As a ten-year staff writer for Country Weekly and a contributor to the Village Voice, Nashville Scene, Performing Songwriter, The 9513, and other publications, Chris helped set the standard for modern country music commentary, combining clear-eyed observations with his trademark acerbic wit. In a decade of confounding change for the genre’s industry and sound, he was a fearless voice of reason, equally comfortable celebrating country’s evolution and – no other word will do – “facepalming” over its less endearing developments. His recent work as Senior Editor of M Music & Musicians has only broadened his impact, delivering on his passion for all varieties of good music.
Of course, for many of us, Chris will be just as remembered for his lively presence across the web – including, blessedly, this blog. Who can forget how he would casually out-snark an entire comment thread of overheated 9513-ers? Who can forget the pure joy of his first batches of “country haiku”? Who can forget his pets?
But he wasn’t just a fun “internet friend,” either. Perhaps most enduringly, he was a mentor, an accomplished professional who used his platform again, and again, and again to help shine a light on writers he deemed deserving. It’s because of Chris Neal that many of us have the confidence and the audience to write about country music in this small way we do; and it’s because of his remarkable example that many of us keep trying in the first place.
We’ll miss you so much, friend. Thank you.