Last Friday, while watching GAC’s Top 20 Countdown I caught an interview Susanne Alexander conducted with Sugarland at the South Carolina stop on their Incredible Machine Tour. During the conversation, Kristian and Jennifer said something that thew me for a loop:

Kristian Bush:

“What It feels like to have a passion in your life is like no other thing. I’ve had this conversation with multiple people in the last couple of months. When you feel a calling to do something, no matter what it is, to some people it’s a hobby…someone identified it to me as when you loose time, when you do something and, oh man, how much time has just passed? Did we really just kill an hour? The passion part of it, that’s where your brain bends time and space and says, this matters and your heart is alive.”

Jennifer Nettles:

“It doesn’t have to be music, it can be anything for anyone. But I wish that more people could experience what that is and what that feels like and many people do in different ways. Some people do it with a family, some people do it in their hobbies…whatever it may be that gives you that sense of where you loose time.”

In reality, it’s passion that underscores all we do, the drive pushing us forward. I had never heard someone define it so succinctly before. To hear Bush say, “That’s where your brain bends time and space and says this matters and your heart is alive,” hit me like a brick wall over my head. I went to bed mulling it all and couldn’t wait to blog about it. What I know for sure is finding that passion is one of life’s greatest challenges.

Ironically, Sugarland are discussing passion at a time when critics are responding negatively their latest album’s attempt at creating a rock arena sound. I’ve been coming to their defense for months now – I happen to love their latest music because it dares to be different. It has a texture and a grittiness that helps it stand out from the pack. Their intent was to make sure they didn’t sound like everyone else and they succeed. I understand I’m in the minority here, but this is one example of where I’m glad the critics don’t have the final say. It’s up to the fans and rightfully so.

I had become worried that Jennifer and Kristian had changed, that their hearts were in another place than country music. Their constant covering of non-country material at concerts only added to my concern. Not that singing Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” or Matt Nathanson’s “Come On Get Higher” was a bad move, they pulled them off brilliantly. But after watching their interview, I could tell I had nothing to worry about. Not only hadn’t they changed, they were the same duo who wowed the world with “Baby Girl” seven years ago. It made me happy to see their hearts, and their passions, lay with the Nashville music community.

Anyway, their quotes on passion got me to thinking about passion in my own life and the common denominator that defines everything I do – country music. It’s what drives my energy and keeps me alive. It’s as intrinsically a part of me as putting on a seatbelt when I ride in a car or eating food when I’m hungry.

I don’t remember when country music overtook me and became more than just noise from the radio, but it’s been the one constant in my life. I love writing about it (here and on various other blogs), discussing it, and debating the merits of it. Country music is my true love. I don’t (really can’t) go through a single day without it crossing my mind. I’m smiling right now as I write this. Country music makes me happy. It doesn’t matter if it’s as old as the hills, or just recorded in Nashville this morning, I love everything about the genre. I might not always agree with every production choice, vocal hysteric, or song lyric, but that doesn’t mean I exude any less passion for the music that built me.

For most people, they’re drawn to a form of music for the lyrical content or the emotional delivery. I’ve always found country music to be a feeling. When I discovered it, through Lorrie Morgan’s “What Part of No,” it felt like home. I don’t remember first hearing that song, or her Watch Me album, but it forever changed my thinking. The twang, fiddle, and steel guitar just felt like me. I can’t explain it any better than that.

It wasn’t until I started writing this blog that I was able to love country music so openly. I’d kept as my closely guarded secret for years not because I was scared of what others would think, but because it gave me a tinge of anxiety to talk about it openly with anyone. Growing up it was never a popular form of music to be a fan of. I remember, once, someone asked me who my favorite band was. I had to cover and say Smashing Pumpkins, because I was too scared to say Alabama. Why? Who the heck knows. Looking back at that memory, the word coward comes to mind. I knew the kid had probably never heard of them and I just wanted to get the conversation over with as quickly as I could. Believe me when I say, I know how this sounds – like something’s wrong with me. There’s no shame in liking (or loving) country music as I do, not then or now. People may make fun of my intense love of country, but I’ve gotten to the point where it only shows their ignorance. I can’t apologize for who I am nor would I want to if I could. See, country music is such a part of me, I’m paraphrasing the message Dixie Chicks were trying to get across in “Not Ready To Make Nice.”

