19 pop songs from the countryside

In our newsletter, we regularly published popular songs from the periphery last year. We discovered stories of musicians who have their roots on the periphery - in a remote village with a clear night view or a former industrial city proud of its identity and heritage. 

You can now read all these stories in one place for the first time. Stroll through them and feel the intimacy and secrets of the rural, peripheral places!

You can also listen to all songs on Spotify or Youtube!

1. Taylor Swift: Willow

The American star Taylor Swift was born in the countryside of Pennsylvania, where she grew up on a tree farm. 

She has recently released two albums, Folklore and Evermore, highlighting her connection with nature. We present one of her biggest hits, Willow, an exciting insight into rural storytelling. 

2. Tina Turner: Nutbush City Limits

The Famous singer Tina Turner spent her childhood in a small village in Tennessee, U.S. 

Artistically, she returned to her hometown of Nutbush at the peak of her career, in the 1970s, when she was still together with her husband, Iko Turner. In the song Nutbush City Limits, she expressed her ambivalent feelings for the city, which still offered her support in the first years of her life. 

She describes her village as a small, quiet community with a monotonous everyday life, completely different from the feverish experiences of her later musical career. 

3. Future Islands: A Song for Our Grandfathers

The famous synthpop band Future Islands was founded by Sam Herring and Gerrit Welmers, who grew up in the coastal town of Morehead City in North Carolina, US. They love creativity provided by small places, visible in the song  A song for our grandfathers.

As Sam Herring explains, the song reminds him about the ancestors who still look after us and give us an identity.

4. Tom Jones: The Things That Matter Most To Me

You've probably never asked what the backstory of the famous Wallachian singer Tom Jones, best known for his hit song Sex Bomb, is. 

He was born as Thomas John Woodward in the small industrial town of Pontypridd, Wales. His father was a miner, and he would have followed in his footsteps if he had not contracted a severe form of tuberculosis at the age of 12. The disease later saved him from an exhausting mining profession and encouraged him to take a more creative path. A London manager discovered him after singing in workers' homes across Wales. And so began the remarkable musical journey of Tom Jones!

The singer likes to return to his native Pontypridd, where this recording comes from. Let's listen to a song he dedicated to his hometown!

5. Mark Knopfler: Going Home

Mark Knopfler is another world-famous musician who spent his childhood and youth in a small town. Blyth is a former industrial town near Newcastle upon Tyne, England, which has lost its identity in recent decades with the collapse of industry, especially shipbuilding. The former leader of the band Dire Straits moved to the city with his family when he was 7 years old but remains connected to his grown-up place. As evidenced in many songs, he likes to return to his childhood memories. Among them is the melodic Going Home, which was created for the 1983 movie The Local Hero. The film is about the vulnerability of the Scottish countryside, where powerful and wealthy tycoons want to build an oil field.

6. P!nk: Cover Me in Sunshine

Few people know that the famous American singer P!nk was born in the small town of Doylestown in Pennsylvania. She now lives in Santa Barbara, California. Still, in her newer song Cover me in SunshinFew people know that the famous American singer P! Nk was born in the small town of Doylestown in Pennsylvania. She now lives in Santa Barbara, California. Still, in her newer song Cover me in Sunshine, which she released during the epidemic and quarantine, she sings about the beauty of nature and the connection to the countryside.

7. Anne-Marie: To Be Young

In recent years, rising British star Anne-Marie Nicholson has surprised us with her slightly raspy voice, bringing freshness to pop production.

Although Anne-Marie moved to London, she regularly visits her hometown of East Tilbury in the Thames, best known for the former Bata shoe factory. She talks about her childhood in a Youtube documentary.

Listen to the song To be Young, where Anne-Marie associates her youthful energy with growing up in the village of East Tilbury:

"Smаll town аnd we're drinkin' аll the liquor
Every night trynа feel something bigger
Hotbox in the cаr in the winter
We don't wаnnа go home"

8. Koala Voice: Ker tu je vse tako lepo

Koala Voice, a music group that comes from a small Slovenian town Kisovec, is proof of the creativity and freshness of the rural areas. It's been two years since they brought energy to the Slovenian music stations with the song Ker tu je vse tako lepo (Because everything is so beautiful here).

9. Fed Horses - Ti ne poznaš konjev

You may not know that our colleague Urša is the singer of an excellent band, Fed Horses! In the song Ti ne poznaš konjev (You Don't Know Horses), we enter the world of the Slovenian countryside, but with a touch of the American prairies.

10. Bob Dylan: North Country Blues

One of the most legendary American singer-songwriters spent his childhood in Hibbing, Minnesota. He dedicated the song North Country Blues to the daily life (or rather the suffering) experienced by the miners at a nearby iron mine. The folklore styled song tells the story of a woman from the mining town - from her childhood to becoming a mother. She loses her brother and father in tragedies, after the economic collapse also her husband.

