September 13, 2008
Country music, by and large, has been confined to the North American continent since its inception as a commercial art form in the 1920’s. On the one hand, that’s understandable because much of country music is grounded in the rural American experience. On the other hand, country music touches on universal subjects, and revels in sharing common experiences.
It seems that people forget that the majority of the world is composed of farmland and small towns. Five minutes outside of Paris and you’re in the middle of the country. What does the European Union fight over more than anything else? Farm subsidies. The Australian outback is as close to Texas outside of the United States as you’re going to get; and South America subsists on primarily agricultural exports.
So why haven’t country music stars reached abroad to further their careers to a great extent? It always amazes me that more big name artists don’t promote their albums and tour abroad. Brooks & Dunn went on a tour of Australia earlier this year. They thought about keeping it small at first, but after they sold out those shows, they moved to arenas.
The CMA has recently recognized this achievement through its International Artist Achievement Award. Previous winners include: BR5 49 (1996), The Mavericks (1997), Trisha Yearwood (1998), Shania Twain (1999), Reba McEntire (2000), Lonestar (2001), Bellamy Brothers (2002), Dixie Chicks (2003), Dolly Parton (2004), Keith Urban (2005), Dixie Chicks (2006) and Dwight Yoakam (2007). However, while this is an impressive award, the CMA has little to choose from—these artists are among the very few that have made the effort.
In recent years, I’ve noticed a shift. Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts recently made trips to London, and Dierks Bentley played festivals in Sweden and France.
My question for you all has two potential paths, depending on where you are from: (1) If you are a country music listener from outside of the United States, please tell us where you are from, your top three favorite artists, and what you love about country music. (2) If you are a country music listener from the U.S., which three artists would you choose as ambassadors to the world on behalf of country music, and why?