What Country Means To Me
By Claire Weston
My first introduction to country music was back in 2010, when I found myself spontaneously sitting on a plane on the way to Nashville for CMA Festival, listening to Lady Antebellum’s ‘Need You Now’ album. They are now one of my favourite artists and a lot of my love for them stems from that initial trip. Before then, I hadn’t listened to much country music beyond the early Taylor Swift albums and commercially successful songs like LeAnn Rimes ‘How Do I Live’ but it seemed like the best escape route at that point.
To be able to tell you what country means to me, I should probably fill you in my back story. When I was 22, my mum sadly lost a battle with breast cancer, and passed away aged 40. The grief tore me and my Dad apart at that point, and the trip to Nashville was my first birthday without either parents in my life, so i made a decision to go do something completely random. I could never have imagined how it would spiral into something so great. I left Nashville with so many memories and lifelong friends. It was also where i first heard Tim McGraw sing ‘Live Like You Were Dying’, which seemed hugely relatable and was a huge influence. It’s my constant reminder that life is short and i should go do the things i want to do. I turn into an emotional wreck every time i hear Tim sing it live.
I’ve always had a bit of a travel bug but i’d lost my way during that time. Shortly after that, i made the decision to spend a year living and working in Canada, with a 3 month visit to the USA first, which i had planned to spend mostly in the California sunshine. Country was still rare in the UK at that point. The Band Perry played Kings College in London 3 months before i was set to leave and my mindset changed. I was thrown back to that Nashville trip and decided to spend my summer seeing country artists all over the USA – so i got to see Lady Antebellum in Georgia, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney in Tennessee, Brad Paisley in Oklahoma, Miranda Lambert in Iowa and Luke Bryan and Merle Haggard in Ohio to name just a few.
I’ve also met so many great friends through country music and taken so many incredible trips around the world. I love the growth of the UK country music ‘family’ – being able to walk into a gig in the UK and always having people to hang out with. Everyone is super friendly! Over the past 6 months, i’ve taken trips to Vegas, Stockholm and Dublin for country events with people i’ve met through country music and had the best time.
Recently, i got Frankie Ballard’s ‘Helluva Life’ lyrics tattooed on me – ‘Big star shinin’ on a small town world’ – which he was kind enough to write out for me when he came over for C2C Festival in March. I’m completely in love with his music but part of the reason I got that tattoo was the first time I saw him perform the song live at the ACM Party For A Cause in Dallas – yes, more travelling and country music – it just struck a chord with me about how I turned my life around from the lowest point imaginable and being grateful for all the things I get to experience now. It reminded me of someone from my hometown seeing my Facebook posts of my adventures around the US and being like: “How does a girl from our small town get to go out and do all these amazing things?!”.
So country to me means the best memories. It changed my life and i don’t know where i’d be without it!