After many years, New York finally has a country music station again (94.7 Nash FM) and I’m happy. I like a variety of music for different reasons. I find classical music relaxing and could listen to Rachmaninov for hours. I like a 70’s and 80’s music for the nostalgia and today’s music because, quite frankly, some of it is really good. Rap is like poetry. Jazz is great for background and for rainy days. But country music is great for writing inspiration.
I don’t like all country music and some would say I’m not a true fan because I prefer the newer, crossover pieces than the legends or the twangy, blue-grass pieces. Most people think booze and trucks when they hear the words “country music” and some of it is just that. In fact, there’s a funny song by Rascal Flatts that talks about running the record backwards so that the man doesn’t lose his wife or his truck or his house, or whatever. But for me, country music is more than that and it’s inextricably tied to my writing (and no, I don’t write about cowboys).
Most country songs tell a story. When I listen to music, I pay close attention to the lyrics. It drives me crazy when people sing songs and get the words wrong—and it probably drives my husband just as crazy when I’m constantly correcting him. But I like listening to how people phrase things, what words they use, what descriptions they choose, how they order their words, etc. I listen to songs for their words in the same way that others listen to music for their instruments. Therefore, I pay close attention to the lyrics. And country music tells a lot of stories.
Many of those stories provide great inspiration for me. Sometimes, a song may resonate with me because it reflects the mood or personality of one of my characters. Other times, it provides a jumping off point for a story that I can write—Carrie Underwood has a new song, Two Black Cadillacs (at least, I think it’s new) that would make a fantastic murder mystery. On my website, I list songs that provide inspiration for each story I write, and many of them, but not all, are country songs.
Even the singers themselves provide inspiration. Many male country singers have deep voices and allow me to picture their voice for one of my characters. Add in the words they’re singing, and you have character development right there!