Songs That Could Bridge The Gap Between Independent and Mainstream Country Fans (Pt. 1)

The civil war between mainstream and independent country music fans is one of the most unfortunate out there right now. Mainstream fans think independent fans are stuck up purists (or hipsters), and independent fans think mainstream fans wouldn’t know good taste if it hit them in the head.

Therefore, I thought of a fun topic. When listening to Drew Holcomb’s latest album while writing my piece on it, I thought to myself, “you know, some of these could work at country radio in a just world. They’re far from boring, and they’ve also got some strong messages to them”. So that’s what some of the following songs are – accessible songs that have great messages to them that I believe any fan could enjoy regardless of where they stand in regards to country music.

This piece in particular will be divided into two parts – one of which will feature songs independent fans might like from mainstream artists, and this one will feature songs from independent artists that mainstream fans might like.

Just for fun – in regards to the independent country side you could think of these songs as songs that would be modern enough for country radio (but also too good, oops, here I go being all hypocritical…). Anyway, this list isn’t meant to be seen as “5 songs that if mainstream country fans don’t like, then they’re doo doo heads”. It’s simply meant to be seen as somewhat of a “starter pack” so to say of songs that could help people who prefer mainstream country to fit their feet in another person’s shoes (so to say). Please note also, with the exception of one song here, all Texas Country artists were not eligible for this list. I only did that since there are many, MANY examples you could come up with on that end. This is for the really obscure artists.

The first song comes courtesy of the artist that inspired this piece – Drew Holcomb. Now, I’m not picking a song from his latest album, Souvenir, but a couple of those such as “Fight For Love” could work as well. Instead, I’m picking “Shine Like Lightning” off of his 2015 album Medicine. It’s carried throughout by some nice electric guitars, and while the theme of love persevering through tough times isn’t exactly revolutionary, it’s carried by some smart writing courtesy of Drew. I actually thought this song could have worked on country radio when I first heard it two years ago. Anyway, be sure to check out Drew if you haven’t!

The next song comes courtesy of Jaime Wyatt. This is probably my favorite track on her newest album, Felony Blues. Like Drew’s song, it’s got a country-rock (ish) sound, and unlike most songs on country radio, it actually has a pretty depressing message despite being catchy as hell. Plus, it’s unique to Jaime, so it would be another bonus to have a song on the radio that came from someplace real.

I really don’t want to overload this with Texas-Country acts since you could make a case for MANY songs for this piece (meaning I am going for Americana acts I guess…), but of all the acts discussed by country bloggers, none come closer to bridging this gap than the Turnpike Troubadours. They’re the prime example of traditional country not being boring, as the cliche so ever goes.

I’ll admit, I’m not gaga over Sam the way everyone else (he’s decent), but this is one song I used to play a ton in 2015 (and still do now). It’s a little retro in style, sure, but I could definitely have seen this being a smash in another time and place, and really it’s not THAT far out where it would alienate too many. I think the key to this song is the melody.

I struggled a lot with this last choice. I didn’t struggle because of a variety of options though. Actually, I just plain struggled to find a fifth candidate for this list (and some of you may look at Turnpike as cheating. It’s fair, but they’re such a great example!!). Anyway, yeah, I get that Lydia essentially went Pop anyway, but come on, tell me this would be out of place on country radio today. I’d sooner hear a melodically pleasing (seems to be the theme, eh?) dark breakup song rather than have Kelsea Ballerini release another song about boys.

 

This piece ended up being a little more weird than I thought, but what do you all think? Are there any other songs you would add? Are there any songs you have in mind to help people on the independent side possibly care at all about a mainstream artist?


9 thoughts on “Songs That Could Bridge The Gap Between Independent and Mainstream Country Fans (Pt. 1)

  1. Cool feature Leon. I think it’s important that mainstream fans hear the independent stuff because a lot of it I’m sure they have never heard. The mainstream stuff most people know even if they don’t like mainstream stuff. But, there are definitely good mainstream artists/songs that maybe independent fans didn’t give a chance. Its good for both sides to put aside the independent vs mainstream label and just consider the content. Either it’s good to you or it’s not, shouldn’t matter whether it’s mainstream or indie.

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  2. My suggested case study is “Sit Here and Cry” by Aubrie Sellers. She released her album as an independent, then re-released it a few months later, after signing with a label. She had a traditional-country feeling music video for this song (old folks square dancing, etc) as an independent, but after she signed, that video got yanked, and a new video was made to promote the same song, featuring her as more of a rocker on a motorcycle. It’s the same artist with the same music, just marketed differently.

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    1. That was a really cool point, and I think she bridges this gap with a lot of her music. It’s cool and different for independent fans, and lyrically a lot of it’s deep. But also, it’s not traditional and not boring for mainstream fans.

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    2. Yeah, I thought about Aubrie as well, but considering she’s already on the fringes on the mainstream, I thought it might have been cheating. It’s why I also didn’t include say, Brandy Clark or Chris Stapleton either. Like I said, it was meant for the really under exposed artists. Aubrie is definitely a great example though

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      1. There’s a teenage girl group from Alabama called Sweet Tea Trio that reminds me a bit of Runaway June, Post Monroe, etc. They don’t have a lot of material online, but they did open for Bon Jovi, so they’re starting to get a bit of a following in the area.
        Another act I will mention is bluegrass group The Native Howl and their song “Thunderhead.” A lot of bluegrass might seem “old, slow, and plinky” to some mainstream country fans, but these guys call their style “thrash grass,” so they might appeal to some different audiences.

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      2. Damn, you were right about that “Thunderhead” song. I think the lead singer’s vocals would be a little alienating to some, but it certainly does surpass any of the traditional criticisms (or rather, stereotypes) of Bluegrass music. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll be sure to check out the Sweet Tea Trio as well sometime!

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  3. This is a cool feature, and currently I can’t think of anyone else to add who isn’t Texas country. actually yes I can, Nikki Lane, if people could get behind her voice. “Jackpot’ would be cool on radio.

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    1. I thought about adding Nikki, but in all honesty I thought the sound may be a little *too* retro to really fit in (especially with her voice)…I agree that something like “Jackpot” would be cool to hear on the radio.

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  4. This is really cool! Two of my favorite mainstream artists came to mind while I was reading this: Ashley Monroe and William Michael Morgan. Morgan’s Lonesomeville is one hell of a song; one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. It’s traditional to the core. Independent fans can appreciate it, and open-minded mainstream fans will find it fantastic as well. As for Ashley Monroe, Like a Rose is the single best album I have heard in my twenty-one years on earth (my opinion). Two Weeks Late, Used, and The Morning After are and will always be three of my all-time favorite songs.

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