Saturday, October 02, 2010

What I Said In St Vincent

Travel is one of my favorite parts of this terrific gig and yet the weekend exceeded even my expectations. At CRS in Nashville, I met two guys in the exhibits area who told me that they were starting a new organization, The Caribbean Country Music Association with the hope of getting members on every island nation to work together to promote the growth of country music in the area. They came from a radio station, to my knowledge one of only two in the entire Caribbean to play country music full time (if you know of any others, let me know!) and they invited me to come to their official opening ceremonies as a guest speaker. Go and promote country music? In the Caribbean? You bet! So, there I was Friday morning, extremely impressed with the people undertaking this task at the kickoff festivities which started with a formal affair and ended with an outdoor dance and party under the stars including karaoke and a live band (“The Country Relatives” from nearby Bequia Island).

It’s hard to believe it now, but CMA was started in 1958 with just 233 original members and was the very first trade group to promote a music genre.

Country music flourishes today as America’s #1 music format on radio according to the new ARB “Radio Today,” report and does very well all across Canada, Australia, Scandinavia and continues to grow in the U.K., Ireland and New Zealand, all of which have their own national Country Music member organizations now.

Johnny Cash was "fired" (according to legend) from the Grand Ole Opry because he wanted to use horns in his band, Garth Brooks was also told that he wasn’t country as he started to mash his Oklahoma cowboy roots with his love for KISS and other hair bands. Now, as Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney routinely use steel pans and drums in their music, no one seems to even bother to ask if that’s “country” enough or not!

For me, country requires only these elements: authenticity, talented performers who write their own stories in song, playing their own instruments and incorporating humor, gospel influences, partying, family values and rebelliousness, genuine human relationship joys and pains in universally-relatable ways that speak to emotions in words its fans find say what they’d like to say in simple, clear melodies and lyrics.

Both artists and the fans feel a direct connection to one another in ways no other musical art form seems to possess to the same degree.

Core values of truth, no hype, real not an ideal, understanding and treating people with dignity, like individuals, empowering them so that they feel a sense of ownership and loyalty which connects us all with an attitude of faith, hope and charity.

They all, fans and creative talent alike, take pride in their plain and simple roots. They work hard to make life better for their children and families. Belief in a Higher Power is a part, as is engagement in their local community as well as civic as well as national pride which takes different forms and words in each country where it exists, but seems to exist everywhere, as country music fans want “their” music to reflect their values. (including, of course, "cryin', lovin', partyin' and leavin'" too!)

That is why it’s so easy to be proud to be a member of THIS “Country Club.”

Country is the "REAL" thing (pardon me, Coca Cola!)

Sony Music uses two words as their company position statement: “Make Believe,” and I read that as encouraging us all to make our own unique brand of country and then believe in its power and strength to connect us all together in common humanity.

1 comment:

steveharmonious said...

I would imagine St. Vinnie will now be overwhelmed with record reps wanting to bring their acts to that lil island to "promote country." Jaye, this is your best gig EVER! Woner if they will let me visit to promote my bicycling club! harmonious