Getting Out of My Southern Comfort Zone

When I’m not writing about country music, I’m either traveling or planning my next trip. I recently returned from a trip to Kenya (hence the major delay in posts) and am already thinking about where I want to travel next (Uzbekistan? Georgia (the country not the state)? Armenia?) It should come as no surprise that there aren’t too many country songs (or any really) about the places I travel to or about traveling in general. However, there is one song that stands out to me and resonates well with us wanderlusting, country music fans (I can’t be the only one, right?) That song is Brad Paisley’s “Southern Comfort Zone,” in which he sings, “I can’t see this world unless I go outside my Southern Comfort Zone.” The music video, which I’ve included below, even includes scenes that were shot in Kenya!

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Dallas Pub, Maasai Mara, Kenya (July 2017)

What I love about this song (besides the obvious play on words of “southern comfort” and “comfort zone”) is that it discusses getting out of your comfort zone when you travel. I’ve always said that traveling (I’m talking cheap hostels, taking public transportation in foreign countries, trying new (and sometimes questionable) foods) makes you grow because you’re forced to get out of your comfort zone. Brad touches on this in his song with lines like “I know what it’s like to talk and have nobody understand” and “I know what it’s like to be the only one like me, to take a good hard look around and be in the minority.” Although Brad mentions traveling to Rome and Paris in his song, where they most likely will also speak English (though maybe not with a southern accent), it’s likely that he has found himself in situations where people did not understand him when he spoke. Finding yourself in situations like this serve as a good reminder that the whole world is not like you. As Brad points out in the beginning of the song, not everybody drives trucks, drinks sweet tea, owns guns (I’ll hold my tongue on this one), and wears a ball cap, boots, and jeans. When you’re around people who are just like you (people who talk like you, think like you, live like you), it’s good to be reminded that your way of life is not the only way of life. This is probably the most important lesson that one learns when they get out of their “southern comfort zone.”

“I have walked the streets of Rome, I have been to foreign lands
I know what it’s like to talk and have nobody understand
I have seen the Eiffel Tower lit up on a Paris night
I have kissed a West Coast girl underneath the Northern Lights”

When traveling, you also begin to miss some of the comforts of home and in return you develop a newfound appreciation for these things. For Brad, it was “biscuits and gravy, fireflies dancing in the night.” For me, especially during the year that I lived in London, it was sweet tea and Chick-fil-A (a number one with a sweet tea, thank you and please!) As Brad travels he realizes how much he misses his Tennessee home, for me it’s my Virginia home.

I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled to 20 countries so far (if we’re including that one time I had to stay in Dubai for a night due to a missed flight, which I am.) While traveling, one thing that never fails to surprise me is when I hear country music in the most unexpected places. In Chiang Mai, Thailand I not only heard someone playing Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” but the live band performing in a local town square performed Old Crow Medicine Show’s (not Darius Rucker’s!) “Wagon Wheel” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” These were Thai men in cowboy hats singing American country music and I loved everything about it. Just this month in Kenya, I heard Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses” playing in a boat rental office (on what was probably a Christian gospel radio station) at Lake Naivasha. And at the airport in Nairobi while waiting to head back home, I heard what must’ve been a collection of country love song duets as Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood’s “In Another’s Eyes,” Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black’s “When I Said I Do,” and Vince Gill and Reba McEntire’s “The Heart Won’t Lie” played over the speakers. Brantley Gilbert sings that “Country Must Be Country Wide,” but perhaps it’s also worldwide.

While many people are often scared to travel for fear of getting out of their comfort zone, I’ve learned that once you step out and meet new people, you realize that humans are not all that different from one another. If the songs of John Denver and Merle Haggard can resonate with people from Chiang Mai, Thailand then we really can’t be all that different now can we?

The music video for “Southern Comfort Zone” (below) contains scenes from 8 different countries (which he covered in 8 days!) including Ireland, France, Norway, and KENYA! Major kudos to Brad for not only including the animals of Kenya in this video (giraffes, elephants, zebras, etc.) but also the people. Scenes of the Masai people, who I spent some time with on my trip, can be found this video. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any country music videos being filmed while I was in Kenya.

I’d like to end this post with the same message that Brad ends this music video with: “See This World.”

 

Currently listening to: Thomas Rhett- “Die A Happy Man.” Here Thomas also makes a reference to seeing the Eiffel Tower at night, which seems to be quite a big deal in the country community.

