I recently read Waking Up In Nashville, a book published in 2002 by British travel writer Stephen Foehr. He came to Nashville and navigated the scene from an outsider’s perspective and expertly delved into the idea of ‘what is country music.’ This was in the early 2000s, so the traditional country fan’s anger was directed at pop-country stars like Shania Twain and Faith Hill. But the overwhelming consensus from the dozens of people he interviewed is that country music isn’t pretty. It isn’t happy endings and perfect nights. It’s real life. At the time that Foehr wrote this book, Alan Jackson had recently released his song “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning,” a song about the horrors of the September 11 attacks. Country music tackled this issue in a way no other genre did and that’s what country music always does. Country music goes into the gritty details of real life like no other genre, and that’s the reason that so many people love the genre so much. But when a ‘country’ artist releases album that has very little real life and a lot of picture-perfect high school life, it’s hard to connect that record with the heart and soul of country music. Kelsea Ballerini’s debut record The First Time doesn’t really match up to the roots of country music, but did blow up the country music scene in 2015.