I hate country music. I find the twang, steel guitar, and nonsensical lyrics about God, beer, and tractors obnoxious. Yet, despite that, over the last month my music tastes have recently devolved from Mumford and Sons, to The Avett Brothers, to a Pandora station that is overrun with banjos and bands with names such as The Dead South and albums titled “Folk Songs of the American Longhair.” Occasionally, Johnny Cash makes an appearance.
Technically, there is a difference between country and what I’m listening to, but it’s not that big of a difference. This is not music I consider myself naturally drawn to, so I’m left trying to figure out why I’m listening exclusively to music with “bluegrass instrumentation” and “folk music influences,” (thanks for those nifty titles, Pandora).
I’m gonna blame Bonnie Jo Campbell.
For the fiction workshop I took this past spring, I had to read Campbell’s short story collection Mothers, Tell Your Daughters (which I highly recommend) and in doing so, ended up with working class, rural settings in my head. When I sat down to write a short story, what came out was riffs on my mom’s working class, rural childhood in the Arkansas delta, a theme and setting I’ve ended up stuck on for the past several months: crop-dusting, dry counties, cotton fields. Settings and theme well-accompanied by banjos and southern accents (not twang, there’s a difference).
Perhaps my writing has always influenced my music choices and it’s never been dramatic enough for me to notice before. Or maybe my one degree of removal from the things I’m writing currently, as opposed to the familiarity of my usual subjects, has driven my subconscious to crave the ‘authenticity’ of folk music. Whatever it is, I guess I’m stuck here for the immediate future, so I might as well enjoy it.