Bro Country & Tiny Littles
We’d pay at the same pumps. Flip through the same stations and slow down for the same curves…she was over me before the grass grew back where she used to park her car. She’s leaving those same marks in someone else’s yard. Sam Hunt, “Break Up in a Small Town.”
Look, let’s get it out of the way. I love country music, even bro country. Unabashedly. I’ve written about my love of country music before. And now there’s this guy called Sam Hunt and he used to play football in college and he makes cozy music that makes me want to get in my car and stop at Starbucks for a big Christmassy red cup of something warm with lots of whipped cream on top, climb the ramp to the expressway and drive and drive and drive and listen and listen and listen. You can watch Who is Sam Hunt? if you haven’t stopped reading already and like adorable things.
If you hate country music, trying to convince you to love bro country would be like scratching your eyes out, then setting you on fire. I won’t do it. I love you too much. But I do want to tell you why I love it. It’s because of the tiny littles. It’s because in between the (okay, I fully admit, sometimes cliché) choruses, there are tiny little stories about a girl staying up late to paint her ex-boyfriend’s favorite shade of red on her nails. Tiny little stories about wearing your ex-boyfriend’s jacket and lying to your friends, saying it’s yours.
Those are the tiny little stories I love. Short stories. Flash fictions. The sound of my husband’s key in the door when he gets home from work. The hypnotic sound of drumming rain and the windshield wipers on high. The tiny little things that happen to us all day everyday. The things we get used to, take for granted. The verses smushed between the cliché choruses, the mundanity of our lives. Big, important things plus little things that don’t seem to matter. All of it, mixed up together.
I watched an interview with Sam Hunt where he said he listened to a lot of of 90s country growing up and he really liked the rapper Pastor Troy too. Country, (southern) hip-hop. I was raised on this. America likes to keep its music separate for the most part, but I don’t. I crave the undefinable. People see a dude wearing a ball cap, a baggy T-shirt, skinny jeans…what does it mean? Means one thing if he’s white, means another thing if he’s black? Lil Wayne with his skinny purple jeans and his dreads, on a skateboard. What is it? How is this being packaged for me? What is thiiiis?! (Like Jack Skellington when he discovers Christmas Town.)
Sam Hunt has written songs for Keith Urban (“Cop Car” and I love it, I love Keith) and Kenny Chesney (“Come Over” and I love it, I love Kenny) and in this video Sam stops at the gas station to fill up and get a Coke and he’s got that swoopy undercut, he’s wearing double monks. With Sam Hunt, it’s country because of the lyrics. I won’t debate anyone on what makes country, country. Who cares? What I’m saying is that when a dude from the South sings about working all week, weekends off, small towns…it’s country. It’s R&B because of how it sounds. Synthesizers, lots of bass, drum machines, Usher-influenced. What about when it’s both? People want to hate it because they want to hate it and country music is the default genre to hate. The next default genre to hate is rap. So yes, I like them both mixed together so I can run people off and have the songs all to myself.
Sam Hunt, a white football player dude from Georgia, listening to Pastor Troy, singing about leaving the night on and house parties for two and making out in the back of a truck doesn’t appeal to some people. Me? It appeals to me on all levels. Hunt also sings it’s still early out in Cali, baby don’t you wanna rally again? and Cali + rally reminds me of baseball. I LOVE baseball. See? ALL LEVELS.
Nelly and Florida Georgia Line sing Baby, you’re a song together in “Cruise” and I think it’s sweet. That’s cute. Baby, you’re a song. Ludacris and Jason Aldean. Brantley Gilbert going tonight it’s bottoms up before putting on a pair of Beats by Dre. (Lemme tell you, I openly judge baseball players by their at bat songs and the guy from UofL who used “Bottoms Up” as his song last year was my favorite, easily.) Eric Church and Valerie June, singing about Jesus together. Luke Bryan standing in the back of his big black jacked up truck, singing about having Conway Twitty and T-Pain on his mixtape on his way to catch us up a little catfish dinner. Nappy Roots in overalls, rapping about being country boys. Gangstagrass. I LOVE ALL OF THESE COLLABS/THINGS. Keep in mind I saw Luke Bryan in concert at a Walmart once. APPEALS TO ME ON ALL LEVELS.
Maybe it’s because I prettymuch only dated baseball players and black theatre dudes and white gangsters in high school. Maybe it’s because the first time I talked to my husband (white boy, high school sweetheart, holding it down since winter ’95) he was wearing a hoodie and baggy Dickies, holding a skateboard, and I knew he only listened to local underground/math rock/alt-hardcore like Slint, Endpoint, Kinghorse, Sunspring…and Wu-Tang Clan. Tical by Method Man. We went to a high school where you liked what you liked and it was okay so that’s what I did. If I woke up and wanted to wear a dress and jeans, that’s what I did. These country/rap collabs are like wearing a dress with jeans and please believe me when I say I love layers. Relationships, words, cardigan sweaters, puffy vests. APPEALS TO ME ON ALL LEVELS.
Sam Hunt singing in a hot chocolatey voice I don’t wanna blow your phone up. I just wanna blow your mind. I don’t have to take your heart, I just wanna take your time. YES. On all levels. And even in that specific song “Take Your Time” off of his album Montevallo, Sam sings half of the time and then does this quick talky-half-singing thing, as if he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do with it so he went with both. So meta! It’s the same thing he does here in “Speakers” when he goes love in the back of the truck with the tailgate down, just us and the speakers on. Is this singing? Is this talking? What is this? Shh. Let’s not put a label on it. Just let it happen.
You can read more about Sam Hunt here and listen to Montevallo in its entirety on Spotify. It is my favorite album of the year (along with Lecrae’s Anomaly) and a new Taylor Swift came out this year so that’s saying Something. I was painting my nails red the first time I heard him sing about a girl painting her nails his favorite shade of red. That, is also Something. You should know I believe in magic.
I listened to Montevallo the whole drive down to Atlanta and back when I went early in November. I have to deal with a certain amount of travel anxiety when I go anywhere because God made me this way and I prefer to stay home—my heated blanket and Montevallo made my trip to Georgia so cozy, comfy.
I will add that Sam Hunt is also very attractive in a quarterback-y, Georgia-drawl, country boy, tall and handsome kinda way. I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that part. He is easy on my eyes. Layers! I’m buying what he’s selling. He sings I’ll be at your door in ten minutes, whatever you got on girl, stay in it. We don’t have to leave the house to have a good time, Imma bring the good time home to you and I’m like OKAY. Being a house cat, I dig this a lot. And Hunt’s roommate/bandmate Tyrone Carreker is a dope musician in his own right. Again with the talent and handsomeness. I have a type and that type is adorable. I crush. Unabashed crushing.
Whatever the package, the gift I get is the same. The tiny littles that make up a life. Whatever way we decide we want to receive that stuff. It’s what keeps people making music, no matter what kind. It’s what keeps people writing, believing they can write a book, get it published. Keeps people believing we all have a story to tell. I believe this! The specifics about how someone smells, what they like on their fries, what they take in their coffee, exactly what we’d do if we had a Sunday morning completely to ourselves and didn’t have to answer to anybody. Those things. I find comfort in those things. The tiny littles. Everylittlebit. Those secrets, those obsessions, those heartbeat sparks. Line Drive. Those lines that drive the work, those thin lines that do and don’t separate one side from the other. The batter hitting the ball sharp and low. Dangerous. Be careful. They can go either way, these feels. You best stay frosty.