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I mentioned last week that on my way back home from Virginia that I had rediscovered country music. The trend has continued for the past 10 days; the presets are still under their new programming in the car and in the Jeep, my Pandora stations have been changed and I am finding myself thoroughly enjoying country music again. I find the music to help when I am working on various projects on the computer; the real musicality of country music doesn’t distract from what I’m doing. This is a good thing. I often find Top 40 and Adult Contemporary/Easy-Listening music to be distracting. Country is helping me process my thoughts.

One of the reasons for my return to country music is my discovery of Lady Antebellum1, a group formed in 2006. They are pictured above. If you want a closer look you can click on the picture to make it bigger. I mentioned in my post last week that I loved the song “Need You Now”. This is the first single from their second album coming out in January 2010. I have already downloaded the first album. It resides on my iPhone and in the car CD player.

Now here’s where I get a little deep.

I have written before that I grew up in rural Upstate New York2. Conversely, I have talked about living in big cities such as Toronto, Dublin, Oklahoma City, Denver and the like, heck, I even lived in suburban Boston for three years. While I really enjoy the idea of having so much available to me while living in a big city, I suspect that there’s a part of me that wouldn’t be overly happy for the long term while living in such an environment. I need open space, I need lots of wild flowers, fields and clear views of the horizon. Last night Earl and I were casually discussing the future and where he could go in his career and how it might involve a move. As we mentioned various places where we could live, I found myself saying that I would want to live outside of the mentioned metropolitan area: he’d mention Buffalo, I’d counter with Batavia or Medina; he’d mention Albany, I’d suggest one of the rural towns outside of the Capital District. I think that’s why Oklahoma City and St. Louis are high on my “preferred cities” list; they are good-sized cities that have more of a rural vibe about them. I like that. A relatively short drive out of the city and you’re back in the heartland.

As a gay man I was always hesitant to mention where I grew up, especially when hanging with the gays from the big cities. I always felt that I didn’t fit in. It was very rare that I would talk about the fact that I spent my single-digit years growing up in a 10’x50’ (with 8’x40’ addition my father built) mobile home that was surrounded on two sides by an electric fence (to keep the cattle and horses off the lawn). Sunday mornings were spent with my cousins racing through barns in wild games, after-school time was spent hiking in the woods and jumping in and out of the cow pasture (and once in a while being chased by an ornery bull). When Dad got home from work we’d do the chores and supper was served promptly at 6. You know what? I really like the smell of “fresh country air”. Was I embarrassed by these things when I was hanging with the urban gays? No. I just didn’t think that it made me gay enough (whatever that meant) and it made me feel like more of an outsider.

This runs contrary for a person that doesn’t even look at the same wall when everyone else is looking at the ‘big picture’.

I think one of the reasons I’m enjoying country music again is because it touches my rural roots and helps me remember and connect to the person that I really am, which is buried under layers of who I thought I was suppose to be. Others have talked about trying to fit into a pre-conceived stereotype of how they were suppose to act as a gay man. I’m guilty of that, especially back in the mid and late 1980s when I was first getting my bearings on the whole gay thing. And some of these things have stuck with me throughout my adult life.

I have mentioned before that I never thought that I would figure out this whole life thing, even at the age of 41. I don’t think that we ever truly get it figured out before it all ends, but you know what, I really think that I’m on the right track again. The high I felt after returning from my vacation last week has continued to linger. There has been no post-vacation crash, and aside from a few minor bumps here and there at work (that were really not a big deal once they were put into perspective in my head), I still feel amazing.

And I’m more proud than ever to say that I really am a country boy at heart.

1 It did not escape my notice that all three members of Lady Antebellum are incredibly hot.

2 By ‘Upstate New York’ I am not referring to Yonkers, Westchester County or even Poughkeepsie, but what I consider to be the true ‘Upstate New York’, the heartland of The Empire State, far away from the Big Apple.