“Her Country”: An Interview with Author Marissa Moss

Women have always been an integral part of country music, starting with pioneers such as the Carter Family and Patsy Montana. Yet country music has also marginalized women musicians – even more so in the last decade. In 2015, a country radio consultant publicly stated that songs by women were “not the lettuce in our salad…[they are] the tomatoes“.  In 2019, women artists represented only 10 percent of the music played on US country radio stations that year.

Music journalist Marissa Moss,  who’s based in Nashville, saw women in country music making great music at the same time that the industry was focusing on “bro country“, and saw women trying to be successful their own way in an industry that wanted them to conform to very narrow stereotypes. Her new book Her Country: How the Women of Country Music Became the Success They Were Never Supposed to Be tells the stories of three female country musicians – Maren Morris, Mickey Guyton, and Kasey Musgraves. Through unpacking their experiences, it touches on racism, sexism, corporatization, politics, and oppression, and how all of those shape  performers’ careers and the music we listen to. The book is ultimately hopeful, but it also pulls no punches in describing how badly the country music industry can treat women.

I found Her Country to be an extremely thought-provoking and rewarding read, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Marissa about it.

Fiona McQuarrie (FM): What motivated you to write the book?

Marissa Moss (MM): I had been covering this beat in Nashville, at the time I started writing the book, for about eight years, and it just felt Continue reading

Lost One Rainy Morn: Ian & Sylvia’s “The French Girl”

[originally appeared in Shindig! issue 111]

‘The French Girl’ is the musical equivalent of an Impressionist painting: sparse lyrical images weaving together to create an intricately detailed world. Three silver rings, a dark-haired woman, a cozy room, glasses of red wine…..and then she disappears, and no one knows who she was or where she has gone. It’s romantic, but with an underlying and somewhat unsettling sense of unreality.

Ian and Sylvia Tyson wrote the song in late 1965, during what Sylvia described to their biographer John Einarson as “a very transitional period for us”. As the duo of Ian & Sylvia, they were stars on the folk rock circuit, and had already released four albums on the Vanguard label. Songs like Ian’s ‘Four Strong Winds’ and Sylvia’s ‘You Were On My Mind’ had brought them acclaim as songwriters. But they were well aware that Continue reading

Announcing My New Book

I’m very pleased to announce that my new book, Song Book: 21 Songs from 10 Years (1964-74), has been released by New Haven Publishing. You can order it from any of the sites listed here.

The book includes extended and updated versions of some of the Shindig! magazine articles posted on this site, along with previously unpublished material.

I’ll be posting updates and news about the book on Facebook and on the “Song Book – the book” page on this site. There’s also a YouTube channel for the book, featuring playlists of the songs that are discussed in the book, as well as a promotional video.

I hope you’ll check it out!