Jun
12

Saving Country Music Answers Its Critics

June 12, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  35 Comments

(This is  the second installment in a series of “house cleaning” articles that is being published to establish and clarify certain things about Saving Country Music, and is not necessarily meant for entertainment purposes, though obviously reading and commenting is still encouraged.)

There are many fair criticisms that I, The Triggerman, and by extension Saving Country Music are susceptible to. For example I will lose my temper from time to time, and may even say stupid stuff because of it. I probably take music too seriously because of my passion for the art form. I also have a tendency to slip into these weird patterns where no matter how hard I try to edit myself, I make gross grammatical errors and typos.

However other criticisms, many based on assumptions, are completely unfounded. Yet to be fair to the folks that may be making these accusations, I understand that I and this website are polarizing entities and so this comes with the territory. So to answer some of these criticisms, I’ve put together some explanations of SCM’s most common criticisms in a forum that can be linked to in the future to answer them as they pop up on the internet as opposed to having to answer them individually.

Assumptions

Since starting SCM, nothing has been more curious and maddening than the incessant assumptions made about me and my intentions. Let me state this as simply as I can, and with as much emphasis as possible: there has never been an assumption made about me that has been correct. Ever, at all, about anything. All assumptions about me and my motivations and intentions are false. It is not necessarily because the people making the assumptions are stupid, it’s more that I live such an unusual life outside of all norms and regular patterns that I do not fit in any common archetypal mold.

I am the most unusual person you would ever meet, not because I have sleeves of tattoos and purple hair, but because I purposely live my life out of the regular, well-worn patterns of human behavior. I don’t think living a life like this makes me special or better than anyone else, but it does make me different, and virtually impossible to pigeon-hole.

Adding to the assumptions is the fact that even though I may own and operate a public website, I am a fiercely private person. It doesn’t mean I hide myself. I am willing to meet people and volunteer personal information when it is germane to a situation, but as much as detractors love to characterize SCM as being all about my ego, I try to make it be as less about me as absolutely possible, and that is why pictures of me, personal anecdotes, etc., are kept to a bare minimum.

You Cannot Criticize Music Because You’re Not A Musician/Don’t Write Songs/Never Toured

SCM is built on the maxim that everyone has a right to an opinion about music, not just me, but my readers, and anyone who listens to music. Honest criticism is not done with the intention of tearing down other people’s pursuits, but to create an environment of discovery in a world glutted with choices. Similar criticisms come up with critics and writers of sports, politics, movies, food, etc., and it is just as invalid. Can someone not criticize a sports team unless they played professionally? Can someone not vote for the President unless they’ve been President before? Criticism is a way for fans to engage with art.

Of course, the other ironic part about criticizing me for not being a musician is that it is based on an incorrect assumption. So even if you truly believe a critic cannot criticize without himself being a participant in whatever he’s criticizing, this is still a criticism that not germane to SCM. However, since the SCM Charter states, “never use (the site) for self-promotion of you…including for personal music, creative, or business endeavors aside from specific ones related to the site,” I am not going to be drawn offside into the realm of self-promotion just to battle some whiner who says I don’t have a right to criticize music. The only time you may see mention of my personal music on the site is if it is somehow an extension of the site itself, of which there are examples of.

The simple fact is yes, I’ve played music in a professional forum, I’ve toured, played in front of crowds of 2,500 people, written songs, and have an understanding of music and the music business from an artist’s perspective that I can employ within my criticism. Having said that, if I was a better musician than a writer, I probably would be spending more time playing than writing.

And one of my big music theories is that there’s too much music right now, too many artists out there diluting attention from the best and brightest, and so is that what we need, yet another musician out there running around the country in a van with an upright bass player? No, instead it was my belief when starting this website that someone needed to help folks sift through the din of parody so they can have a more fulfilling musical experience.

All that said, I still don’t believe that just because I have a musical past means my opinions about music are more valid than anyone elses. They are simply my opinions, and it is also worth pointing out that musical criticism is just one part of what SCM does.

None of the Artists You Cover Like You / Nobody Likes You

If that’s the case, I say good! Perfect! I didn’t start SCM to make a bunch of friends and fit into a scene. SCM isn’t a popularity contest. It isn’t a fan zine. I’ve got plenty of friends, and if I want one more, I’ll get a dog. In fact I prefer to not have close relationships with artists or other music entities because this may impede my impartiality. In fact I think I prefer they hate me, then I feel no obligation but to be as honest as I can about their music, which is what my readers expect.

It is a sign of respect to give an artist the same professional, honest criticism the big franchise artists receive from major periodicals. I’d rather run the risk of being too critical then coming across as a patsy for any artist or scene. This is a key helping proliferate the music amongst people unfamiliar with these scenes or artists.

