Country music’s boundaries are undoubtedly on the move, now incorporating elements of EDM, power pop, alternative rock, hip-hop and even hints of ska. A big part of the reason for that may be a shift in demographics, as kids who grew up in the ’90s move into adulthood.
Hand claps and tin-can vocal effects, power chords and ironic guitar leads, dance-y polyrhythms, programming and popcorn snares, shouts, screams and even the faint beginnings of status-quo-bucking lyrical themes — it’s all seeping into Top 40 country, and it’s all familiar to fans who grew up on Stone Temple Pilots, TLC and No Doubt.
When he first came to Nashville almost a decade ago, songwriter Ross Copperman (one of those ’90s kids himself) landed some face time with one of country’s top publishing executives — who was already looking ahead. “I played him some of these quote ‘country’ songs I had been writing, and he must have heard something in them and started working with me,” Copperman tells the Scene.
Copperman’s background wasn’t in country. He’s a Virginia native and former U.K. pop artist whose two favorite bands growing up were Oasis and Third Eye Blind. As such, his style has always had more in common with modern rock than anything Alan Jackson ever wrote. “That’s all I listened to driving around in the car with my parents,” he said. “I don’t know if I mean to, but that’s what defined me, so it’s just in me.”
Fast forward to 2015 and Copperman is one of mainstream country’s up-and-coming tastemakers, and you can plainly hear strains of Clinton-era DNA in three of his most recent co-written hits. Jake Owen’s “Real Life” has a pseudo-Smash Mouth vocal vibe; A Thousand Horses’ “Smoke” takes a page from the Third Eye Blind playbook with that clean-toned, noodly guitar hook, and Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” features an active bass line that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Red Hot Chili Peppers record.
Meanwhile, Copperman’s not the only songwriter or artist gearing up for a new, millennial-driven market. Zac Brown Band has flirted with electronica on its aggressively eclectic new double-albumJekyll + Hyde; Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” feels like a mix of commercial hip-hop and ‘N Sync; and Eric Church has brushed up against metal à la Metallica’s Black Album with “The Outsiders.” Thomas Rhett’s funkified new album Tangled Up feels like a throwback of a throwback, while Eli Young Band has teamed with pop singer Andy Grammer for a remix of his hit “Honey, I’m Good,” which at times evokes disturbing “Macarena” flashbacks.
One producer with a keen insight into the trend is Nathan Chapman. He made his name as Taylor Swift’s producer and has also guided projects by Lady Antebellum and The Band Perry, as well as Keith Urban’s “Little Bit of Everything,” “We Were Us” and “Raise ‘Em Up.” As a child of the ’80s who helped define country’s sound in the Aughts, Chapman sees the correlation emerging again.
“The way I’ve seen it is there’s kind of a 20-year cycle of when an idea goes from out of date to throwback,” he says. “There’s evidence from the ’80s that music was borrowing from the ’60s, and evidence in about 2010 that we were borrowing from the late ’80s. … If you drew from the ’90s 10 years ago, when only 10 years had gone by, it would have been seen as out of step. But if you wait long enough, anything becomes a throwback.” Chapman is careful to point out that the ’90s were a truly multigenre era with a broad scope of popular songs — from Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” — so a fairly broad spectrum of styles can sound like ’90s throwback, but that effect can also be seen on the charts today.
Country is currently tracking in a similar direction as rock 20 years ago, becoming more eclectic and less monolithic. After the domination of arena rock and hair metal, the genre splintered into grunge, heavy metal, pop punk, alternative and dozens of other subgenres — now country is starting to see a similar pattern. Maybe it’s a response to the formulaic nature of bro country, but more likely the trend is a natural oscillation paired with a shrewd reading of demographics.
Nineties kids raised on MTV’s TRL are all grown up, and the lifestyle changes that accompany adulthood make country music more appealing, even to former anti-country purists. It makes sense that Music Row would go after a huge batch of potential new listeners, and what better way to do that than by playing to their already demonstrated musical preferences, especially since most evidence seems to indicate that rock is comatose.
Country might look like it’s having an identity crisis right now, but if you grew up watching Boy Meets World and Goosebumps, it might not sound so weird.
By Chris Parton NashvilleScene
DEAN OF AMERICA’S TV WEATHERMEN PASSES Harry Volkman studies meteorology and broadcasting at Tulsa University. After graduation, he eases into radio. In 1950, Harry joins KOTV TV in Tulsa, OK as the very first TV weatherman in the state of Oklahoma, and one of the first TV weathermen in US history. In 1959, he moves on up to Chicago, IL TV for 45 years. In July 2004, he retires from TV weathercasting. On Thursday, August 20, 2015 beloved Chicago television weatherman Harry Volkman perishes at 89.
