Yes, I’m talking about country music! Who’d have thunk that this New York born, Motown-loving, transplanted Californian would be moved by the rockabilly twang, the slow easy ballads, the humor, the honesty that is now the country music phenomenon.

The truth is my venture into writing began about the same time I found country music on the radio. Tired of the oldies, unable to relate to the new hip-hop sounds blasting the stations nationwide and feeling a little lost — musically and professionally, I knew I needed more of something in my life. I recall hearing Faith Hill on a pop music stationimages-tim-and-faith.jpg. But it wasn’t just Faith who intrigued me, but the man singing the duet with her, her new husband, Tim McGraw.  I knew little of both of them, but thought to investigate this “country music” thing.  

I bought a Tim McGraw CD, watched him perform on Jay Leno one night, and as they say, I was a goner. Being a western romance writer,  I fell in love with country music from that day on.  Tim’s tight jeans, black hat and amazing smile, helped just a little. 🙂     (Met him once and never miss his concerts) 

Seriously, the music called to me, beckoning with tunes of lost loves, of heroes found, of sweet smiles and first crushes.  The songs tell a complete story in three minutes, painting vivid pictures with impressions that stick in your head, long after the tunes are gone.   

I found the music inspiring, the lyrics fresh and honest, the images real. Sometimes humorous and fun, sometimes  heart-breakingly sad, sometimes soulful and  deep.  Those heart-tugging emotions evoked a longing for something else in my life.   They inspired me. They moved me. They made me feel. 

I can’t say that music solely played a role to help me find my lifelong passion of writing, but those short musical bursts of true life told beautifuly through rhythm and lyrics, with fiddles and drums and guitars and keyboards surely inspired me at a time when I truly needed inspiration.

bradpaisley46-426×135.jpgThe same holds true today.  Often I’m asked the timeless question writers are asked- where do I get my ideas?  My silent answer : From Tim and Faith and Toby and Kenny. From Martina and Brad and Shania.  From  Rascal Flatts and Brooks and Dunn, to name a few of my favorites.


 untitled-toby-keith.bmpShould Have Been A Cowboy…Toby Keith

I bet you’ve never heard ol’ Marshall Dillion say, Miss Kitty have you ever thought of running away
Settling down would you marry me?
If I asked you twice and begged you pretty please.  She’d have said yes in a New York minute
They never tied the knot
His heart wasn’t in it
He just stole a kiss as he rode away
He never hung his hat up at Kitty’s place

I should’ve been a cowboy
I should’ve learned to rope and ride
Wearing my six-shooter riding my pony on a cattle drive
Stealing the young girl’s hearts
Just like Gene and Roy
Singing those campfire songs
Oh I should’ve been a cowboy

I might of had a sidekick with a funny name
Running wild through the hills chasing Jesse James
Ending up on the brink of danger
Riding shotgun for the Texas Rangers
Go west young man, haven’t you been told
California’s full of whiskey, women and gold
Sleeping out all night beneath the desert stars
With a dream in my eye and a prayer…
In my heart


AnywayMartina McBride


You can spend your whole life buildin’
Somethin’ from nothin’
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway

You can chase a dream
That seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway

God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good
When I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
I do it anyway

This world’s gone crazy and it’s hard to believe
That tomorrow will be better than today
Believe it anyway
You can love someone with all your heart
For all the right reasons
And in a moment they can choose to walk away
Love ’em anyway


2812106-280×336.jpgLive Like You Were Dying …Tim McGraw (10 weeks at #1)

He said I was in my early forties, with a lot of life before me
And one moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days, looking at the x-rays
Talking bout’ the options and talking bout’ sweet times.
I asked him when it sank in, that this might really be the real end
How’s it hit ‘cha when you get that kind of news?
Man what did ya do?
He said

I went skydiving
I went rocky mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denyin’
And he said some day I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin’

He said I was finally the husband, that most the time I wasn’t
And I became a friend, a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden goin’ fishin, wasn’t such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
Well I finally read the good book, and I took a good long hard look
At what I’d do if I could do it all again
And then

I went skydiving
I went rocky mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Shu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denyin’
And he said some day I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin’

My Top 10 Favorite Country Artists

Tim McGraw

Faith Hill

Martina McBride

Carrie Underwood


Brooks and Dunn

Josh Turner

Toby Keith

George Strait

So Much More

I could go on and on about country  songs that inspire me.  The ones that make me laugh out  loud. (Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off)  The ones that are almost too heartbreaking to listen to (Concrete Angel). The ones that pull at your parental heartstrings(There Goes My Life) and the ones that speak about love and romance. (I Need You)   

The stories they tell and  rich emotions they evoke all help me develop my characters, create my plots and put those words on the page.

