This essay is part of the Ultimate Texas Celebrity Bracket. Read them all—and cast your vote!—here.

I’m not from Texas, and I didn’t get here as fast as I could, but as crooner and Klein native Lyle Lovett told me, “Texas wants you anyway.” 

My transition from Brooklyn to Dallas in 2009 was a bounty of culture shock. The politeness of Texans couldn’t have been any more different from the direct sincerity of New Yorkers. I moved here because I married a native Texan. After we had a son, we realized we needed a larger support system than we had in New York. So Texas—along with my wife’s mother and family—was the best option. We moved without jobs, without health insurance, without a car, and with an eight-month-old baby. It was rough. Thank goodness for Lovett’s infectious, western swing–wrapped tune “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas).” I needed it.

Country music, western swing, and Americana weren’t foreign to me. I grew up on plenty of Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson. My sisters, my parents, and I crammed ourselves onto the couch in the family room to watch Hee Haw. In college, after the pioneering Uncle Tupelo broke up to form Son Volt, with its back-roads twang, and Wilco (both of which evolved into dad rock icons), my roommate and I drove across North Carolina to catch what Son Volt shows our schoolwork allowed. The band noticed us at the shows. One night we just happened to be pregaming at the same Chi-Chi’s in Cary, North Carolina, where, coincidentally, the band was eating. The members saw us, walked over to our table, and offered us backstage access at every show. What I’m saying is, the groundwork for Lovett fandom was set, despite my state of residence.

Yet all I really knew about Lovett prior to relocating to Texas was that he was temporarily married to Julia Roberts and that he had a catchy tune on MTV whose melody and name escape me to this day. I didn’t realize that my wife had snuck Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat” onto a playlist we made to lull our baby boy to sleep. It wasn’t until I moved to Dallas that I recall hearing it, on public radio KXT 91.7. The first time, my son shouted from the back seat, “Hey, that song is on my old playlist!” Despite it being a melancholy ditty, Lovett’s unwavering, gentle voice was comforting, just as he was reassuring and welcoming in “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas).”

Lovett is at his best in that song, from his Grammy Award–winning 1996 Best Country Album, The Road to Ensenada. Although the singer-songwriter’s early work had the trappings of Texas country, he had dusted off the red dirt to explore big band sounds, jazzy inflections, and folk by the time of the album’s release. 

His records are packed with tracks about other cities and states, of forlorn love and yearning for travel. He’s a troubadour, not a front-porch strummer. His style reflects the shift. In his starched shirts and black suits, Lovett proves that Texas music and its legendary musicians aren’t limited to one sound. He bridges the urbane with the rustic. (Really, the only things rigid about Lovett are his nose and clothes.)  It’s all there in “(That’s Right) You’re Not From Texas.”  

I love the song so much that I added it to my daily Spotify playlist years ago. Now I crank it up as I sit down to work each morning. The chorus is the extra boost I need alongside my coffee. Occasionally I replay it in the afternoon, dancing in the leg-shaking, dangerous hip-popping way fathers do, while my dog looks up, turns his head, and goes back to napping. There’s no snoozing for me. It’s right back to my desk to clack away at my laptop’s keyboard while I attempt to keep rhythm with the song. It never works, but I am happy that Texas wants me anyway.