For approximately the past three years, I’ve stuck to a routine with this blog that – outside of a brief period last year where I focused my attention on Country Universe – has rarely changed. Every week usually consists of around three posts that can be anything from album reviews to countdowns to historical pieces to whatever else – this year alone I balanced two weekly features in a song review roundup series and news roundup, and the latter reminded me why I’m not a music journalist.
And to be honest, when I sat down last night to start this week’s Boom-or-Bust Jukebox, all I could think was, “Why? I don’t want to do this.” I’ll level with you all – ever since I published my book project exploring 30 years worth of country music history, I’ve been in a rut. I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels with reviews that ramble on and fail to make coherent points at times, and despite me giving it my all with each post, it doesn’t feel like it. I haven’t been able to shake it or understand why exactly, but I think I’m experiencing a period of burn out. I’ve been writing to fill time on an arbitrary schedule rather than letting it all come naturally. I’ve treated my fun hobby as a second job.
Now, this doesn’t mean this website is going anywhere anytime soon. Far from it. But I think it’s time to hit the brakes and re-evaluate my mission and my priorities with this outlet. I feel like I lost myself keeping up with the musical rat race – to hear every single song and album released each week, to engage in conversations I don’t care about, and to keep up appearances when I’m just some random dude who isn’t nearly as thoughtful or sharp as he thinks he is. That’s not to say I’ve been completely consumed. Again, my book project was my favorite thing I’ve ever done, and my current Willie Nelson retrospective has been an absolute blast. And the difference between those projects and everything else is … I’ve gotten to really live with them. They’re not popular, but man, they’re rewarding. I’m more concerned with doing them right instead of getting them out “on time.”
Of course, I get that my whining and the reasons behind it point back to me, and I’m not saying it’s anyone else’s fault but mine. I take full responsibility for veering off track. Fellow writers and other content creators will understand this, but it’s like when you finally gain momentum on a project, you keep going and going until there’s nothing left, because you’re only ever as good as the last thing you did – especially in this hyper-active society we live in today, where the next best thing is always waiting around the corner. It’s as if I’ve operated out of this deep-seated fear that if I don’t have something new every few days, that people will just move on from this website and not care anymore. I know that isn’t reflective of reality, but let your anxiety take over and you’ll convince yourself of anything. As for the reviews, I’ve given each project the respect it deserves, but not necessarily the time.
I think I got wrapped up in people-pleasing and turning this blog into something I never wanted it to be – a recommendation service. I’ve always wanted to center more around discussions on an even-level playing field with the readers, and I feel like for as much as I’ve preached that elsewhere here, I haven’t really lived up to it. I’m a country music fan who doesn’t consider himself a part of any community. I like the radio acts, I like the acts out of Texas and Kentucky, and I love the other outsiders trying to get their foot in the door. I also think there’s bad music to be found in every category. One isn’t better than the other; it’s all part of the big tent. On that note, though, I’ll also say there’s nothing more dispiriting as a writer than when people engage more with the negative reviews than they do the positive ones.
To repeat myself, I got so wrapped up in people-pleasing that I kept going with every new release and eventually didn’t want to listen to anything new. I’ve been revisiting a lot of old favorites lately, and remembering when I got to live with them and let them slowly burn themselves into my memory.
What am I trying to say, then? Well, in a way, I want to start over. I want to take things slower with this outlet and write when the passion and inspiration strikes, just as I did when I first started writing years ago. I don’t want to think in terms of “what am I going to write about this week?,” but rather, “what I do want to write about next?” I want to break away from social media and spend less time online and more time living with music again. I want to remember why I became a country music fan in the first place, and that’s all on me. I say this all to you, the readers, because I don’t just want to spring a change without any explanation whatsoever (which means I’m still operating under delusions of grandeur, and … damn it!), and because I might tool around with my writing style and other features over these next few weeks. I’m full of ideas right now and can’t wait to share them, but they’re not going to necessarily be revolutionary ideas – more of a “back to the basics” kind of thing. I want to have fun with this outlet again on a regular basis. On a separate yet related note, I may be adding another voice to The Musical Divide’s roster, so stay tuned potentially for that. I hope you’ll stick around for the changes, but if you don’t, that’s understandable, too.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you when the next post strikes.
– Zackary Kephart