Russell Moody's hipster friends had always found it tough to pinpoint Russ's musical tastes. Russ, a longtime resident of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, generally told his buddies he liked "such a crazy range of music" that it was impossible to categorize in any one genre. According to Russ's friend Chris, if pressed on the matter, Russ would usually default to the description "outside-the-box indie tunes" as the type of music that really did it for him.
However, after putting together various clues and comparing musical notes, Russ's friends slowly came to suspect that their hipster pal might in fact be a country music fan.
Says Chris, "There were a few times Russ mentioned that in addition to the indie stuff, he liked a little singer-songwriter and acoustic in the mix. And he thought Faith Hill was really hot."
Russ's Vespa mechanic, Garrett, likewise remembers Russ's oft-mention of indie tunes, and recalls that on one occasion, Russ mentioned having a soft spot for music with "bluesy, even bluegrassy undertones."
"He even told me he went to a Willie Nelson concert with his parents once, when he was a kid," says Garrett. "That was bizarre, but then again, he grew up in Kansas. I figured that's the kind of thing Kansas people do."
There were several things that had also struck Russ's ex-girlfriend, Sue, as odd.
"He wasn't super into the classic stuff that everyone loves, you know, Radiohead, Phish, New Pornographers," says Sue. "He told me he preferred stuff that was less poppy. At the time, that seemed to make sense. I figured it was a guy thing. But at the same time, he had a weirdly low metal tolerance."
Things came to a head one Saturday evening during an Eels concert at Williamsburg Music Hall in Brooklyn, where the music was clearly not "doing it" for Russ.
"He was in a bad space all night," recalls Chris, "and he eventually stormed out of the place. Sue and I were really concerned. We finally managed to chase him down, and he told us he was sick of this pansy-ass, whiny, pseudo-intellectual crap and from now on he was only going to listen to music that was gritty and real, music you could really feel, like red dirt blowing in your face in the Kansas wind.
"When he said that, Sue and I looked at each other and were like, damn! That kind of talk can mean one thing and one thing only - country. The writing was on the wall."
Their suspicions were confirmed beyond any doubt later that same night when, in the apartment that she and Russ then shared, Sue discovered a white envelope from a place called TicketFly. Inside the envelope were two tickets to a concert at a place called Hill Country Barbecue, in Manhattan; the performer was someone whose first name was Woody.
"It would have been one thing if there had been only one ticket in the envelope," says Sue. "But there were two. Russ knows I don't do non-Brooklyn music venues, and I certainly don't do any venue with 'Hill Country' in the name. I realized that not only was he country, but he was planning to try to convert me to country, too."
Sue's relationship with Russ ended that night. The revelation that Russ was a country music fan took a substantial toll on his friendships as well.
As Chris explains now, "More than the country music itself, it was the deception that really bothered me. Russ never claimed to be a hipster, but any real hipster will deny being a hipster, so that was consistent. But for him to conceal something like country - well, that was hurtful."
At the end of the day, though, Chris decided to stick by his country-music-loving friend. They've even found some neutral musical ground in the form of jazz and soul, which they enjoy listening to together. And Chris is glad he didn't allow Russ's musical misguidance ruin their friendship.
"What can I say? He's my best friend. For him, I'll walk the line. I draw the line at Garth Brooks, though."