There are too many songs to name and too many artists I enjoy to post here.  But I’d love to know if you’re a fan of country music?  Are there songs that help inspire you whatever your profession?  Who are your favorites? 

Post a comment and be entered into a drawing for Harlequin Coupons and a book from my backlist of available titles!

Happy Trails !


+ posts


  1. Oh Charlene, I hear the music already! I went to a Brad Paisley concert once and he said a country song isn’t a country song unless it makes the girl cry LOL. It is a JOY to go to Tim/Faith concerts with you. And I’ve turned my husband into a Tim fan, too! (Faith goes without saying.)…George Strait’s The Best Day of My Life makes me bawl, having been through my son’s wedding…(didn’t cry that day though.)

  2. If you want real country songs that can break your heart and/or tell a story try Bruce Robison. Some of his songs that were hits by other are: “Wrapped”-George Strait, “Angry All the Time”-Tim McGraw, and “Travelin’ Soldier”-the Dixie Chicks. You should also listen to George’s older stuff like “A Fire I Can’t Put Out”.

  3. Charlene — great post!!! My hubby and two little boys just love country music. They listen to all the CDs and sing together. What really gets me is when my 5-year old sings “I’m your little buck-a-roo, I want to be like you” I can’t remember the title or the artist but it is about a dad and a 4-year old son.

    Yesterday, while waiting in the car line at school, I heard Alan Jackson’s song about 9/11. “Where were you on that fateful September day”. Man did I cry! It still brings tears to my eyes.

    I was surprised you didn’t have Rascal Flatts or Keith Urban on your list. I absolutely LOVE them!

  4. Fabulous post, Charlene. Makes me realize I don’t listen to this wonderful music enough. Going to switch the station on my car stereo.
    Maybe it’ll give me some inspiration or even an idea for the next story.

  5. A county song that touches me is Concrete Angel by Martina Mcbride or God’s Will also by Martina Mcbride.
    Concrete Angel is the story of abusive parents that eventually beat the little girl to death and now she is an angel and free from the pain.
    God’s Will is a story about a crippled little boy that has so much heart! He may not live due to his condition. He is dressed as a bag of leaves for halloween to hide the braces on his legs. His mom is a single mother and has to work two jobs. Then he touches Martina’s heart and has to move away.
    I love those two songs, I came to tears the first time I heard and understood them.
    Hugs and love, Crystal

  6. I’ve always loved the song WHERE’VE YOU BEEN by Kathy Mattea

    Claire had all but given up when she and Edwin fell in love
    She touched his face and shook her head in disbelief, she sighed and said
    In many dreams I’ve held you near now, at last, you’re really here
    Where’ve you been? I’ve looked for you forever and a day

    Where’ve you been? I’m just not myself when you’re away

    He asked her for her hand for life and she became a salesman’s wife
    He was home each night by eight but one stormy evening, he was late
    Her frightened tears fell to the floor until his key turned in the door
    Where’ve you been? I’ve looked for you forever and a day
    Where’ve you been? I’m just not myself when you’re away

    They’d never spent a night apart for sixty years she heard him snore
    Now they’re in a hospital in separate beds on different floors

    Claire soon lost her memory forgot the names of family
    She never spoke a word again then one day, they wheeled him in
    He held her hand and stroked her hair in a fragile voice she said
    Where’ve you been? I’ve looked for you forever and a day
    Where’ve you been? I’m just not myself when you’re away
    No, I’m just not myself when you’re away

  7. I love country music now I didn’t listen to it when I was younger to much but now I can’t get enough of it. As a matter of fact The Toby Keith song Should have been a cowboy I wore it out my husband put it on a tape so I could play it in the car and I wore it out. I know the kids don’t like to go in the car with me because I play it so much.

    As for the Tim McGraw we played it as my Dad’s funeral this year and it breaks my heart everytime I hear it. There are some more that when I hear them I just start crying and my hubby will ask me why I listen to them and I said they make me feel good, he says why are you crying then and I say because I feel good. Gee why can’t he see that???
    Love your post

  8. Charlene, awesome blog! I never listen to anything BUT country music, and Tim McGraw – oh, my, be still my heart. Why does Faith get all the luck?

    Their song together, I NEED YOU, is the most romantic song I’ve heard in a long time. Love it!

  9. LOVE country music! My favorite male artist is Josh Turner. There is something incredibly sexy about that deep voice. My favorite female artist is Carrie Underwood. I’m a huge AI fan and have followed her from the beginning. My favorite group is Rascal Flatts. Best. Group. Ever! 😀

  10. Charlene: Wonderful post! I love country music. George Strait is my fave. Dierks Bentley’s “What Was I Thinking”. It’s almost rock, but still…Tim MacGraw’s “I’m Already There” …

    I was driving in the car the first time I heard that one and I had to pull over it made me tear up so much. I think you hit on the magic of country music–you never know what emotion they’re going to bring out. Some songs make you smile, some make you cry, some bring back memories. There’s just a richness to country music that I adore.

  11. I listen to other stuff while I’m writing but I will say that more than any other musical genre, country is the one that really knows how to tell a story and perhaps that’s why we like the songs so much.

    Tequila makes her clothes come off cracks me up – especially the video!

    And “I Melt” by Rascall Flatts is SEXY. Not to mention the heartbreak of “What Hurts The Most”.

    I can’t watch the vid for Concrete Angel without crying.

    Country music is cheeky and I like that. Who can watch the video for Brad’s “I’m Gonna Miss Her” without cracking up?

  12. I am an avid country music fan since the mid-70s. I also love early rock & roll and some early country. I love the artists and songs you mentioned, but my favorite song right now is ‘It’s a Different World’ by Bucky Covington. That song just speaks to the time of my childhood:

    We were born of mothers who smoked and drank,
    Our cribs were covered in lead-based paint,
    No child-proof lids, no seat belts in cars,
    Rode bikes with no helmets and still here we are,
    Still here we are.

    We got Daddy’s belt when we misbehaved,
    Had three TV channels we got up to change,
    No video games and no satellite,
    All we had were friends and they were outside,
    Playing outside.

    It was a different life when were were boys and girls,
    Not just a different time,
    It was a different world.

    It’s the way things were when I was a kid.

    (Sorry for the duplicate post folks, I am used to the reply button at the end of the post, not at the beginning so this got posted under a different spot. DUH!!)

  13. Hi Everyone,
    Just popped out of bed half an hour ago here in CA and found 13 comments about country music already! My goodness, there are a lot of fans out there. I can’t even tell you HOW much these songs mean to me. We pay extra to have GAC and CMT on our cable stations so we can see the new videos and the Top Twenty countdowns all the time.

    Brenda and Pam — You’re Tim fans? Can’t agree with you more. Tanya Hanson and I stood in line one day for 5 hours (had a blast) to meet him, shake his hand and take a pic with him. Stunning and sweet. He and Faith are PERFECT together.

    Tanya – I love our “Tim and Faith” concert dates together! Might be only Tim next year. 🙁

    Christy- Those lyrics put tears in my eyes.

    Buffie- I adore Rascal Flatts! Should have been on my Top 11 List. 🙂 and I CAN’T remember the artist either but that song shows how a son follows and learns from his father’s example. It’s very cute and touching! I’m imagining your son singing right along!!

    Lorraine – Did you see George Strait’s movie about a country singer, hiding out in his hometown? It’s when he was younger … the title slips my mind right now … Out of Country? It was great and I’ve seen it a dozen times — just can’t recall the title this early in the AM.

    Andrea — Josh Turner’s voice opens on my myspace site. I’m Your Man — oh that deep sexy voice.

    Minna – Hope you try country music sometime! Ten years ago I didn’t know what a Brooks and Dunn was — probably thought it was a suit or something. 🙂

    Elizabeth – I find such inspiration in so many of the songs – recently one about a young man who slept with his best friend’s younger sister one time and their relationship was ruined forever. It’s the entire premise of my next contemporary single title proposal. I’ve only heard the song a few times, but the song put the idea in my head and it wouldn’t go away. I don’t know the artist.

    Stacey – I agree. Love them both.

    Crystal – I mentioned Concrete Angel in my blog. I can hardly bare to listen to it. It’s heartbreaking.

    Lynn- I think he’s got a song on the radio now, right? There are so many talented songwriters out there and some are performing their own songs now.

