We caught up with New Mexico-native Teagan Stewart to talk about her upcoming EP – and of course, we had to ask about #whatmadeyoucountry!
When I was 11 or 12, I wrote a journal entry in a notebook at school why country music is the best genre and my favorite. That notebook is still in a drawer at my parent’s house and I remember how funny I found it 12 years later – way too self-assured, but passionate and still true to how I feel about country music today. Country music is storytelling, above all else. It is wordy and detailed and complicated. It’s not distilled in a pure, simplistic form, like pop. Country is full of character in the way the instruments are played and the way it’s sung. It’s sometimes full of satire, self-deprecation, and larger-than-life characters. Other times, it’s a confession, loneliness, and one acoustic guitar. I love that country music has such a broad range of topics (being a child of divorce, to meeting a homeless man who was a war veteran, to relishing the view of your front porch looking in) and that alone makes me feel like I will never get tired of listening to or exploring country music.
I definitely can’t remember the first country song I ever heard, since my parents had it on the radio since I was little! I do remember I got a CD/radio player in my room when I was about 11 and that jumpstarted my voracious clip of consuming country. I don’t remember (the first gig) with accuracy. Every summer starting in elementary/middle school, my parents would buy the “Megaticket” to the amphitheater where all the country acts rolled through. I saw everyone, from Brooks & Dunn to Tim McGraw to Miranda Lambert. There was a time, probably in 2009, where I had seen, either as an opener or headliner, nearly every single country artist who was on the radio, big or small. Those concerts solidified my passion for country music, for sure. The feeling of standing on the grass, singing out loud, the drums pumping through the ground and the guitars wailing… There was nothing else like it.
The one artist that inspired me most is Carrie Underwood. There was no one else I listened to most as a kid. Her voice, her storytelling, and her ability to navigate the music industry after her win was so inspirational to me and I was hooked. I even remember her playing her first tour after Idol at the New Mexico State Fair and prefacing “Before He Cheats” with “I’m not actually that kind of person!” I feel like I grew with her and there’s truly no other artist like her.
If I could only listen to one country album for the next decade, it would be Own the Night, Lady Antebellum (the real Lady A is blues artist Anita White). Already one decade down!
I would sing The Night Before (Life Goes On) as a challenge to my middle school self to see if I could hold those high notes (I couldn’t) and push the limits of my range. I also sang it back when I was a kid who had only dreamed of what love might feel like, all the way through my first boyfriend and first kiss, until the subject matter of the song finally caught up to my life and I broke up with a boyfriend the summer before I left for college.
Good Directions is one of my favorite songs. I love the simple story of it and how the chorus moves the story along. I love the instrumentation and the hillbilly-vibe. Will always be one of my favorite songs.
Making Memories of Us is perhaps my favorite love song of all time and often moves me to tears. It is the pinnacle of what true love means to me and few songs have ever made me feel like this one does.
Gunpowder & Lead is super memorable in pop culture, but for me, it represented a grit and fierceness I didn’t find when I listened to anything else. While owning and brandishing a gun to kill an abusive boyfriend doesn’t relate to me in any real way (especially not as a child), the brazenness and “give no f***s” attitude was something I immediately respected and felt was true to the kinds of songs I wanted to sing.
I love Gary LeVox’s voice and it was a game changer in country music, I think. To have those kinds of pop runs, high range, and expressionistic voice dominating the song and still be country. I love the lyrics and the imagery of Fast Cars and Freedom. I’ve never once heard it and not immediately been transported to a road trip with crisp, morning air.