The song's premise is known to many other former industrial regions of the U.S. experiencing a significant downturn and emigration, including a political shift from a Democratic to a Republican majority.

11. James Brown - If You Don't Give A Dogone About It

A legendary funk singer James Brown was born into extreme poverty in South Carolina, where he grew up. His childhood was not nice, and he also landed in prison for robbery.

The song If you don't give a dogone about it was released in 1971 on the album Mutha's nature. As the song says, you have to have a job to support your family, to put bread on the table. In an autobiographical composition in funky rhythm, he thus returns to the childhood survival that so strongly marked him.

12. Manic Street Preachers - A Design For Life

Heroes or thieves? The music video for the song A design for life by Manic Street Preachers also features an inscription pointing to the eternal historical (and modern) gap in the view of the working-class situation.

The lyrics "We don't talk about love, we only wanna get drunk" ironically bring to the fore the classic (bourgeois) view of the working class, which somehow forgets the richness of the industrial culture (and its heritage).

Manic Street Preachers is a Welsh band coming from the small town of Blackwood in the former Caerphilly coal district. In over 30 years of operation, images of former industrial areas, mainly home Wales, have prevailed in their musical repertoire.

13. Orleki - Adijo, knapi

The Orleki band is relatively known in Slovenia, combining mining-based lyrics with rock'n'roll and brass music. 

The song Adijo, knapi (Farewell, miners) talks about the end of mining and the uncertain future brought by the closure of the mine. The "smell" of industrial culture in the concert performance is especially enriched by the accompaniment of the SVEA Zagorje Concert Band and the Zarja Trbovlje Mixed Choir.

14. Keane - Sovereign Light Café

Back to the U.K. again. This time to the town of Battle, southern from London. The town's name suggests associations with military and war - an important battle between the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans took place there in the 11th century.

However, the famous English band Keane much more marked the modern timeline of the small town. In Sovereign Light Café, the band members remember their childhood where "everyone knows each other". The video for the song is set in the nearby town of Bexhill-on-Sea, which is famous as the English Riviera. It mixes portraits of locals, the café the song was named after, and the "mandatory" brass band. 

15. Genesis - Firth Of Fifth/I Know What I Like

The English band Genesis is known as one of the most famous bands in progressive rock history. Formed in 1967, the band is commonly associated with the starting point of renowned music stars like Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel. Less well known is how the band's story started, which leads us to a prestigious rural school in Godalming, Surrey, England. Watch a video of their performance from the 2007 concert in Rome. 

16. Cold Play - Yellow

The British band Coldplay doesn't need a long introduction. Like most British groups, they formed in London, where members came from various places in England. Co-founder and guitarist Jonny Buckland comes from the rather idyllic rural village of Pantymwyn in Wales, where he spent his childhood and youth. His hometown still means a lot to him as he was personally involved in raising funds for the renovation of the village cultural centre.

The band's groundbreaking hit, Yellow, has an interesting backstory. The band created it during filming in Wales, so beloved by Jonny Buckland. They got an idea for it, staring at the stairs, not visible in London. The song made the band possible to break into the ranks of world-famous "stars".

17. Sam Fender - Seventeen Going Under

Musician Sam Fender is currently one of the greatest discoveries of the British music scene. The young man from North Shields stunned the general public with his direct and expressive songs that highlight the splendour and misery of life in small towns, once the pride of Britain but now full of poverty, violence and lack of opportunities in the post-Brexit reality.

In recent months, Sam Fender has climbed to the top of the music charts in the U.K. He is reminiscent of his role model, Bruce Springsteen, with his charisma and musical style. The hometown of North Shields, once an important industrial city but now a dying town with a strong identity, also takes an essential part in his videos, full of authentic images of pubs, beaches, and typical British small town architecture. 

18. Niall Horan - This Town

We are once again visiting the British Isles, focusing on Niall Horan, the singer of the boyband One Direction. He started an independent path in recent years.

Niall comes from a small Irish town, Mullingar, which was considered a classic rural town until recently. It's slowly gaining in importance due to its location along major roads.

Niall now lives in London but regularly returns to his hometown, where, as he says, everything is always the same and where he feels at home. As early as 2016, at the age of 23, he also dedicated a song to the town where he remembers his teenage romances and includes direct associations to the town. As he says, he dedicated the song to all who understand the soul of small towns.

19. Bobby Helms - Jingle Bell Rock

The last on our list is the Christmas hit song, Jingle Bell Rock. It's a song that radio stations are playing tirelessly around the Christmas holiday.

The best-known performer of the song is American country singer Bobby Helms. He was born in Helmsburg, Indiana, USA, which is so tiny that it doesn't fit the village category. Finding extensive forests in the surrounding area, it's a growing tourist attraction. You might be surprised what you can see in this small settlement: a local shop, a cafe bar, an art gallery and even a Star Wars Museum! 

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Cover picture: Tom Jones is looking at his hometown Pontypridd, Wales. Source: https://www.snapgalleries.com/tom-jones-over-pontypridd/