I’d listen to the songs in the backseat of the car. Not even old enough to make any requests, I was at the whim of the car radio and my parents switching stations. Kenny Chesney, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, Faith HIll, Tim McGraw. I grew up bellowing out lyrics about dirt roads and memories, love and loss. Beer and bonfires were the soundtrack to my high school summers. Miranda Lambert, The Dixie Chicks. After 9/11 Toby Keith growled with American pride that I felt in my bones. The music would move me more than onto a dance floor. Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, Little Big Town.
Later I’d be behind the wheel, and I’d belt out the lyrics of the latest hits out the open windows and under sunglasses and a cowboy hat. Carrie Underwood brought me through the rough rides. Miranda Lambert would pull me up and out of them. Country music was the soundtrack of first loves and last goodbyes, it certainly wasn’t the only music I listened to, but something about it felt more me. Maybe it was because of those long car rides before I controlled the radio, maybe it’s just because of what country is.
There has been one country song that made it onto the radio in Italy since I’ve been living here and I can’t even remember what it was at the moment – though I did love it. Other than that one experience, my country music radio signals have gone silent. Yes, of course, I have Spotify and Youtube and can and have googled the charts, etc. Occasionally I’ll get recommendations from someone at home for the new album that just came out. The problem is, when I listen to country here, it is absolutely not the same.
Country music is the essence of an American subculture that is so isolated, it just doesn’t really work outside of it. Listening to country music here doesn’t echo right. When I listen to the old songs, they throw me back under the water of the memories. Letting me loose on a ridiculous ride down memory lane with each twang of the next song. The lyrics can’t ever really attach to new memories – not while I’m sitting on a scooter with a dog in a bag, instead of a four-wheeler with a gun on my hip. Not when my husband doesn’t “get” tailgating. (When you look at it from an outside perspective, it is pretty strange, guys, but I still get it and miss itttttt) “So you get up early, and pack like you’re going camping….and drive to a parking lot, and it’s normally freezing.”
“Yup,” I nod as we go over it again.
“…and then you cook food and drink and sit in plastic chairs…in the parking lot, around your cars.”
“Well, usually the cars or trucks are big enough that they’re kinda like furniture.”
Rami refuses to listen to country music – another reason why I don’t listen to it much, but honestly, it’s because country had to be left behind in the country it belongs in. Country music is meant to stay in the US, the guitars sound just a bit out of pitch over here when they bounce off the marble. The nights on dirt roads usually lead to wine and castles, not big front porches and beer. When I visit home, it’s nice to hear the radio play freely again, even if I barely know any of the artists anymore. But I have to be there for it to sink into my skin like it used to, and not many songs can even do that for me anymore, even when I’m on American soil.