My musical story begins in the hills and countryside of Kentucky, where my family has lived since the early 1700’s. Bluegrass music was created in Kentucky, originally emerging from English and Scottish folk music. The Bluegrass State has almost entirely influenced my musical preferences. Listening to the bluegrass of my Papaw’s youth and the 70’s country my mom loves attracted me to country music. My heritage has played a major role in my musical influences.
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Papaw was born in 1934 in Buckner, Kentucky. His father was a sharecropper, and as a result of his alcoholism, the family of fourteen had to migrate from farm to farm. His rural upbringing influenced his musical tastes, and he treasures bluegrass music to this day. He vacations in his camper to bluegrass festivals as far as West Virginia. Mamaw was born in 1930 in Webster, Kentucky. She grew up in a family shattered by an abusive father, amidst vicious arguments between the Catholics and Baptists. When her mother died in 1937, her father sent her and her siblings to live in an orphanage in Louisville as opposed to ceding the children to the Baptist relatives. Living among her peers, she gravitated to the music of her time, including Frank Sinatra and Conway Twitty.
My mother was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1968. Her family lived there for a short time while Papaw worked in a printing factory. He moved her and her six sisters back to Kentucky when my mom was four. My mom’s musical preferences derive from her rural upbringing. She appreciates old country, such as Waylon Jennings and Charlie Pride, as well as modern favorites with simple beats, including Ed Sheeran and Phillip Phillips. My father was born in Santa Ana, California, in 1965. He grew up in an instrument playing family; however, my dad’s hobbies differed. As a child, he enjoyed playing sports instead of instruments. Today, he listens to the music from his youth, including classic rock. His move to Kentucky in 1995 introduced him to country music. I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2000. Throughout my childhood, I established consistent musical preferences.
I listened to modern country music in my dad’s car and old country and gospel in my mom’s. I still listen to country music in the car because of these early influences. Also, my best friend, Emma Topp, and I spent our weekends together all through elementary school indulging Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Selena Gomez. I gained formal music experience through studying the violin from age 4 to 14. I played a conglomeration of Catholic hymns and fiddle music. While I didn’t relish listening to hymns while sitting in church, I enjoyed playing them; however, fiddle music was my favorite because I could play fast. I played hundreds of bluegrass songs for my Papaw. For Christmas when I was 9, my Uncle Don in California gave me a guitar.
I exhausted hours learning to play, but I never perfected it. Because my Uncle Don was so far away, I didn’t have the guidance to refine my playing, so I would still consider myself a beginner. Additionally, from a young age, I reveled in watching American Idol. This contributed to my taste in music because one of the runners up, Crystal Bowersox, is one of my favorite singers to this day. Her songs are soulful country, and this remains one of my favored categories of country music.
My musical influences also include my peers. From attending homecoming and prom, to cruising around town, I developed a taste for rap. Rap music ties our generation together with its catchy rhythms and sounds. My favorite rappers include Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and Post Malone. I also like pop music; however this genre is overplayed and I tire of it easily. As much as I adore rap, country music will always hold an exclusive place in my heart. Old country is soothing to me, especially when I am overwhelmed. Also, in my agriculture classes in high school, we played country music on the speakers as we worked. Country music epitomizes jubilant memories in my life. My favorite country singers are Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, and Carrie Underwood.
However, my current favorite song is Kentucky Bred by David Tucker. Several of the references in the song reflect who I am and where I come from, such as riding in a truck bed, going to church on Sundays, and Ale 8, which is a ginger ale drink only made in Kentucky. Kentucky culture has always been emulated in the types of music in which I listen. My papaw loves to take our family to bluegrass festivals, and bluegrass is always fiddling in his house. If my childhood was summarized into one song, it would be Rocky Top, by the Osborne Brothers. It is a song that is treasured among several generations. In addition, every year on the Kentucky Derby, we celebrate with a Derby party at our house, and all of our extended family and friends are in attendance. We all gather in our basement and sing My Old Kentucky Home simultaneously with the rest of the Bluegrass State.
Music is always playing in my life. While driving, in the shower, studying, or even doing laundry. Music motivates me, and I follow its rhythms and melodies as I work. Even when I listen to music for entertainment, my roommate, our friend, and I enjoy imagining fun dances to our favorite songs, especially with the Latin rhythms of Shakira. Childhood influences almost every aspect of a person’s life: their food preferences, good or bad habits, and of course, musical tastes. I was never exposed to electronic or heavy metal as a child, so I find these genres annoying today. I’ve listened to rap since middle school, and I cherish it to this day. However, country music was the sounds of my childhood, and it will always be my favorite as it represents my culture, my lifestyle, and ultimately who I am.