    Let’s keep the discussion going. This is fun!

  14. Karen in NC – Those lyrics speak to my childhood too! We watched an episode of Mad Men last night and were reminded of how life was in the 50’s and 60’s. I don’t know what’s happening on the show, but the “setting” caught my attention and I watched the entire hour of the series on AMC.

    Donna – “What Hurts the Most” gets me every time. I do love that song and everything Rascal Flatts sings.



  16. I’m a HUGE country music fan. I love all the artists you mention. Some songs hold real personal significance, and will set me bawling every single time I hear them – like “Holes in the Floor of Heaven” and “I’ll Leave This Life Loving You.” Jeez, I’m tearing up already just thinking about them.

  17. I’ve been a country music fan forever! So many times I’ll be driving along and a song will come on that stirs me and thoughts of a story. Country music, I think, touches everyone who listens to it. The lyrics tell wonderful stories. Some of Kenny Chesney’s songs are worded so wonderfully that I just sit there wishing I could put words together like that. Now I know they may not be songs he wrote, but that he had the ear to pick that song is amazing.

    Great Topic!

  18. Too funny, Charlene, Brooks and Dunn being a suit or something! This is a great discussion, everybody. My niece and her new bridegroom came into the reception hall to “I Need You” a few weeks ago. SIGH. And it segued ito their first dance….yes, Faith is gorgeous, talented, has three darling children and STILL gets to be married to Tim McGraw. It’s just not fair!!!…Yes, add me in as a fan to Alan Jackson, Rascal Flatts, and Toby Keith. Hmmm.gotta go turn on KHAY now.

  19. Charlene, great post! I love country music. Toby Keith has some songs that can lift my mood in no when I’m down.

  20. Charlene, like you there too many songs to list that inspire, soothe, and make me laugh when I’m sad. Here in Texas I grew up listening to country music. lol I think it’s a requirement to live here. I love western swing with a beat that always makes me want to jump up and dance. One song stands out for its ability to evoke emotion though and that’s Martina McBride’s Angel with a Broken Wing. I love a song with a message and most hers do. But I also love George Strait’s Amarillo By Morning – a true cowboy song. Garth Brooks’ “Rodeo” is another favorite. And I can’t forget Willie’s “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.” Oh yes. You’ve certainly awakened a lot of memories. Time to go write now!

  21. Ladies! Check out Gary Allan! He’s the coolest country dude around . . . Love his stuff! His new album comes out in October and I’ll be there waiting.

    I love Josh Turner, too. Especially “Will You Go With Me.” Has anyone heard “Firecracker”? It’s . . . excuse the pun . . . a dynamite song! His next album also comes out in October.

    As for the ladies, I like Taylor Swift. Can’t believe she’s 16. I love her “Tim McGraw” song.

  22. I was neve a big country music fan but started listening to Faith Hill and love her songs because they tell some sweet and some heartbreaking stories. One of the lines is a woman singing about whether her husband sees her “I’m standing in the kitchen” she sings which I thought was so appropriate to so many women.

  23. I love country music.Some of my favorite singers are Clay Walker, Gary Allen, Kenny Chesney just to name a few.

  24. I grew up on country music, in fact, my father played guitar and sang in a band during his younger days. Didn’t know there was any other kind of music until college. Gary Allan is great, but George Strait is the one forever. Song writers do amazing work with words, and I’ve always wondered if they ever hang out with book writers? Great post, and all of you are doing a super job on this blog. Its become one of my favorites!

  25. I’m not really a country music fan. But I do love The Dixie Chicks have everyone of their CDS. Love those gals music.

  26. Hope you don’t mind if I join in. I found this site through Stacey Kayne. Glad I happened upon it.

    I’m in tears listening to everyone’s lists of favorites. I have a LOT of favorites. I live in Kentucky, so country music has surrounded me all my life. Here are a few of my favorites.

    Hard Candy Christmas and I Will Always Love You- Dolly Parton
    She’s Gotta Be- Keith Urban
    Almost Home- Craig Morgan(reminds me of my grandma always saying that she dreamed she met up with my grandpa in Heaven to go fishing…now every time I hear this song, I think, yep, they’re probably fishing together now.)
    My Town- Montgomery Gentry (I’m from up around the same place they are from so that song speaks volumes to me about my own hometown.)
    He’d Never Seen Julie Cry- Jo Dee Messina
    19 Something- Mark Wills (my generation)
    Moments- Emerson Drive (can’t help but cry when I hear this one)
    In My Daughter’s Eyes- Martina McBride
    Something That We Do and When I Said I Do- Clint Black
    He Walked On Water- Randy Travis (for my grandpa)
    My Sister- Reba McEntire
    Mr. Mom- Lonestar
    If Something Should Happen- Darryl Worley

    Of course, I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there.

