American Dispatch: Considering Country in Music City

By FOX News Radio’s Sabrina Sabbagh in Nashville, Tennessee:

You become immersed in country music as soon as you land in Nashville. The voices of famous singers greet you over the intercom as you walk through the airport, welcoming you to “Music City”. And they’re not kidding about the ‘music’ part. Before you even get to baggage claim, you walk by about three restaurants featuring live country music. As people stop short in front of you to listen, they actually turn around to apologize for cutting you off, which I only get used to once it’s time to head back to Los Angeles. And in LA, apologies are about as scarce as restaurants without gluten-free menus.

After exchanging a lot more pleasantries than I’m used to, I got in the rental car and headed downtown for the Country Music Association’s annual Fan Festival, complete with live music on just about every surface with a slight elevation. Someone’s front porch? Sure, just plug in an amp and you’re good to go. But I wasn’t there to report on music in general. I was there to find out what makes country music fans so loyal and to figure out why America seems more interested in the genre now than ever before.

Here’s the thing, talking to people in Nashville takes way more time than normal. For instance, in LA if I say: “Hi, can I ask you a quick question?” I typically get a response of: “No, I’m in a hurry.” In the South, not only do people want to talk to you, they want to TALK to you. In fact, my mother was very pleased to find out just how many strangers inquired about her well-being. It’s like their version of “bye”. People who like country music ask about your mom and aren’t happy until you’re too stuffed with fried chicken to move. A phrase I heard a lot in Nashville pretty much sums it up, “The problem with having company, is that they always end up leaving.”

That feeling of togetherness, family and loyalty is what motivates country fans. They drive hundreds of miles in one direction to see their favorite singer and then turn around and drive hundreds of miles in the other to catch them in a different state the next night.

And the stars are well aware of the enthusiasm; that’s why they sit at signing booths for hours, shaking hands and taking pictures with fans, thanking them for going to their shows and buying their CD’s. Yeah, like actual hard copies of music; they still buy that stuff just so they can wait in line for hours to get them signed.

Some fans were wearing tight jeans, cowboy hats and boots, while others went with the ever so popular Bermuda shorts with sock and sandals. Throw in a fanny pack or two, some visors, and a lot of bad tan lines and you’ve got an accurate visual of downtown Nashville.

But despite their differences, the fans were connected by their love of country music. And not just ‘love’, like you love your morning coffee. They love the genre and the singers like you hope your significant other loves you. Most importantly, they defend their music of choice and never apologize for crying when they meet their idols. And even if you aren’t a country fan, and are so bold as to admit that in Nashville, you won’t get out of the city without hearing, “Y’all come back now, ya hear?”  I reckon I will.
LISTEN to some of Sabrina Sabbagh’s reporting from CMA Fan Fest:

WATCH some of Sabrina Sabbagh’s reporting from the Taylor Swift Exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville: