(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.
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.