Go back about 20 years and picture this: A blue-eyed, blonde-haired little girl laughing and singing with her daddy while he plays “Grandma’s Feather Bed” on the guitar. That little girl? Me. This guitar-playing and song-singing moment is one of the earliest, sweetest memories I have of me and country music. It is where my love affair with country music began.
I can also remember gathering around the piano at Christmas time, snuggled up beside my Mama on the piano bench. Dad and I listened to Mama play the intro of “Away In A Manger”. When it came time to sing, they let me, just three years old, have the melody while they sang the harmony parts around me. I can remember thinking how beautiful those words were and how effortlessly they seemed to flow from my little mouth.
Most people know that I sang for the first time on stage when I was 7 years old. I was at my home church of First Baptist Church Woodway. This is a part of my musical journey that I share with almost every speech I give or story I tell about my life in music. I am proud to say that the church gave me my start. It is where I began. Full-heartedly.
And I considered walking down that path towards building my singing career around Christian music. What an amazing genre it is. It is so full of life, important and heart-felt messages that stem from Him. It is a beautiful thing, that offers such a beautiful experience to those who cultivate it and share it.
However, as I grew, I began to gravitate toward another genre of music. I fell hook, line, and sinker for country music.
This juxtaposition of Christian music and Country music and how they fit into my life has proven to be interesting to say the least. Perhaps, because I sang so often in the church growing up. Or, perhaps because I’ve always wanted to be known as a classy, Jesus-loving and fun girl who sings country music. Either way, I’ve had to face a unique stereotype which hasn't always been easy. I sometimes find myself walking this fine line - being too “squeaky clean” for country music, or not being “evangelical” enough for Christian music some say. I get often from fans, “How come you don’t you sing Christian music or become a Christian artist, Holly?”
It hasn't been a short or easy question for me to answer. Perhaps it has a lot to do with country music in the 1990's. Female country artists such as Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Jo Dee Messina, Terri Clark, Sara Evans, and Reba McEntire, became idols and role-models to me. I can still remember buying my first ever CD. It was a Jamie O'Neal CD. To me, these women were (and still are) so beautiful (inside and out), incredibly strong, fun-loving and completely unique. I can remember feeling inspired by their songs about love, heartbreak, and real life. Most of all, these women sang in a way that garnered respect. Other little girls and I looked up to them. Heck, I wanted to be them.
What is it really, though, about country music that drew me in in like a bee to honey? I put together a few thoughts:
- Country music is honest. It is genuine. And a sense of genuineness is important to me.
- When it comes to the Country Artist, we see the good, the bad, and the ugly of these artists' lives. They write and sing about subjects that unite people through shared experiences. Unlike other music genres that sometimes are called "bubblegum" music, country music, to me, has substance and meaning
- Country music allows the artist to become a storyteller.
- Sometimes country artists write songs that are completely unrelated to their own lives; they aim to draw people in through imagery and detail based around a story. Carrie Underwood singing “Two Black Cadillacs” is such a great example of this. Of course, she has never been a widow who upon learning of his infidelity, met up with her husband’s secret lover to plot out his ultimate death together. Now that is an interesting story and, in turn, hit song!
- Country music is inspiring and fun.
- When I listen to country music I can literally feel every emotion when listening to it. Whether you want to laugh, dance, cry or have a good time, country music fills every need.
I think that's it, really - the thing about country that stole my heart. Every single time I listen to or sing country music I am embodied by the emotion that it carries. I become full of this revealing emotion.
On a deeper and more spiritual level, I’ve always felt a calling on my life and a tugging on my heart to sing country music. Sometimes I feel it is because I am meant by a higher power to bring a light into a sometimes dark world. I want secular audiences to see and hear something different about me and my music. This uniqueness opens up a very real opportunity for me to share my faith and the love of Jesus in my life. After all, Gospel/Christian music and country music have have had intertwining roots since the beginning of time. Many popular artists have shared their faith through country music - Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, and others. These artists inspire me to do the same.
If Country Music is in fact my calling, as I believe it just might be, it both excites and frightens me. I won't lie - sometimes it’s not easy to attempt to be that shining light that people, especially young people can look up to. I’m not perfect. I’ll be the first to admit it. I can be impatient, sometimes selfish, and, at times, introverted. However, I do believe God uses imperfect people and unfortunate circumstances to live out His plan. It’s simply my job to trust in it.
As I continue to embark on this path that is country music - through singles released on the radio, the writing of new songs, and now playing live weekly as a part of my first ever tour entitled Steel, I sure can't wait to meet lots of y'all out at the shows! Your comments, support, and love simply intensify my passion for country music.