Introducing Dan Milliken

On behalf of Leeann, Blake and myself, I‘m thrilled to welcome our newest writer, Dan Milliken. For many of you, he will need no introduction, as Squinty Dan’s is a popular blog among our readers.

Dan’s mixture of knowledge, humor and personal reflection, along with his strong writing voice, make him a perfect fit here. I know that all of you will enjoy his contributions as much as we will! – Kevin

Hey there, everybody! My name’s Dan, and I’m pleased to be formally making all of your cyber-acquaintances. I currently live in Nashville, Tennessee, where I’m working toward my Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Music Business, and I like to spend my non-blogging free time working out, vegging with a good video game, or trying not to suck at guitar. Sometimes I go outside, too.

Kevin originally contacted me to design a banner for the newly pimped-out site layout, and at some point in that conversation I rather cleverly bamboozled him into letting me join up as a writer, as well. Poor guy.

But in all seriousness, I’m thrilled to have been offered this opportunity to share my thoughts on what I consider the greatest music on Earth, and humbled to be doing so for this community, which I happen to hold in similarly high regard. Kevin’s incisive work has already taught me more about the breadth and history of country music than I ever knew I wanted to know, and the site has only flourished in depth and personality thanks to the brilliant additions of Leeann and Blake. Throw in the passionate, diverse readership, and it all amounts to a very addictive experience for the burgeoning country fan like myself!

Country Universe is also personally meaningful to me in that its stellar example was part of what inspired me to revive my own blogging habit. My personal site, Squinty Dan’s, is the fruit of that decison, and I’ve loved packing it with country music content from the get-go. Ultimately, though, I felt that the blog needed a bit more topical balance, and was already looking for someplace else to dump my country music spillage when Kevin mentioned the possibility of my contributing here. So the timing of the offer really couldn’t have been better.

But enough about blogplay. This entry is supposed to be about my personal connection to country music, though frankly there are few topics I find harder to discuss. My “thing” with country music is almost too intrinsic for me to really describe it as a “connection,” hokey as that might sound. I don’t appreciate country music from a distance, as some sort of entertainment-hungry spectator looking for some excuse to have an opinion; I appreciate country music from the inside-out, because I see myself in it.

That’s what gives merit to any art form, I think. There’s no difference between the post-grunge fan and me, except that we happen to prefer different mediums, different sonic windows on the world and our places in it. I prefer my window rusty and raw, I prefer it with vocal trimmings that sound dead-tired from heat or heartache, that slur words and speak only in simple poetry because they can’t afford to waste breath on B.S. Because that’s what makes sense to me.

I appreciate country music because it’s terse, witty, honest, all of those other adjectives people throw around all the time. I appreciate country music because, at its best, it reminds me of who I am and who I’d like to be. And most of all, I appreciate country music because it appreciates me back, even when the rest of the world doesn’t.

But that’s putting it all very broadly, and like anyone else, the way I arrived at these sentiments was more concrete. I’ve debated with myself as to how in-depth (and long) I really want to make this post, given that this is a public forum, but ultimately I don’t think there’s any other way I can really explain myself. I have to start at the beginning.

When I think back on my childhood, I frankly remember feeling alone a lot of the time. I was terribly eccentric as a young boy, and had difficulty making friends. My parents spent the first eight years of my life fighting before they finally divorced. I took to walking alone outside their respective houses, singing to myself, enjoying nature, sort of living in my own imagination. I became very attached to the environment of Hawaii (it lends itself to that, really), where we lived for ten years thanks to my father’s military assignment.

Then we moved, and it was like the last bit of carpet had been pulled out from under me. I recall the ensuing few years as a collective haze of unpleasantness. I cared about nothing, I did poorly in school, I still struggled to maintain any sort of relationship with anyone – and worst of all, I was acutely aware of all that, which just made me feel even more hopeless about it all.

Country music finally found me the summer before I began high school. I remember downloading Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” off of some illegal Peer-to-Peer file-sharing network out of curiosity and being intrigued by the voice and the sentiment, but the song that really hooked me was Keith Urban’s then-hit “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me.”

It was those first few lines: “I got no money in my pockets / And I got a hole in my jeans / I had a job and I lost it / But it won’t get to me.” It was that idea that you could have nothing going for you and still be happy. I didn’t notice it at the time, but I think it really struck a big chord in me.

And as I delved deeper into country music, backwards in time and forwards in traditionalism, I discovered that it was full of such ideas. The music so seemed to originate from a place of loneliness, and yet, there was always this sense of progress about it. Country music may frequently consist of bemoaning that something is wrong or missing, but I see a lot of courage and strength in the mere willingness to do so. Some people spend their lives running from life’s difficult truths; country music is about about calling them out, swallowing pride, dealing with circumstances honestly, if not always amicably. It’s about real people dealing with real stuff. And that’s what I really needed: to learn how to deal.

When all is said and done, I think country music is a lot of what restored my faith in everything I felt was wrong or missing in my own life. It taught me to believe in home, in family, in lasting truths, in real friendships, in finding humor in sadness, in straight-up honesty. And it taught me to believe in myself. And that’s why I’m here; that’s why I’ve decided to try my hand at writing about the music.

