Wildfires, hurricanes, murder hornets (whatever happened to those?), a global pandemic that is ravaging the entire planet, and on top of it all, we’re in a brutal election year, neck deep in the most divisive political climate of my entire life. Hard times generally bring the American people closer together, but that’s no longer the case. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Every single issue has been politicized to the core, so much so that even music is being utilized as a weapon to divide us.
Musicians have a right to express their political opinions, to vocalize their personal beliefs, and to use their platforms to affect change for the betterment of society. They absolutely should if that’s their conviction. They also shouldn’t be criticized for not doing so.
And of course, if you don’t like an artist’s personal beliefs or political alignment, it’s 100% your prerogative to choose not to listen to their music or go to a live show. But we’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s OK to love an artist’s music and disagree with their politics.
I'll go from Church and Childers, to McBryde and Miranda, Turnpike and Tyler, Alan and Alabama, Shania & Strait, to Combs and CoJo, Wallen and Willie, Koe and Kacey, Ronnie and Reba… and I'm just getting started.
This tweet wasn’t meant to be an all-encompassing list of the artists we love. It mostly was just an attempt to use alliteration in an effort to encapsulate a small sample of all different kinds of country music that we like, some we grew up on and some that are still rising stars.
But more importantly, it shows wide range of artists, from all across the country music spectrum, with an even wider array of backgrounds, life experiences and political beliefs. Some, like Kacey, CoJo, Tyler and Willie have been more outspoken and others like Luke and Miranda have been much more silent. it doesn’t change a damn thing about the way we listen to their music.
We’d listen to any one of them, any time we want, regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.
Although, I think Farce The Music might’ve said it best:
I’ll get crazy and listen to Travis Tritt, Chris Stapleton, The Chicks, Charlie Daniels, and American Aquarium in a row if I want. I don’t care.
Back in the day, the Dixie Chicks (now just The Chicks) caught a lot of heat from the country music community over their criticism of President George W. Bush. Meanwhile, Toby Keith was singing his 2002 pro-war, post-September 11th hit “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American).” That naturally led to fireworks between the two and each side continues to hold fast to their political beliefs even today, but that doesn’t mean I won’t play a little “Cowboy Take Me Away,” followed by “Shoulda Been A Cowboy.” What can I say, we like cowboys songs.
Or how about we fast forward to a more recent example.
In 2018, Eric Church found himself in a heated political discussion when, in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, he said that he was a “2nd Amendment guy” and that gun rights were non-negotiable (people like to leave that part out). But he also added that he wasn’t a fan of the NRA. He was immediately painted as a “gun-hating liberal snowflake” by many, and to this day, we can’t post an Eric Church blog without at least one comment like that, if not more. Forget the fact that he wrote and performed “Standing Their Ground” to honor fallen police officers and first responders, forget the fact that his grandfather was a police chief, forget the fact that he’s written songs like “Before She Does” and “Stick That In Your Country Song,” the latter of which features a call to take care of our veterans.
And yet, some folks still refuse to listen to him. The very same fans who used to love his music.
Even more recently, we have artists like Chris Stapleton and Tyler Childers.
Fans were calling for a boycott after Chris was asked to share his opinion on race relations in the United States and he confessed that he was unaware that racism was still alive in this country and the lives of our black brothers and sisters across this country matter. But he was quickly labeled a Black Lives Matter-loving liberal and his records went into the garbage. Others even called for Farm Aid to remove him from the lineup.
And then in Tyler’s case, who is unquestionably one the best and most authentic country artists we’ve seen in decades, now has longtime fans calling for a boycott after the release of “Long Violent History.”Fans were appalled to find out that an Appalachian kid from the hills of Kentucky would call on country folks to empathize with the plight of those in the black community, that he would condemn the Confederate Flag, and that he would simply call on people to love each other.
And look, you don’t have to agree with Tyler on everything, but you don’t have to throw his music in the garbage either. If his music about life in Appalachia hits you right in the soul, music that has no doubt resonated with country folks across the nation, why give that up simply because he has different ideas about how we should run the government?
Jason Isbell, American Aquarium, Margo Price, Brothers Osborne… they all lean pretty left, and are VERY vocal about it. And while you don’t have to agree with all of their political views, they make some damn good music. Artists like Travis Tritt, the late great Charlie Daniels, Toby Keith and plenty of others all lean decidedly right, and have had long, successful careers in country music. Do you have to agree with every single thing they say either? Of course not. Even Cody Johnson has had some live show speeches, “politically incorrect” speeches as he calls them, that would indicate that he probably leans to the right. But who knows? And really, who cares? You can still be a fan of his music.
I’ve been blocked by both James Woods and Travis Tritt. Had anyone asked me about Travis Tritt before today I would have said he was a nice guy based off meeting him at the Kentucky Derby a few years ago. Now I’m going to re-tell that story and make him seem like a huge asshole.
But finally, perhaps the craziest example of politics and music colliding… Garth Brooks.
On two separate occasions, Garth was blasted online for political beliefs that he didn’t even have. One time for wearing a BARRY Sanders jersey in Detroit, and more recently after he was asked by the Department of Health if he’d participate in a Coronavirus PSA. He didn’t accept, he was only asked, and somehow that turned into an official endorsement for President Trump.
Fans on both sides of the aisle couldn’t wait to bash Garth in both instances, for different political beliefs, none of which were even true.
At the end of the day, most of your favorite artists won’t explicitly state their political opinions and we have no idea who they’re voting for or where they fall on many political issues.
If you take a hard line stance of “I only listen to artists that I 100% agree with politically” you’re going to find yourself missing out on a ton of great music. The entirety of many artists’ politics can’t and shouldn’t be reduced to a couple quotes in a magazine. These are far more nuanced conversations – and they should be. It’s just a shame that all these conversations tend to happen on Twitter, the place where nuance goes to die.
So one more time, louder for the people in the back…
It’s OK to love an artist’s music and disagree with their politics.
Now go put on “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” and follow it up with some Tyler Childers…. or Stapleton… or whatever the hell else you want.
Whiskey Riff is the most entertaining country site…ever.