A little bit of this, a little bit of that

Gray Hughes

I’ve discussed music before — why “Old Town Road” is not a country song, what happened to country music and the fact that I cannot play an instrument or sing to save my life.

But I don’t think I’ve ever discussed why I like the music I like.

I’ll admit: I’m weird. I like everything. And when I say everything I mean mostly everything. I’m not a big fan of metal or hard rock or anything like that. But other than that, for the most part I like it. I feel just as comfortable listening to Beethoven as I am listening to the Wu Tang Clan.

I grew up listening to an eclectic variety of music. I remember listening to grunge and ‘90s alternative with my mom when I was 4 and we were at the beach. We also listened to Jimmy Buffett and, because it was the ‘90s, we also listened to Backstreet Boys and NSYNC (hey, don’t judge. I didn’t know any better. I was 4).

My dad, on the other hand, played me country. I still listen to what he raised me on — mainly Johnny Cash and other classic country. (When I wrote my column about how country music has gone down the toilet he asked me “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?” a nod to the classic country song by the same name. I said: “no one.”)

I expanded my musical tastes as an adolescent and young adult. I’ll admit it: my musical choices in middle and high school were hard to pin down. Mixed with influences by friends, family and the world around me, my iPod was filled with a wide variety of artists.

There was the phase where I listened to nothing but Eminem. As a child who knew no hardship, I don’t know why I related so much to his lyrics, but for whatever reason I did. I still listen to him to this day, even though his new music is just terrible (I skip that). Looking back at my childhood, this is the phase that, perhaps, I regret the most. To go along with the questionable music was questionable fashion choices, such as the time I purchased a flat brim hat and wore it sideways like a rapper did at that time. I don’t know what young Gray was thinking.

There was the phase where I listened to nothing but country. Yes, as much as I hate it now, there once was a time where I listened to nothing but pop country on the radio. Once again, looking back at it now I don’t know what I was thinking because, in my opinion, pop country (even then when it wasn’t as bad as it is today) is terrible. But for most of the summers when I was a teenager, I probably listened to country more than anything.

Then there was my more alternative and, for lack of a better phrase, emo phase. This was mixed when I was going through some hardships in my life (like every other teenager), so a lot of the lyrics really spoke to me. Tales of angst, heartbreak and trying to find your place in the world rang strong and really resonated with an angsty, heartbroken kid trying to find his place in the world. In fact, on a recent day I was listening to the music that I listened to during that phase. I sent a text off to a high school friend about this, telling that person I just wanted to give high school Gray a cup of coffee and tell him everything is going to be OK (because everything is OK and none of the fears that high school Gray had about his life came true).

Now, I’d have to say my musical tastes have come together. I still listen to what I listened to when I was younger but in a different way. The angry, aggressive rap music I listened to turned into mellower, low stress artists like Chance the Rapper whose music contains more positive and upbeat messages. I listen to country, too, but in a much different way. One of the most listened to artists in my Spotify last year was Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. This, I believe, is more similar to the country my dad raised me on and, quite frankly, is quite pleasant to listen to. Plus, a lot of the lyrics and songs that Jason Isbell does both as a solo artist and with his band resonate with me. If you haven’t listened to him or his band and you are a fan of country, I cannot recommend him more.

The only real area where my musical tastes have not shifted is with alternative bands. For whatever reason I’ve never stopped listening to the artists I liked in high school and, just recently, I created a playlist on Spotify that contains all the songs I liked during that phase. The likes of blink-182 and Modest Mouse have been joined by bands like The War on Drugs (my favorite band right now) and The National on that playlist, and, even though I am no longer angsty, heartbroken or trying to find my place in the world, the lyrics and songs still resonate deeply and soundly with me.

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