As for people saying nobody likes me, make no mistake, I am completely aware that I am a polarizing figure and am easy to hate. I am perfectly fine with that. I don’t care about what people think about me personally, I care about being effective. Let history judge the rest.

You’re Not Saving Country Music

Savingcountrymusic.com is just a website, and I am just a blogger. Nowhere will you find where I have anointed myself country music’s savior, or said where I am saving country music personally. Nor will you find anywhere where I’ve said that I am better than anyone else, or my opinions count more than any others. The people who are saving country music are the artists that SCM attempts to promote, while lampooning and holding accountable the artists and entities that are counter-productive to country music’s values. Where the SCM community comes in is in making judgements between the two. That is why it is important to have a vibrant community that encourages criticism and dialog. There is a reason you see more comments and discussions on this site than most. Many times the coverage on SCM is not dictated by my personal tastes, but the desires of the SCM community.

Saving Country Music Has Sold Out/Changed

This criticism began mere weeks after the website was started. It’s a wonder I still am able to sell out when I already did so years ago and multiple times since. Yes, SCM has changed over the years. It has matured and evolved, and I am proud of that. It has also branched out to attempt to cover more music and different perspectives. That doesn’t mean this has been to the detriment of SCM’s roots; on the contrary. Yes, SCM now attempts to cover more Americana, Red Dirt, blues music, and mainstream music than it did at the beginning, but I still run just as many stories about underground country and roots artists as I did before, it’s just now the website publishes more articles, from an average of 3 a week when it first started, to now over double that per week.

I refuse to preach to a choir. I am never offended when somebody does not want to read one of my articles because it is something they are not interested in. The site is not intended to micro-serve any specific scene, it is intended to spread what it considers good music by offering broad coverage of the independent and mainstream music worlds to attempt to broaden musical perspectives. If someone who only loves and listens to underground country music likes all of my articles, then I have failed because my focus is too narrow. I want to seek out the people who would love underground country if only they were exposed to it.

It’s Easy To Hide Behind A Computer Screen

I have found very little of this job to be easy. The sacrifices I have made to keep this website going have been enormous. A governor I put on everything I write is if I would be willing to say the things to someone face to face. If not, I don’t print it. To run a website, you have to spend time behind a computer, but I spend lots of time and money out in the field, traversing the country attending Summer festivals, live events throughout the year, and I never go incognito, and am willing and open to meeting people.

While operating SCM I have received multiple death threats, have had artists write negative songs about me, had artists call me out on stages live, and have had people spread lies about me calling private investigators on artists, insulting people’s dead relatives, and even for using SCM to promote child molestation. As one who criticizes music, I can comfortably say the criticism I receive is on par, if not greater than what musicians face for example, if not in greater measure because SCM’s audience measures in the thousands on an everyday basis. But I am not complaining. I embrace all this criticism, and in some ways I love it, even the erroneous stuff, and turn around and use it all as motivation.

35 Comments to “Saving Country Music Answers Its Critics”

  • Best line in Almost Famous…

    Never make friends with the rockstars.

       4 likes

    • I thought it was, “We are not Groupies. Groupies sleep with rockstars because they want to be near someone famous. We are here because of the music, we inspire the music. We are Band Aids.”

      No?

      ;)

         0 likes

      • I can’t get any of them to sell with me so I guess so…dang it. :)

           0 likes

  • [...] He won’t acknowledge me even though I link him everyday, but I feel him on this one…I ha… [...]

       1 likes

  • I feel like you call em as you hear them and I applaud you fore that.

       3 likes

  • Thanks for posting this. For what it’s worth, I think this site offers among the best, if not the best, writing on music that I’ve found anywhere. I don’t always agree with you – though I often do – but love the site and will continue to keep coming back and telling my few friends who care about country music about it as well. Thanks for all the time and care that you put into it, much of which undoubtedly goes unrewarded, and keep doing what you do!

       4 likes

  • Kudos to you sir. I love the controversy surrounding people who openly and honestly speak their opinion and get criticized by others who simply do not agree with that opinion. “you hide behind a computer” well how many of those people that bashed you have done it face to face? Everyone has a right to speak their mind, but no one should be attacked for doing so.

       1 likes

  • Mr. Triggerman: You’re a critic, and a pretty good one. You really have no need to defend yourself for opinions you hold about music. I mean, it’s music; on a certain level it is a subjective experience. It’s not actually something that is that important in the grand scheme of things, but it is something many of us feel passionate about. Of course people are going to disagree. Big deal.

