The Boondocks: From Staten Island to Nashville

Being a born and raised New York City girl, country music wasn’t a consistency in my life. Music was, though. I grew up in the South Beach projects in Staten Island, and though it wasn’t the best neighborhood, it was my home. I can’t change that and I’m never ashamed to say where I came from. I wouldn’t be who I am today without my past. I’ve always been told, even as a child, I remain true to myself. While kids in my neighborhood used bad language, I never did. It was never who I was. When a friend of mine wanted to bully a girl who was different, I didn’t. Instead, I stood up for the girl and befriended her.

Despite staying true to myself, there were times I was tested. There were times I wished life was different. I wanted a swimming pool. I wanted to go outside and hang out with friends, but as I got older the kids in the neighborhood got worse. I wanted to be surrounded by good people, and though, I had quite a few nice people around—I was also around a few authority figures that didn’t do the right thing.

Music was an escape from it all. I remember walking into a different room of my project apartment and hearing The Beatles playing from my oldest sister’s radio. I would walk into my brother’s bedroom and hear Rob Base. My other sister would listen to more Top 40 and dance music. My father would listen to Run DMC while my mother gave me a well-rounded ear for the sounds of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. As a kid, I was partial to the music of the ‘80s even throughout the ‘90s.

My familiarity with country music consisted of Elvis, Bonnie Rait, Kenny Rogers and Charlie Daniels. Those artists were who my mother listened to, and most of them had songs in movies that I frequently watched.

As I grew up, and the South Beach projects began to go downhill, I found solace in music. By the time we moved out of the projects, I was about to start high school, and music became even more important to me, assisting in dealing with all those emotions that come with growing up.

Unlike some of my peers, I didn’t just want to listen to music. I craved knowledge about it. To this day, I’m still renowned for being full of random tidbits of pop culture trivia. It came as no surprise to anyone when I became an entertainment journalist.

Country music gradually began to enter my life as I became more knowledgeable about the music industry. I also made some friends who were big country music fans that began to strategically direct me to songs by Martina McBride and Rascal Flatts.

Soon I was watching CMT on my own since I couldn’t find a country radio station on Staten Island. When “The Boondocks” by Little Big Town came out in 2005, something about that song resonated with me. It’s a song about growing up in the sticks of the South, so how could I, a city girl, relate?

It didn’t hit me until the other night at Keith Urban and Vince Gill’s “We’re All For The Hall” show out here in Nashville. Little Big Town performed the song and I found myself singing along, but getting somewhat emotional.

“I feel no shame. I’m proud of where I came from. I was born and raised in the boondocks,” the chorus sings. Finally, it hit me. I am proud of where I came from, no matter the bad reputation living in the projects has, or for that matter, even just being from Staten Island. I am not ashamed of who I am or where I came from, and certainly not ashamed of where I live now or the people I meet—no matter how different it all is from what I’m used to.

Upon moving to Nashville, I was teased about moving to a town of rednecks, hicks, etc. etc. etc. Well, if Nashville natives are rednecks, then count me as one, too. I feel at home in this city. I’m proud to be here where music thrives, people are warm, and God is celebrated.

“The Boondocks” represents home. “One thing I know, no matter where I go I keep my heart and soul in the boondocks.” What a true lyric! To me, this song brings my past and present together. It reminds me of where I come from and also why I moved to the South. It makes me feel good about where life has taken me.

Aside from this revelation, Little Big Town is simply amazing and everyone (including you New Yorkers) should download “The Boondocks”. While you’re at it, get the band’s new single “Pontoon” when it comes out!

***Random Note: The part at the end of the song with “You get a line, I get a pole” is a variation of a song my mother used to sing to me that she took from The Andy Griffith Show.***


  • Sandy Lo

    Sandy Lo’s personal story is inspiring. She started, StarShine Magazine, an online publication in 2001, at the age of 18. She wrote her first novel in 2009, “Lost In You,” followed by the “Dream Catchers” Series. She was the first person ever to professionally interview Taylor Swift and has received personal endorsements for her books from members of boy bands Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees. Recently, she has been seeing some tremendous momentum in book sales on Kindle. She has been included on the “50 Writers You Should Be Reading” list by The Authors Show, and “Dream Catchers”, “Breaking The Moon” and “Indigo Waters” reached the Top 100 Best Selling Coming of Age novels in Amazon’s Kindle Store. What makes this even more unique, is that Sandy relocated from NY to Nashville in order to write “The Watch Dog,” which is set in a fictional town outside of Music City. “The Watch Dog” reached the Top 10 Ghost Stories on Amazon. Aside from her writing projects, Sandy is also a freelance digital strategist.