is always apparent in my lyrics. I guess that might qualify me as real country. My Substack is still a baby and has no paywall.
Thanks for the info, I am very interested in all aspects of music creativity.
Thanks for the share! Was great to collab