Last month, I shut down a niche music blog I’d been running for the past seven plus years called Country California. This is, I guess, kind of a postmortem: My way of encapsulating and commemorating the whole experience.
What it was
When I develop fascinations, I go deep. By April of 2008, I found I had so many idiosyncratic beliefs and opinions about country music that an outlet had become absolutely necessary. Since there weren’t exactly people knocking at my door asking what I thought about Brooks & Dunn or whoever, I set up a simple blog (for free) on Blogspot. I called it Country California without much thought, since I had no reason to suspect anyone would actually read it.
I didn’t tell anyone I knew in real life, since I didn’t know anyone who was as interested in the subject matter as I was. It’s kind of a weird thing to be intensely interested in, much less expect anyone else to be intensely interested in, when all the people you know live 2,000 miles from Nashville.
I kept at it until I caught the eye of people at larger publications with greater reach, and soon the blog was attracting hundreds of readers each week. Readers, more or less, like me. Maybe they didn’t agree with everything I wrote, but at least they cared enough about the same things I did to find my little dispatches worth reading.
Before long, writing the blog had become part of the rhythm of my life… and reading it had become part of the rhythm of other people’s lives.
Off to the races.
What it meant, according to them
Now, looking back, it would be a little presumptuous for me to say what the whole thing meant. Whatever I thought it meant, or wanted it to mean, ceased to be what it meant as soon as I put it out into the world.
So I’ll turn this section over to others, and confess to being pleased at how often what people said I was doing matched what I thought I was trying to do.
insightful and often wickedly funny
… features a ‘Fake News’ section that has become something like country music’s version of farcical newspaper The Onion, or like an all-country online cousin to The Daily Show.
I’m really happy that more people are finding Country California. I’m even happier that it’s pissing them off.
I’ve had the pleasure of reading Country California since the beginning. I love the humor/wit, great writing and fantastic taste.
I couldn’t imagine a world without Country California. The amount of entertainment, education, and insight this site has provided me over the last four years is immeasurable. While country music has always held a special place in my heart, my passion for it has increased dramatically in the past few years, and Country California has been an indispensable reason why. […] I could spend all day listing all of the artists, songs, and albums I discovered through this site.
I must have been reading your site for at least the last seven (?) years, and I’ve always appreciated it.
Absolutely rely on Country California’s news roundups & Quotable Country, not only for substance but for witty reflection & perspective.
I’ll miss @CountryCa’s music insight, sure. But I’ll miss his skepticism towards money, data [driven “art”], social media, & kneejerk stupidity even more.
First of all, thanks for the years of great writing from your particular (but fairly universal) viewpoint. I’ll definitely miss the wit, self-deprecation and heart.
The crew here have long been admirers of the sharp, insightful writing and wry humor that Country California brought to the country music blogosphere…
My biggest concern is that as an internet user, and as a patron of sites like Country California, is that if these sites continue to go away, the internet will be a much less enjoyable and enriching place. And if all that’s left is Buzzfeed and TMZ, how is this going to affect the perspective of society?
The takeaway, according to me
Recall that when I started I knew no one who would care about any of this. The right people found me only after I kept showing up to do the work.
The takeaway is not that I’m awesome. It’s not even that a thing I did was awesome. (There are parts I’d do differently.) I’m afraid I tend to be a rather hard sell on both of those points. The takeaway, stated generally, is this:
Whatever strange notion or enthusiasm possesses you, there are people who share it. Maybe not all the people, or even very many people. Maybe not people you could have predicted. But if you engage with what matters to you, what you do will matter to some number of people. So find a way to do what excites you, even if you have to start without the necessary experience, permission, or resources. Even if you have to start from nothing, for an audience of no one. Communities grow around people who apply their own peculiar energy to something (anything) that genuinely interests them.
If you’re like me, you too often bog down in heavier questions before you even begin: Is this an embarrassing thing to pursue? Is this what people expect of me? Will this be important? Does this have all the indefinable qualities that will make it matter in the grand scheme of history? I humbly propose that, for the purposes of setting a thing in motion, you only really need one question: Does this interest me? If it does, it’s worth pursuing. Those big, unproductive, unanswerable questions have a way of receding as you dive into the work itself.
(You can always revisit them once the work is behind you, if you must…)