    The George Strait movie was Pure Country(which as a side note- he had no kissing or lovemaking scenes because his wife refused to allow him to do any, but boy was he yummy anyway! LOL) There are several songs on that soundtrack that are just heartbreaking.

    “I had a one night stand with my best friends baby sister
    And to this day he still wont speak to me” is Jake Owen- Startin’ With Me.

    Rodney Atkins is the one who sings I’ve Been Watching You-

    Drivin’ through town just my boy and me
    With a “Happy Meal” in his booster seat
    Knowin’ that he couldn’t have the toy ‘til his nuggets were gone.
    A green traffic light turned straight to red
    I hit my brakes and mumbled under my breath.
    His fries went a flyin’, and his orange drink covered his lap
    Well, then my 4 year old said a 4 letter word
    It started with “S” and I was concerned
    So I said, “Son, now where’d you learn to talk like that?”

    He said, I’ve been watching you, dad ain’t that kool?
    I’m your buckaroo, I want to be like you.
    And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are.
    We got cowboy boots and camo pants
    Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we dad
    I want to do everything you do.
    So I’ve been watching you.

    I think I’ll shut my blabbermouth now. LOL :o)

  27. Lorraine and Vicki – Yes, Taylor Swift is amazing. I think Tim said he felt “old” when she wrote and sung that song about him. Oh, the male ego. 🙂

    Linda – Yes, Martina’s songs have really clear messages. It’s one of the reasons I love her music, plus the fact that she has an AMAZING voice range!

    Paty and Brandi — I agree about Kenny Chesney’s songs – so many are moving. Have you ever heard “The Good Stuff?”

    Natalie — I don’t know too much about Gary Allan, but I’ll check him out on CMT soon.

    Maureen — Faith’s song about “standing in the kitchen” is called STEALING KISSES. A very powerful song.

  28. I’ve been gone all day and didn’t get back in time to get in the contest, but it’s a great topic. My first reaction is an oldie, although I love contemporary country music best.
    But Tanya Tucker sang a song called “Strong Enough to Bend” that I’ve always loves.
    There’s a tree out in the backyard
    That never has been broken by the wind
    Our love will last forever
    If we’re strong enough to bend.

    And an old, old Randy Travis song is another true classic. My Love is Deeper than the Holler:
    My love is deeper that the holler, stronger than the rivers
    Higher than the pine trees growin’ tall upon the hill
    My love is purer than the snowflakes that fall in late December
    And honest as a robin on a springtime window sill
    And longer than the song of the Whippoorwill

    But contemporary, I love Tim and Faith. I love Rascal Flatts, especially God Bless the Broken Road.
    You’ll Think of Me by Keith Urban.
    Sweet Southern Comfort by Buddy Jewel
    I could just soak in those smooth, poetic lyrics like they were warm, steamy water.

    I also wrote a country song one time.
    It was an ode to hunting called”
    “I’ve Got Bambi On My Hands”

  29. I’ve also always loved the mutation available only to country songs.
    Only in country music could Loretta Lynn rhyme the words ‘Hard’ and ‘Tired’.

    Yeah I’m proud to be a coal miner’s daughter
    I remember well the well where I drew water
    The work we done was hard
    At night we’d sleep cause we were tired

  30. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article HUNKY COWBOYS, INSPIRING LYRICS, SONGS THAT REACH DEEP INTO YOUR SOUL, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  31. since everyone commented on 8/31 til Daniel rang in; I’ll just add I got to see Tim McGraw at a FREE concert (notice my nickname/handle) after Lynard Skinard, but hubby wanted to leave so only heard some of it. Also heard Garth Brooks from the Midway while friend was at his concert at Cheyenne Frontier Days in ’94. College roommate, recent client & current student enjoy CW music so I am exposed. Catch the 2 cable channels of videos occasionally & LOVE C Underwood’s Jesus Take the Wheel!
    THANKS for all the background inform and recommendations!

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