“If I never get to see the Northern lights
Or if I never get to see the Eiffel Tower at night
Oh, if all I got is your hand in my hand
Baby, I could die a happy man”

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The Eiffel Tower lit up on a Paris night” (March 2016)

 

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Stepdads: The Dads Who Didn’t Have To Be


Country music is full of songs about dads. Whether you had a good one or a bad one, or one that named you Sue, you can bet that there’s a country song out there that hits home about your old man. For this Father’s Day weekend post, instead of focusing on country songs about dads, I wanted to look at songs about stepdads as Father’s Day is their day too.

First on my list is Brad Paisley’s “He Didn’t Have to Be.” The song starts off from the perspective of a five-year-old boy whose single mom, after what I can assume were many failed dates, finally finds a man who didn’t “turn around and run” after finding out that she had a son. This man goes on to marry the boy’s mom and becomes his stepdad, filling in that missing piece that finally made them a family. As is evident in the song and the video, this man eventually becomes less like a stepdad and more like a “real” dad to this boy. Later on that boy grows up and becomes a father himself with his stepdad by his side during this major life event. In the video, you see the two of them looking through the glass of the nursery window together after his child is born. As he thinks about the kind of dad that he wants to be to his newborn child, his stepfather serves as a perfect model to emulate. As Brad sings in the chorus: “I hope I’m at least half the dad that he didn’t have to be.” 

The video for this song always makes me tear up. If you plan on watching it, please make sure you have tissues handy and are in a place where crying is acceptable.

 

Another great song about stepdads is Fishin’ With My Dadby Bobby Bones & The Raging Idiots. If you listen to country music on your morning commute like me, then you’re probably familiar with The Bobby Bones Show. And if your commute involves driving the capital beltway like mine does, then you get to spend A LOT of time with Bobby and the gang. Last year, Bobby and Eddie (another member of the show) released an album for their band, “The Raging Idiots” titled, The Critics Give It 5 Stars. They’re primarily a parody band known for remaking today’s hit country songs, for example, they parodied Thomas Rhett’s “Die A Happy Man” with “Drive A Mini Van.” With that being said, most of the songs on this album are silly- like there’s a song about Starbucks and a Netflix love song on there. There was, however, one sentimental song that managed to make the album’s cut- that song is “Fishin’ With My Dad,” an autobiographical song written by Bobby. He even got Garth Brooks (the G.O.A.T.) to sing backup on this song! The first time I heard Bobby play this song on the radio I was driving to work and of course I started crying (are you noticing a trend here?) I even tweeted at Bobby that morning to let him know that he made me cry and he retweeted me (photographic evidence provided below if you don’t believe me)!

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I was already familiar with the backstory of Bobby’s relationship with his stepdad, Keith. He’d talked about Keith on the show before (even calling him one morning and having him on the air) and I had just recently finished reading his autobiography, Bare Bones: I’m Not Lonely If You’re Reading This Book, in which he wrote about Keith. The song is about Bobby being ten years old and wishing he had a dad to take him fishing. The line that pulls on my heartstrings the most is when he talks about this at the beginning of the song saying, “it’s hard doing anything with someone you don’t have, so how could I go fishing with my dad?” Bobby eventually gains a stepdad when his mom marries a “good man in the summer of ’93.” Bobby wasn’t too sure how his new stepdad felt about him at first. That is until he woke Bobby up one morning to take him fishing and Bobby’s dream of finally getting to go fishing with his dad came true. As Bobby wrote in Bare Bones, “I had fantasized about fishing with my dad, but when the time came to do the real thing I found it pretty darn boring. It didn’t matter, though. Anytime Keith asked if I wanted to go fishing, I said yes, because I just wanted that father-son experience” (page 23).

An important takeaway from this song is found in the line: “We didn’t share a last name but we shared a lot of laughs.” The message here is that biology and sharing a last name doesn’t make you a dad (or even a mom). What makes someone a dad is taking the time to be present in your child’s life and letting them know that you care. It’s looking through the nursery window with your child when they too become a parent and it’s waking them up early to take them fishing. That’s what it means to be a dad. I’m so glad that Bobby finally got to go fishing with his!

Below is the acoustic video of Bobby and Eddie singing this song. The version of this song that appears on his album and features Garth Brooks can be found here (it’s just a lyric video though and I prefer actually getting to see Bobby sing.)

 

Okay, so these are the only two country songs I could think of about stepdads, but there should be more! I dedicate this post to all you dads, stepdads, and moms playing both roles- Happy Father’s Day! And a very happy Father’s Day to my own stepdad!

Currently listening to: Johnny Cash- “Boy Named Sue