Merle Haggard doesn’t like country music anymore

Country music long ago lost its soul. Like other genres, the formulaic recipe for a hit turned it into wallpaper, even though it appears to be as popular as ever.

Sure, legend Merle Haggard sounds like everyone’s parent, telling the kids to turn that noise down, but it’s still Merle Haggard, who’s in town in Moorhead, Minn., for a performance at the Bluestem Center for the Arts on Sunday. He’ll be at the State Fair on Monday.

“I can’t tell what they’re doing,” Haggard tells the Fargo Forum in today’s entertaining interview. “They’re talking about screwing on a pickup tailgate and things of that nature. I don’t find no substance. I don’t find anything you can whistle and nobody even attempts to write a melody. It’s more of that kids stuff. It’s hot right now, but I’ll tell you what, it’s cooling off.”

Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Haggard’s first album. He’s had nearly 40 number-one hits and good luck finding any of them on the radio.

That’s the way it often goes with living legends, and there aren’t many of them left in country music.

He’s 78 now.

“I think about what’s it going to be like in the next 10 years,” he says. “I feel fine right now. I don’t really have much sign of aging and I’ve been through cancer, so I ain’t scared of that no more. Looks like somebody wants me alive, so I’m gonna do my best to act like I’m alive. I still enjoy playing. The traveling gets a little rougher every year, but maybe they’ll fix the roads.”