    To be a bit coarse, a good critic is an effective shit filter. You keep fools like me from listening to much more crap by filtering it out a bit for us. As readers, we each have our own shit filter as well, some more developed than others, and your citiques get feed through our personal shit filters. I suspect some of your critics don’t have very well developed shit filters or they would understand this process.

    I’m a bit of an outsider on this board, and likely have broader musical interests than many of your readers. I don’t exclusively listen to country; lately I’ve been grooving to Indonesian Heavy Metal (seriously). I don’t even think 5% of what I listen to is country. I’m using you to filter out stuff, and so far you’re fine. I haven’t agreed with quite a bit of what you’ve said, and some of the popular country artists you reference I don’t have any interest in listening to. The alarm on my shit filter goes off when you discuss Blake Shelton or Taylor Swift. They might be okay to some, but I’m fairly certain they’re outside of my taste.

    The critics of the critics will always be around. I suggest you ignore them, and continue to develop your critical facilities. They’ll always complain if you don’t love their favorite bands or if you don’t fit in some preconceived critical box they want you to fit in. Again, I don’t think one’s ability or inability to play music makes you a better or worse music critic. Your ears do.

    Good luck, and thanks for the blog again.

       5 likes

  • I wish I remember how I had come across your website originally, because I would love nothing more than to have more blogs like yours to follow. I thank you for introducing me to new music, good and bad, and broadening my perspective and tastein the American music scene. Even more so, I thank you for the cultural criticism that you offer. Reading your blog, I have a better idea of what is a “sane” way of filter, processing, and deciding for myself which cultural products are worth pursuing and why, both on a personal and on a larger, social level. I am grateful to you for sharing your “insider tips,” and look forward to many more laughs and thought-provoking articles.

    The banner quote for the website reminds me of Jane Jacobs’s “Dark Ages Ahead.” In the preface, she uses the example of folk traditions and work songs as the connection between people, both geographically and temporally, and I think you would like it, if you had the time for leisure reading.

    Thanks again, for everything.

       1 likes

  • Thanks to everyone for the kind words! I honestly wasn’t fishing for comments with this, just wanted to set some things straight.

    Thank you!

       0 likes

  • I would like to argue that consumer has more power to save country music than the artist. Its all about the benjamins. Crap like Colt Ford doesn’t tour if we don’t pay just like real country music like Hank3 doesn’t tour if we don’t pay. When enough of the masses stops paying for the junk that music row is putting out and starts paying for more of the artist that this site promotes than country music can be saved.

       2 likes

    • Fair point.

         0 likes

    • Yeah!

      ….but the masses need someone, or something to open their eyes to what they could be paying for as an alternative to what they pay for now!

         0 likes

  • Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate your blog that guides me and inspires me for my radio show, my music and my attitude.
    There’s enough crap in our “pop” society so you can write on for many years.
    Best regards from Europe,

    St.

       1 likes

  • I believe it was President Clinton who said, “Criticism should never be taken personally, but it should always be taken seriously.” This, like many things in life, is easy to say and hard to achieve.

    One thing that I love about this site is the evolution over time. The quality of writing has improved immensely since the beginning. To me, it is more interesting watching something like this evolve than reading Pitchfork any day. Sure there are style and grammar issues that might be fixed by an editor, but you could say that about 99% of the websites in existence.

    Keep being true to the process of critical thinking about country music, watch the prepositions at the end of sentences, don’t take criticisms personally, and keep doing what you do. Many of us truly appreciate it.

       1 likes

  • i think i stumbled upon your work back in the day when myspace was still relevant and flying high. i’ve always found you to be an honest and very interesting critic. we may not always agree but who cares? certainly not me. damn the naysayers, full speed ahead. keep up the good work.

       1 likes

  • The thing I have an issue with is saying no assumption about you has never been right. Surely someone has had some assumption about you that is true. I assume you are in your 30s, I assume you at one time listened to metal/hardcore or punk, I also assume you live in Texas. I have no idea if any of those are true, but would be very surprised if I was wrong.

    In all seriousness though, I liked how you addressed this. Instead of hiding, you made a post commenting on all the criticism. I also learned that the name comes from the artists you cover, and not you yourself. It really made perfect sense and while I never had an issue with you thinking you were saving it, to look at it as the artists you over as saving it makes it even more powerful.