Of course, living in Massachusetts isn’t exactly like living in the mecca of this great music, so I never would bring it up. It’s funny, though, as the years progressed, Massachusetts has become the mecca for country music. I shouldn’t be complaining anymore with my geographical closeness to Gillette Stadium. But, as I’ve beaten to death in the recent past, concerts at that venue haven’t helped uphold the ideals that keep Hank Williams from rolling over in his grave. Plus, you cannot have an intimate concert experience at a venue so vast. It’s impossible.

I live with the notion that everything in life happens for a reason (a cliché, I know) and that there’s no such thing as accidents or coincidences. In every moment of life exists a lesson we’re supposed to learn and adhere to. What was a simple interview conducted to plug both an album and a concert tour became transformative for me. I’ve been on a journey, going on ten months now, of trying to figure out how the rest of my life is going to turn out. I’m not willing to settle just to get by because life is too short. I’ve been exploring many career paths including both radio and journalism. And while I’m very happy at WATD, where I’m volunteering, I haven’t found that drive to push towards researching full-time employment. Not that I’m lazy or anything, I just haven’t found the passion I need behind of the careers currently on the table. I haven’t found that unique or exciting opportunity that’ll get me out of bed at any hour of the day or night.

But it isn’t the journalism aspect that isn’t working. As evidenced by what I’m doing right now, I know I want to write. It’s my preferred way of communicating. I can get all my thoughts out without having to hear what others have to say.  And country music is the most effortless subject for me to write about. While I still have much to learn, I already have a vast knowledge of facts and opinions I know most people around me don’t have a vested interest in hearing. And that’s fine because there are people out there who do. They may not be commenting on my blog, but I’ve written enough comments on other sites (really only Country Universe and The 9513) to know people exist. Heck, you couldn’t conduct two full features on the 100 Greatest Women and 100 Greatest Men in country music without caring even just a little bit. Kevin even admitted how much writing that would entail, not to mention a level of detail beyond the average listener or fan’s want to care.

After surveying all these blogs, I’ve learned that I want to shape mine differently. First of all, I’ve never considered this a country music blog. I do have many interests beyond music – I love television, reading, and watching movies. Heck, I even have thoughts outside of the entertainment industry. I want to keep it open to write about whatever I’m inspired by. It’s funny, and I say this all the time about songwriting, the best material comes from inspiration, not writing simply because it’s, say, Tuesday afternoon. When something hits or strikes you in just the right way, like the segment in the Sugarland interview about passion, I can go to town and the ideas just flow.

It’s funny, this whole entry is stream of conscious. I really have no idea what I’m going to say next. I write thoughts as they come pouring out of me. I’m trying my damnedest to be as honest as I can about what my true passions are because, well, it’s been ten months since I got my college degree and it’s time to get a crack on what I really want to do.

Maybe I have to be like every singer following a dream and relocate to Nashville. As I write that line, a nervousness comes over me. Now, I’m certainly not chasing a career in the music industry. I can’t sing and don’t have an ear for music in that way. But being a music journalist might be fun. Reviewing albums and singles and creating (and leading) discussions about country music. Maybe write for a magazine and cover country music for them? I don’t see myself going the Almost Famous route though. Following acts on tour just to get an interview is an exciting prospect but not what I’m cut out for.

It is ironic what Jennifer Nettles said in her quote, “It doesn’t have to be music.” But for me, it really is music. It’s been my passion my whole life and it hasn’t dwindled. Not even for a second. Like with everything in life, I have wanted to turn off country music for awhile out of tiredness, but every passion isn’t sustainable around the clock, 24 hours of every day/365 days a year. But I love country music just as much at 23 years old as I did when I was five. That’s really saying something. I don’t want to be miserable for the rest of my life in a career that won’t make me happy. In fact, it’s more I won’t let that happen for myself. Everyone has a dream and the least we can do is try and chase it.

What’s weird is, writing posts for this blog is where I’ve gotten that sense of lost time. I can be writing, look at the clock, and see that hours have past when it only feels like mere minutes. It’s the strangest thing when time gets bent like that. It’s a feeling I cannot describe. Now I have the seemly difficult task of turning my greatest passions into a career. It isn’t going to be easy but it’s always worth a shot.

Thank you, Sugarland for unleashing a monster within me. You’ve given me some clarity on the rest of my life.

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