When I think about the bulk of today’s mainstream country, it’s not just the un-country sound that bugs me; it’s the lack of emotional desperation, the lack of reckless creativity. The radio is wonderful if you want to chill out and listen to whole human lives get compressed into a string of easygoing cliches, but I want to hear about people who actually have things going on and aren’t afraid to talk about them. It’s not about drama; it’s about honesty.

And that’s what I’m going to be humbly shooting for in my contributions here – and more importantly, that’s what I’m looking forward to hearing from all you. Once again, I’d like to thank the staff for advocating my efforts thus far and for welcoming me aboard here. Let’s get crackin’, y’all!


  1. Congratulations to Dan for joining the team and to Kevin for having the good sense to snatch him up! I saw this coming by some of the comments at Squinty Dan’s of late, but I’m glad to finally see it happen. Dan’s introduction provides more than ample evidence of why he’ll be an important contributor here. Can’t wait to see what’s ahead.

  2. nice move, congratulations to y’all.

    a few weeks ago, when i suggested to expand a little, i was close to hinting a hook up between you guys.
    anybody could see that you were dancing all around it. good to see that it happened quite naturally.

  3. Dan is the man.

    I have no doubt this will be a terrific addition. Props to Dan for his honesty, humor and his wonderfully well-written story. Welcome to the jungle, Dan. We’ve got fun and games.

  4. Dan, you have no idea! It makes my week that this is finally happening!

    I’m a huge fan of Dan’s blog and am so glad that he’s merging with us.


    Awesome introduction, by the way!

  5. Well there goes the neighborhood! Do you want to be my neighbor? :-o

    Glad to see you here after all the hints. Now I don’t have to click twice huh? ;-)

    Oh, on Urban’s “Who Wouldn’t Wanna’ Be Me”, being the old fart rocker I am, check out the old Savoy Brown track “Tell Mama”. That’s all I’m gonna’ say ’bout that!

    Believe it or not Dan music was my escape as well. Totally get where you’re coming from. I just didn’t settle on a single genre. Wait ’til you have four kids of your own and they pick on you mercilessly. You might just miss all that alone time! Heh!

  6. Ultimately, country music was my escape as well. Before country music, I liked music and all, but it was this music that really had a lasting and deep impact on me. It pulled me through some tough times and that’s why I won’t ever give up on it, even during its rough patches.

  7. You mean Leeann…uh….EVEN during the Urban Cowboy days? he-he!

    God how I hated that period. My boots went from 60 bucks to 200. It sucked royally. All the suits in town wearing Stetsons and Lucchese’s. Look at me “I’m a REAL cowboy! I got tossed off a mechanical bull at Gilley’s!” Woo-friggin’-woo! Shoot, you had to pay friggin’ triple just for a pair of Levis. Sorry, I bailed for awhile! ;-)

  8. Oh yeah, you’re only four hours away now Dan. Time for some serious fishin’! Anytime you can get away I’ll hook up the boat and we’ll go see what we can do! :-)

  9. JHD, I’ll admit that I would’ve had a hard time sticking through that era. Luckily, it was before my time. Now, I can kind of pretend it didn’t exist and focus on the music surrounding it.

  10. Welcome Dan :)

    Leanne I agree with what you said in this post about country music. I feel the same way…I listened to other music but it never really meant anything to me. Country music is different. Great point

    This is a great site!

  11. I’m guessing Eric’s referring to my avatar, which is indeed based around a doodle I did of an angry mime during one of my classes last year. I did it when we learned that (fun fact) you can actually copyright pantomime sequences. He’s angry because people keep unknowingly plagiarizing his art!

    Yeah, I get bored in class sometimes.

  12. Oh … I didn’t realize that was a visual of a mime. Have to agree with Eric then about not welcoming the mimes. Mimes scare me.

    Have a great weekend everybody! … I’m out till Tuesday.

  13. I feel awful; I completely forgot to thank everyone for posting such nice comments on this post! I wish I could just answer everyone individually. But y’all are awesome, and I’m thrilled to be here.

  14. I think Dan is a very gifted Linguist but has questionable taste in music. Welcome Dan! Join the masses of critics that are jaded and gifted at spewing their insecurities to those too weak and insecure to decide for themselves.

  15. Working man,

    Thanks for your compliment, and hey, I’ve got no problem with you thinking I have questionable music tastes; different strokes. And I do indeed have many insecurities that I could detail for you (and some of them are already spelled out in this post), but I assure you that they are not the reason I have chosen to function as a “critic” of sorts on this site. I’m here to learn. Music and writing are already central parts of my life outside of this site, which is how I found my way here in the first place, and I want to refine my understanding of both crafts, in both an objective sense and a personal one. That’s why I like hearing other people’s stories here, and I’d encourage you to share your own.

    I wish your comment had not been phrased so offensively, because I’d like for this site to maintain a respectful tone, but I myself have sometimes felt about certain critics the way you seem to feel about me. So I’d encourage you or anyone else reading this to call me out if ever my personal perspective seems to be seriously interfering with my work here. No one’s perfect; we all need correction sometimes. But please do it civilly, and please explain what led you to that judgment so that I know what to work on. Thanks!

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