(cw: mild homophobia)
Last week, I wrote about Nashville's reluctance to risk a dollar in the face of the unfamiliar. It wasn't the most coherent so....sorry, but I think I got it a little more concise in my review of Nick Shoulders' new album, All Bad, on No Depression. If you haven't listened to Nick yet, he's from the same music family as Jude Brothers (who physically printed that first round of Rainbow Rodeo issue 1), Jude's sibling eryn, and Willi Carlisle. All Bad uses traditional country sounds to deliver songs of substance, and forthright rejections of our contemporary forms of fascism. In other words, the album is a conversation between the past and the future we demand.
Shoulders has been drawing an enthusiastic crowd of people who would not otherwise be into country music, and his music isn't ironic either. This reminds me of something Austin Lucas said in this morning's interview on the site: they've begun to express their gender expression more freely on stage, and fewer people have been coming to their shows since. Lucas feels ambivalent about this: on the one hand, this is the crowd they've always hoped to play for -- a beautiful, enthusiastic, intersectional audience. But why are so many staying home all of a sudden? It's not like Lucas' music or politics have changed.
When I was hawking zines down at the South Street Seaport a few weeks ago, my line was to ask people if they wanted to learn more about queer country music. Some girls walked away and murmured under their breath (perhaps thinking the women at the stall next to mine were straight), "We're straight country."
Anyone who has grown up as a queer women (and all the gender-related asterisks within that experience) knows the casual cutting of female homophobia all too well. I really don't hang out with that type of straight woman, so I forgot all about it. It kind of stung! Homophobic guys want to beat you up, but homophobic women just treat you like shit on their shoes.
But why are people so, like, nervous about learning more about queer people? Is it homophobia itself? Is it a reluctance of taking up space, that a queer country show isn't for cishets? Perhaps this is what the artists who don't want to be pigeonholed are afraid of. But we also see out-and-proud artists like Orville and Brandi selling out huge arenas -- and not all of the people in those audiences are queer. As Lucas observed in our interview, if queer people are safe at a country show, that means everyone is safe at a country show, and I think that's the key here: making a place where everyone feels safe.
So what is it about some artists that the divide is no longer relevant? Am I missing something? Do you have a theory? Responses welcome!
can be found here!