It was just a few days before Labor Day. New York City had pretty much emptied out for the holiday. But Madison Square Garden was filled to the brim for the Kenny Chesney Flip Flop Summer Tour! I was a guest of Country Music Television, my favorite channel in the world for music. In fact, some mornings, I choose to “dance” to CMT on my home treadmill instead of work out at my gym that doesn’t carry the network.
As an expert on relationships of all kinds, Country Music has become my chosen tool for therapy in my work. I quote the words of the artists in my books, columns, speeches, and on air because we can all identify with their life struggles of misery and mourning, and we all want to learn better survival mechanisms. I’m probably the only pop culture shrink who incorporates this music into her work. Moreover, since I’m a New Yorker, many of my friends think I’m especially strange for loving these down-home messages. But to me, they are raw and real. And as an educator, I know that this sort of rich honesty helps souls heal.
For the disbelievers, there’s a tune called “Songs About Me,” by Trace Adkins, one of my favorite artists. It’s a story about how he meets some guy on the red eye. Spotting his guitar, the guy asks him what he does for a living. When Trace replies that he sings Country Music, the man says, “I’ve never been crazy ‘bout that twang and trains and hillbilly thing.” Trace gives him tickets to hear his concert. After the performance is over, the guy shouts to him, “Man you were right. It was like you sang those songs about me and who I am, songs about loving and living and good hearted women and family and God…” That’s why I love Country Music—and why I use it in my work.
The Chesney concert was especially moving because the Garden was filled, despite New Yorkers’ resistance to this genre. With all the hooting and hollering beneath the cowboy hats, I could have imagined I was in Nashville. Kenny was wonderful, sensitive, a genuine showman, and HOT.
Opening for Kenny was Sugarland, whose song, “Settlin’” is one I have quoted a lot to people who “drift” through life. The lyrics open with, “I ain’t settling for just getting by…” and concludes, “I ain’t settling for anything less than everything.” As writer, Somerset Maugham, said, “If you expect only the best, you very often get it.” Sugarland’s words help me remind people to goal high. I use this message in my work with teens, adults, and even corporate leaders.
This group’s music was always fun for me to listen to, but seeing lead singer, Jennifer Nettles, perform wowed me! That woman has more energy than an electric current. She jumped and jived across the huge stage, a sight her videos have not captured, and her performance was magnetic and overwhelming.
I had to leave the concert a bit early, to board the chariot waiting for me outside (I wish I could say it was a horse!) As I exited, I walked smack into Sean Hannity, who had just finished his TV show on the Fox News Network. I told him that Kenny was fabulous as expected, but Jennifer Nettles surprisingly blew the audience away. I said I was sorry he had missed that—because he’s such a big Country Music fan, and I think he would have gotten a charge out of the Sugarland surprise. I hope he’ll include this group in his next Freedom Concert!
It was a starlit summer night, and the ride home was quiet and peaceful. I was feeling effervescent from the evening’s excitement. In bed, when I finally pulled the blanket to my neck, it was midnight. My voice was hoarse from my own singing and shaking, and I hoped it would mend before my TV appearance the next day. I remained silent for a while, breathing deeply, grateful to have had this magnificent experience. Thank you, CMT!!—with a special shout-out to Neil Holt, Senior Vice President of Ad Sales for CMT and TV Land, who really knows his audience and what they want, Denise (Dee) Mendoza, Executive Assistant to Neil Holt, who has officially become my Dee-vine Intervention, and Molly O’Connor, Manager, Integrated Marketing, CMT.com, beautiful redhead, with whom I shared the spirit of the music as we danced out of our seats.
Country Music gives me the gift of gratitude, gratitude that I am alive to soak in extraordinary experiences and special people like this. I am also grateful to have found this medium, which adds so significantly to my work. Thank you, Country, thank you, CMT!