IF YOU THINK THIS ISSUE OF JRRR IS WORTH READING…Please forward this entire issue to five of your friends and associates! To subscribe to Jim Rose Remembers Radio send your full Name, City, State and Country of residence plus email address to Rosekkkj@earthlink.net.
FLY HECKLES WEATHER FORECAST During this week’s Houston, TX weather forecast a fly lands on KTRK TV ABC CH 13 Travis Herzog’s head. Travis swings a Karate Kid swat at the fly but misses just a little bit. That’s nothing. On Monday, May 26, 2014 Clio, MI NBC Affiliate WEYI TV CH 25 Jason Adams remains calm as a bat flies through his Memorial day weather prophecy. Adams shrieks: This thing is coming at me and it’s freaking me out, but I’m gonna do the forecast anyway. Bet Ed Brandon can top both of those adventures.
H. ROSS PEROT BECOMES RADIO CONNOISSEUR Real estate developer and Chairman of the Board for Perot Systems Henry Ross Perot, Jr. is elder son of former Presidential candidate H. Ross Perot of Dallas, TX. Perot teams with Connoisseur Media management to acquire the company. Connoisseur’s 42 radio station growth focuses on its Golden Ring that surrounds New York City with clusters in Hartford, New Haven, and Fairfield County CT, Long Island (NY), Trenton (NJ), and Allentown and Stroudsburg (PA).
AL DEXTER In the Top 80 Songs in the year of my birth – 1943 – the #2 song Pistol Packin’ Mama by Al Dexter & his Troopers is ironic. In summer 1967, when I’m noon-3 pm DJ on KPCN-730 in my hometown Dallas, TX, I spin the Glen Campbell tune Too Late To Worry Too Blue To Cry written by the LATE Al Dexter. The next day when I arrive to do my radio show, Al Dexter is there waiting to let me know that he is still alive! So, Al Dexter who has a #1 song in the year of my birth, 1943, lets me know that he is still alive.
TRIVIA QUESTION: When is Amos ‘n’ Andy’s first radio broadcast? The answer appears below.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
•JANE MONREAL joins KSHB TV NBC CH 41 Kansas City, MO as weekend morning anchor. Monreal arrives from KIII TV ABC CH 3 in Corpus Christi, TX. •MIKE MASON PM Drive DJ on WMYX FM (The Mix 99.1) Milwaukee, WI moves on up to morning show co-host. •TOM GRIMM ex Active Rock WHBR FM (The Bear 103.1) Parkersburg, WV is available at firstname.lastname@example.org. •JENNIFER TAYLOR exits Tegna KENS TV CBS CH 5 in San Antonio, TX to become News Director of Tegna-owned KYTX TV CBS CH 19 Tyler, TX.
ENTERTAINMENT AND NEWS MILESTONES
•1954 PRESIDENT EISENHOWER signs Communist Control Act on August 24th that outlaws the Communist Party. •1969 IRA DEAN bass player with Trick Pony born on August 23rd in Raleigh, NC. •1978 LOUIS PRIMAJazz singer dies at 66 on August 24th in New Orleans, LA. •1989 GARTH BROOKS’ If Tomorrow Never Comes releases on August 21st on Capitol records. •1995 WINDOWS 95 debuts on August 24th. •2001 JUNE CARTER CASH has pacemaker implant surgery on August 24th.
EMAILS YES WE HAVE EMAIL
JACK PARNELL [former Program Director WHBQ-560] (Memphis, TN) Hi Jim: Thanks so much for putting the word out. I haven’t as yet emailed Ken Dowe, but I’m very familiar with his name; Jay use to talk about him all time, but didn’t say that he taught Ken a lot about radio…they remained great friends. I also got your other email with another email address on it, but I’m not on the computer that I have it on. I’m also anxious for Ken to fill me in on what the outcome was with his hiring of Jay’s son John. Thanks again, and I’ll get with Ken and the other guy whose email you sent also. Jack
WHERE DO YOU READ JRRR? Tell us how far away from Houston, TX that you read JRRR. Got a news tip or a question? Send your full Name, City, State and Country of residence to Rosekkkj@earthlink.net.