       1 likes

    • I may have been using a little dramatics to belabor the point on assumptions. But about your specific assumptions, I think I’ve mentioned numerous times I’m in my 30′s, so they may not be an assumption, but something you picked up on. Same could probably be said about living in Texas, though I have spent the majority of the time of SCM’s existence living in Oregon, and started the site while living in New Mexico. I got in an argument with someone at Muddy Roots who insisted I was originally from Oregon. It’s always fun when someone thinks they know more about you than you know about yourself. I also got called out along with Muddy Roots a few weeks back for having a myopic focus on the Texas music scene because I live out here, but in truth I am much more plugged in with the doings in Nashville than Texas.

      I have never listened to metal music, with the exception being maybe a Master of Puppets phase in high school or something, and though I do enjoy some punk music, I was never in a punk “scene” or would even consider it was the major thing I was listening to at any given point in my life. I’ve always listened to punk music from the outside looking in.

      The assumption people make that I have self-anointed myself the country music savior is probably an easy one to make from the name of the site. I may at some point try to put something in the static imagery of the site to help clear that misconception up.

         0 likes

      • I guess this isn’t you saying you were in the “punk scene” but…

        “I remember when I was a kid I was really into classic rock. Then ‘The Doors’ movie came out and everybody was a big Jim Morrison fan, and so I fled that scene and went to punk: Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, etc. Then ‘Green Day’ made punk mainstream again, so then I got into ska punk. Then the whole swing band craze hit, and groups like the Bosstones were all of a sudden being played on Top 40 stations. So I started listening to Hank Williams and DAC.”

        http://www.savingcountrymusic.com/free-hank-iii-takes-the-pop-country-challenge

           1 likes

      • Did you just say, “belabor”?

           0 likes

  • A common tactic people use to defend their often horrid opinions and tastes is to discredit one’s dissenters on a personal level. It’s the lowest form of debate. And when somebody has to stretch their personal debasement of a dissenter to include assumptions, it just means they have given up all hope of besting their opponent on a factual basis. At this point, it’s entirely proper to tell them to go ahead and slurp down a bucket of ball sweat.

    Cheers to you, TM. Stay honest, and stick to your guns. You’ve introduced me to many artists (through your writing) that I’ve grown to enjoy and even love.

       0 likes

    • It’s no different than liberals calling Bill O’reilly a racist, just because he disagrees with the president.

         1 likes

  • AMEN – “too much music right now, too many artists” I spent 8 months weeding through “red dirt bands” to find acts for my show. I still don’t know if I got it right.

       1 likes

  • That picture is just the gift that keeps on giving.

       3 likes

  • Triggerman’s one hell of a writer.

       3 likes

  • I’m curious about your unconventional life that you mentioned. While you said you like to keep things private, I still have a hunch that many fellow readers are interested in some of your stories as well. 

    That said, I’ve been visiting this site for a while now and only recently started adding comments, and I’m sure there are far more supporters to the cause (whether they’re vocal or not) than critics. 

       3 likes

  • “Trample the weak, Hurdle the dead ” Fuck em all. You aint gotta explain shit. Be who u are, say what you want.

       2 likes

  • freaky

       0 likes

  • Trig, just keep doing what your doing.

    Those of us who are here, I mean REALLY here, are here day in and day out after a long day’s work reading about shit that matters to us.

    There will always be whiners, complaining, accusers, etc etc (I found it happens most when a “famous” *insert Nashville name here* artist gets ripped on and there fans somehow find there way here (How dd they do that so well? lol) and the shit storm begins.

    Then there gone never to return again. But those of us who do, are back the next day to see what fresh content has gone up.

    Keep it up Trig,

    Rob

       0 likes

  • Kyle, if you just had better taste in country and roots music, this whole endeavor would just be so much more meaningful!…(lol)

       0 likes

  • Hey, I like you!

       0 likes

  • Wow you have a lot of positive comments … We’d LOVE to see or hear something you may have written .. Sort of give you a lil ole critique .. However I’m sure you don’t have the BALLS to share that since you have no discernible talent :-)

       1 likes

    • “since you have no discernible talent.”

      That sounds like an assumption. I’ve found it’s never smart to challenge someone with absolutes.

      “We’d LOVE to see or hear something you may have written…However I’m sure you don’t have the BALLS to share that.”

      How do you know I haven’t posted stuff I’ve written? This appears to be another assumption, and one that can be proven to be wrong since it isn’t based on judgement.

      Has Chet Flippo ever written a song?

         2 likes

      • I’m actually pretty curious, would you mind linking to some of your music?

           0 likes

  • I just wanted to say, as a musician, I dont think you’re over the top at all, and I appreciate the bands you DO promote and review, especially the more mainstream ones, because i like to support as many good/true country musicians I can.

    and also, as a reader, I read pretty much all of the articles you put out, I probably spend way to much time here. anyway I love the music, and the site so thanks!

       0 likes

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