Walking through the mud in Siri rubber boots has stopped the water. She carries buckets of feed for the sheep, who run to her in anticipation of food. Other animals have made themselves comfortable in a barn in a quiet pasture with woods behind.
The young musician lives with her family, horses, dogs, a small flock of sheep and a few chickens on a farm in the Sauerland region of the West German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
When she’s not tending to her livelihood, animals or land, the 28-year-old makes music — country music to be exact.
The origins of country music
In the 1920s, English, Irish, and Scottish immigrants brought their music to the United States, especially where they settled in the southern states of America and the Appalachian Mountains. A new style of music emerged and became known as country music for its origins in rural areas. The states of Tennessee and Kentucky became country music strongholds and the genre continued to expand, later blending with blues music and then pop styles.
But Siri’s love for country music has nothing to do with the fact that she hails from a rural area. She has always been fond of singing. Although he started playing guitar at the age of 12, the artist discovered country music later in life.
From punk rock to country music
“Actually, I used to listen to top punk rock,” Siri says with a laugh. While in college, she began playing the music she wrote on the street. “I tried to define the musical style of my songs. At some point, I realized there was something country in the way I sang,” she told DW.
Eventually, he began listening to country music by Eric Church, Luke Combs, and Shania Twain. But she admits to being inspired by her life in the country.
“There’s a certain attitude to life that it conveys,” she says. However, his debut album “Freedom” (2022) does not directly deal with pastoral scenes but rather social issues. “When something is burning in the soul, one feels the need to take it out and process it in a song,” says the artist.
Songs about the flood of the century
His song “Rain Is Falling” has a particularly moving story. “The song is about being in a mental void and not knowing what to do. But it also gives hope at the end.”
Shortly before Siri recorded the song in July 2021, a devastating flood devastated parts of Germany. It flooded not only the Ahr Valley, but also a large part of the Leni Valley in his region of North Rhine-Westphalia. Among the buildings affected was the recording studio of Frankie Kuhnlein and Michael Daniels, where she had been recording.
“It was the last song left for the album,” Siri said. It wasn’t until much later, when the studio could be used again, that they were able to record it. “All those experiences went into the song,” she told DW.
Country music – a conservative music genre?
The next morning, Siri changed her rubber boots into cowboy boots and went to rehearse in the recording studio. She grabbed her guitar and played the first chords of “Freedom” before rehearsals began. With his plaid shirt, guitar, and distinctive voice, Siiri fits the image of an American country singer. However, his song tells a different story.
Country music in the United States has a reputation for espousing conservative values that go hand in hand with intolerance. “I’m totally critical of that. I want to express other values with my music,” Siri says. So it’s no coincidence that his songs with titles like “Freedom” or “Songs for Women” talk about gender equality.” I think the big difference between American and German country music is that German country has a different story, and genre. interpreted differently,” she says. But even in America, the genre is changing. This is especially evident in songs by many female artists, such as Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift, who address taboo subjects in their songs.
Still, the old values expressed in much of country music in America seem to shape how the genre is viewed. Siri says, “When I started doing country professionally, my music was mainly heard by older people. Most of the German country success came from the 1970s and ’80s. The band Truck Stop was particularly popular with its German-language country music. Around the same time, Tom Astor And artists like Gunter Gabriel also started making country music. Since the 2000s, the Berlin band The BossHoss has been popular in the country rock genre in Germany.
Country music is growing
As the genre changes in the United States, it seems the fan base is changing as well. “I feel that country music is becoming more and more popular among the younger generation in Germany,” Siri says. His producer Frankie Kuhnlein agrees that the genre is becoming more popular: “I think that country music is really gaining momentum in Germany. Many country artists are coming from the states and giving successful concerts.”
Country music is also finding a place among the more popular genres in Germany. In 2022, for example, Siiri performed at a pop concert for singer Sarah Connor. “I think festivals like Rock Am Ring will also be open to country music,” says Kühnlein, speaking of one of Germany’s most popular festivals. His colleague Michael Daniels mentioned Germany’s other biggest music festival, Wacken: “If Johnny Cash was still alive, he would definitely play at Wacken,” he said.
This article was originally written in German.