As A Small Southern Southerner, I Want More Songs Like Ashley McBryde’s “Livin’ Next to Leroy”

One of the most common themes in country music is the pride of growing up in a small town.

These songs are about football games, good old boys, high school and pretty girls.

It’s all nice and funny and, quite frankly, romanticized.

I grew up in the most stereotypical Friday Night Lights small town in the South.

We had a big homecoming party and a parade for the soccer team. The high school I attended had a Death Day Pep Rally with the Grim Reaper and zombie cheerleaders as our team played against our big rivals.

I lived in the city of all these songs.

The problem is that these songs are only really accurate on the days of pep talk rallies and parades, and even then just walking around the corner you smell weed and see the real city.

When I first heard Ashley McBrydes “Livin’ Next to Leroy” was, in my opinion, the most real and authentic song about a small town I’ve ever heard.

This song about Leroy and drugs and high school reminded me of people I grew up with.

The “Susie High School” from McBryde’s song was probably the girl who smoked so much in the girls’ bathroom that she was in sixth grade.

Leroy might be the person who had a fit after drinking on ecstasy in the cafeteria on my first day of freshman year (at least that’s what rumor has it happened).

I grew up with a mother who is an elementary school teacher, a father who was a soccer coach and a grandpa who owned the only hardware store in town.

And each of them worked in a different small town in Florida. In doing so, I realized how similar the dirty laundry was in every city.

Like any OD or school closure or football team wasn’t that different than one two towns away.

But that also means that all those country songs about the beauty of small towns feel inauthentic.

I mean, yes, there are empty fields and restaurants and hair salons that I will always remember fondly, but that’s not all.

“Livin’ Next to Leroy” is real and honest and the experience of so many people in the town where I grew up. There’s drugs and alcohol and death.

And at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make ends meet and live our lives.

We all love sad country songs because they speak to the authenticity of human emotion and are as beautiful as darkness and tragedy can be.

I think Ashley McBryde has created a beautiful song because the less appealing parts of small towns, the “dark side of the country,” are like sad country songs.

I want more songs about southern ugliness, but not necessarily in a way that criticizes it. Small southern towns are great, but they can be dark and gloomy and ugly.

McBryde is able to deliver authenticity without malice or negativity and frankly we need more of that in country music. As A Small Southern Southerner, I Want More Songs Like Ashley McBryde’s “Livin’ Next to Leroy”

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