ED MILLER [Former KPCN, KFJZ, KXOL, KIXL, KAFM, KTXO, KAMC, KTLK, Texas State Network, etc] (Austin, TX) Hi Jim, Saw a mention by Bill Conway of my long lost friend Otis Tomerlin in JRRR recently, remembered by him from when he and Otis were at KOAK in Lake Charles in the 70’s. I worked with Otis on KFJZ (1270) in Fort Worth in 1980 when he held down morning drive as a jock and I was doing PM drive as an iconoclastic talk show host. Crazy guy, ol’ Otis! Never will forget the promotion for his AM program—bus bench back signs that read “Otis slept here!” That was truly a different era. Was it really half a lifetime ago? -Ed
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BILL CHERRY [Realtor – In late 1950s Music ’til Dawn host on WWL-870] (Dallas, TX) Hi, Jim and Suzie– I’m usually up by 4:30. I used to get up at this time to study when I was in college. The behavior has remained. Actually I like it. All is quiet and I usually spend the time reading. Meanwhile, you know Chuck is up, too. Bill
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT TODAY’S RADIO? WHERE IS RADIO HEADED? We want to know what is on your mind. Let’s start a radio revolution. Give us your opinion about today’s radio or whatever is on your mind at Rosekkkj@earthlink.net.
JAY WALKER [CBS Radio Dallas/KJKK FM/Infinity KTSA-550/KTFM FM/Jay Walker Prod] (Dallas-McKinney, TX) Subject: “The Wrecking Crew”. Hi Jim I saw Don Sundeen’s email on “The Wrecking Crew” documentary. I can honestly say this is one of the best documentaries ever made about “The Star Maker Machine” and a behind the scenes look at the creative process involved for all those great hits of the 60’s. The soundtrack alone is well worth the ticket or the price of the DVD. When you watch “The Wrecking Crew”, you just want it to go on and on. Needless to say, it is a KEEPER. I’ll shut up so I won’t spoil the movie for others. Bottom line WATCH IT you won’t regret it. You and Suzie stay cool. Looks like this heat will be with us for a while longer. Jay Walker
DAVID FAULKNER [KTNS-1600 Plano/KFJZ-870 Ft. Worth] (Dallas, TX) Subject: KNON Must Relocate Soon. Jim, Not sure if you’ve heard, heritage community radio station KNON 89.3FM in Dallas must relocate in less than two months, but they have nowhere to go. Here’s a link to a report by David Taffet at the Dallas Voice with more info: http://www.dallasvoice.com/knon-relocate-2-months-10202204.html Peace, David Faulkner
TRIVIA ANSWER: From 1951–53 one of our all time favorite TV programs is Amos ‘n’ Andy on CBS TV. On March 19, 1928, Amos ‘n’ Andy begins its comedy series on WMAQ-670 in Chicago, IL and goes into syndication. On August 19, 1929, Amos ‘n’ Andy joins NBC network Radio. On April 3, 1939, Amos ‘n’ Andyswitches to CBS Radio until November 1960.
GLEN ASHWORTH (Lebanon, OR) Hi Jim Can I get on your newsletter list? I live in Lebanon Ore. I was on your mailing list yrs ago. I worked in radio in Albany Ore. for around 15 yrs. I found your page thorough Mike Shannon’s DFW RADIO SITE. Thanks. How have you been? Thanks Glen Ashworth
KAITLIN OLSON (August 18, 1975 – p) I think people think of Oregon as such a granola, hippie kind of a place.
Jim Rose and Suzie
Houston, Texas – Laus Deo
It seems like a Southern food menu item may soon disappear from all restaurants. I am talking about hoe cakes.
A hoe cake is so-called because it was baked on the blade of a gardening hoe by slaves in the fields, who furthermore, apparently took the necessary ingredients with them to mix and bake during their mid-day break. This explanation is so prevalent that questioning it seems absurd. I guess since some find the name hoe cakes offensive, it will be replaced on all restaurant menus as flat cornbread. I personally don’t see what the fuss is all about. I can’t help but think that soon the name White Bread will have to be renamed also. What about Southern Fried Chicken? Don’t they fry chicken in the North? So does that mean it must be renamed just Fried Chicken so no one is offended? What about Southern Gospel Music? Are we going to re-write the American Dictionary so no one is offended?
– The Music City Ghost [File #27] 2015
You have a restless mind. It skips and scampers about continually, rarely taking time to be still. Listen, and you will hear Me saying, Come to Me. I am the only resting place for your mind that will truly satisfy and strengthen you. Take time-make time-to direct your thoughts to Me. Whisper My Name and wait in My sacred Presence. You are on holy ground. This provides refreshment not only for your mind but also for your soul.
True hope comes from Me. False hope comes from many sources, including persuasive advertising. Ask Me to give you discernment as you seek to walk along a hopeful path. Many voices call out to you: This is the way! Do not be deceived; learn to be wise and alert when you’re trying to process all the information shouting at you. Break free from information overload by refocusing your thoughts on Me. As you rest in My peaceful Presence, true hope grows within you.
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. -Psalm 62:5
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. -Matthew 11:28-29
Then Moses said, I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn. So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, Moses! Moses! And [Moses] said, Here I am. Then [God] said, Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. -Exodus 3:3-5 nkjv
“I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. -Matthew 10:16 nkjv”