It is my distinct honor and pleasure to introduce the newest writer for Country Universe, Tara Seetharam. As you’ll soon discover, we are quite blessed to have her. On behalf of the Country Universe staff, please join me in welcoming Tara! – Kevin J. Coyne
Hi all! It is such a thrill to step foot into this community of talented and well-versed writers. I am humbled and can’t thank the staff enough for graciously taking me in.
I graduated about a year ago from the University of Texas with a degree in journalism, and I am currently living in Houston and working in corporate communications. Writing and music are two of my greatest joys in life, so the opportunity to use this site as a medium to interlace the two is an absolute blessing.
When I tell people that I live and breathe country music, I’m almost always met with surprise. Some are better at hiding it than others, but I typically receive an inquisitive stare, a “Really?” or a confused smile. It leads to about 20 seconds of awkwardness, with me trying to sum up my passion for the genre in an eloquent explanation, and generally failing. Because quite frankly, how do you prove to a near stranger that yes, an Indian-American can love country music from the depths of her soul?
I suppose I’m not the typical Indian-American. Both my parents are of Indian descent, but while my dad moved to the U.S. as a teenager, my mom moved here as a young child – making my sister and I “second-and-a-half” generation Indian-Americans. My mom was a country fan herself growing up in the U.S., and she in turn filled our home with all sorts of country music when I was a child. I have the sweetest memories of the two of us singing along to The Judds’ Why Not Me album on repeat, day after day. My mom never made me feel like it was anything but normal to adore country music from the inside out. She never made me feel like my skin color had to match the skin color of the country artists I idolized. And why should it?
You see, to me, as much as country music seems to be about traditionalism, it’s more so about universal truths – about love and family, heartache and despair, faith and persistence. You don’t necessarily have to relate to the story to relate to the raw emotion of a country song. The best country songs are sung with such conviction and such honesty that you just get it. The most poignant country songs stop me dead in my tracks every time I hear them, because I can’t seem to disconnect my emotions from the songs.
And to be honest, I couldn’t feel out of place in country music even if I tried, as there are few things in this world that are more intrinsic to me. I remember the first time I heard Vince Gill’s “If You Ever Have Forever in Mind,” thinking that it immediately felt like “home”. Like I had found an extension of myself in the song. It sounds melodramatic, but it’s so true, and it is this very intimate, personal quality of country music that keeps me coming back for more.
My taste in country music ranges from traditional to mainstream, from George Jones and Johnny Cash to Lady Antebellum and Keith Urban. I have a deep respect for the country greats, but I have a particular soft spot for artists who can skillfully walk the balance beam between traditional and mainstream, like the older (but never forgotten!) Dixie Chicks.
And I even enjoy many of the genre-stretching contemporary artists who haven’t quite mastered this balancing act. I’m in the minority of people who see the fusion of old and new in the country music industry as intriguing and, well…fabulous. Artistic integrity comes in many forms, and I firmly believe that it can even come in the form of commercially successful artists.
Because if there’s anything I’ve learned from the inquisitive stares, “Really?”s and confused smiles I receive on occasion, it’s that, in this world so rich with contradiction, you have to learn to scrap assumptions. It’s so important to savor every piece of music by searching not for its definition but for its unique contribution, or you’ll prevent yourself from catching moments of artistic brilliance (Reba McEntire’s 2007 collaboration with Justin Timberlake? Stunning.).
This goes all ways, of course, but what I think I have an ear for, and what I hope to bring to this site, are the “gems” of mainstream country music. I’m going to humbly strive to bring a fresh perspective, one that you might not always agree with, but that comes from a place of sincerity.
Which brings me to my greatest hope for my journey with Country Universe – that I stay true to who I am. I spent much of my college career feeling that I needed to think a certain way in order to fit the music journalist mold, but I can’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I don’t hate country radio. I appreciate pop culture. I’m an award show junkie. And I’ll tell you right now, with no shame, that my favorite song is “Bless the Broken Road” (I’ll take it in any form, by any artist). I want to offer this site unapologetic authenticity, because that’s what good country music never fails to offer me.
So with that said, a huge, heartfelt thank you goes out once again to Kevin and the staff for welcoming me with open arms. More than anything, and I can’t stress this enough, I am looking forward to learning from this astute community of writers and readers. To steal liberally from Ms. Carrie Underwood: “It is my belief that country music makes the world a better place.” And ain’t that the truth?