North Carolina is known for quite a lot of things. Barbecue, basketball, Southern culture, and mountains are all near the top of everyone’s list of the best things about the state. But it is also home to an amazing music culture. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 37 best songs about the state of North Carolina and the people who live there.
1. Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
Wagon Wheel became an insanely popular hit single a few years ago when Darius Rucker released a cover version of it, but it was Old Crow Medicine Show that first recorded the song. The track is one of the most popular ones out there about the state of North Carolina and describes a joyous journey that sees the narrator return to their home state.
They’ve been away from a loved one there far too long, and they’re ready to escape all manner of things they’ve been having to deal with while away, from the cold New England Winter and the loneliness of being away from their lover.
2. North Carolina – Tyler Nail
Tyler Nail himself is from the state of North Carolina, and this is one of his several songs about his home state. One of his most well-known tracks, it discusses the resiliency of the people who live there and the wonderful natural beauty that surrounds them. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better and more loving ode to the state of North Carolina, and this one makes it easily one of the best songs about the Tar Heel State.
3. Carolina In My Mind – James Taylor
Carolina In My Mind may just be the best ode to the state of North Carolina out there. The song by James Taylor describes his love of the Tar Heel State and his wish to be able to return for a visit. At some point, he left the state to chase his dreams, but as time goes on, the urge to return grows larger and larger in his mind. From the highways to the mountains, he keeps seeing omens—in life and his dreams—that seem to be calling him home. Hopefully, he gets to take a drive down those old familiar roads soon.
4. Carolina – Harry Styles
Harry Styles and songs describing specific girls are a perfect combination. Carolina talks about a girl he knows that reminds him of her home state, calling her a good girl with a unique personality. And both of those traits are things women from the state are generally known for, so remember that a girl from North Carolina is probably going to treat you right if you’re willing to do the same.
5. Carolina – Eric Church
Eric Church takes a different approach to describing his love for his hometown. Instead of just talking about the morals instilled in him or how beautiful it is, he compares it to the way he loves a woman. Once you understand that feeling, it’s easy to see why he’s so homesick when he’s on the road and touring. For him, coming back home is like calling an old friend, with all of the nostalgia and comfort that both those things bring with them.
6. Carolina Girls – Des Ark
Carolina Girls by Des Ark is another simple yet soulful tune that finds the singers in love with the way girls from the state handle themselves. People from there know how to have a good time, and this song puts the North Carolina culture on full display for the world to see and enjoy. It’s a fun track that should easily get some toes tapping at your next shindig.
7. Carolina Girl – Bobby Kendall
Falling in love can make your heart want to sing, but few can actually belt out the notes the way Bobby Kendall does in Carolina Girl. In it, a normal Southern boy falls in love with a girl, calling her an angel and comparing her beauty to the mountains and forests of North Carolina. It’s another great country song to add to your playlist.
8. Chapel Hill – Sonic Youth
Chapel Hill doesn’t have the same nostalgic vibes that a lot of our top songs seem to contain for the state of North Carolina. While it mainly references the Chapel Hill area around the University of North Carolina, it’s more of a critique of the way the city has fallen off.
The college town used to have a vibrant cultural scene, but over time, they’ve let it slip away. So, this one isn’t exactly showing the state in the most favorable light, but it still serves as a great track for all of the alums to hold onto and enjoy after they’ve also moved on from Chapel Hill.
9. Carolina on My Mind – J. Cole
Carolina On My Mind by J. Cole is an ode to the people who call the state home. They’re known for their work ethic and their ability to make things work when others may give up. He is proud of that reputation and keeps it in mind when things in his own life get difficult. While making it big might be one of the most prevalent desires in the state, folks seem to always come back and pay their respects once they have.
10. Carolina Kiss – Chris Lane
Chris Lane’s Carolina Kiss is a newer artist hailing from the state of North Carolina. It is a great love ballad about the power of love and how it can push you to new heights in your life. In general, it portrays a lot of the best things about the state along the way, and this romantic song from 2013 was great.
11. Gone to Carolina – Shooter Jennings
There’s a feeling of belonging in Southern communities instilled in people as they grow up, which is one of the reasons returning to your home there has such a pull on people. Shooter Jennings captures this perfectly in Gone To Carolina, a song about how great it feels to go back to North Carolina after being away for a while. It also talks about returning to someone he loves in the state, though this could be a further metaphor for how much it means to him to get to go home.
12. Raised Up Family – James Taylor
Raised Up Family has some loose connection to North Carolina, mainly because it recounts a lot of James Taylor’s memories from growing up with his family there. The song discusses some of those good times in depth but is mainly about how proud he is to have had the upbringing he was given and how it helped him turn out as a man. His entire childhood was spent in Raleigh, something he credits for the life he’s now able to lead.
13. Oh My Sweet Carolina – Ryan Adams
If you grew up in a place and came to love it, you’re always going to be drawn to return there. Ryan Adams is dealing with those feelings in his song Oh, My Sweet Carolina, pining after the Tar Heel State and the place he grew up while exhibiting textbook homesickness.
No matter where he went, be it Texas, Ohio, or Las Vegas, he still misses home to the point he’d settle for living nearby. Southern culture is rather unique, so it holds extra importance for those who have moved out of the South for any amount of time in their lives, serving as an extra reason to go home for a while.
14. If the River Was Whiskey – Charlie Poole
North Carolina is one of the states that are known for its incredible bluegrass music scene. Charlie Poole took some of that folk music and mixed it with more modern country styles to create If The River Was Whiskey. Now, country and bluegrass are fairly similar, with one of their most common themes being alcoholism. The narrator of this song states that if the river was whiskey, he’d turn into a duck, dive to the bottom, and never come back up.
15. Freight Train – Elizabeth Cotten
Elizabeth Cotton is another one of the best musicians to come from North Carolina. Her song Freight Train tells the story of a dude that rode a train all the way to the state, likely in search of a better life that fit more with what he wanted to get out of it.
16. Carolina – Parmalee
Carolina is one of the most important songs Parmalee ever released. It served as a track on their 2008 EP that helped them make it big but was rerecorded and remixed a bit to serve as their second-ever single release. The song mainly deals with a romantic interest in your hometown, detailing how beautiful she is in the narrator’s eyes. Instead of comparing her to some typical pretty thing, he compares her to the beautiful state of North Carolina and its rolling green mountains.
17. Raise Up – Petey Pablo
Raise Up is a hip hop anthem of North Carolina. It’s not just a big hit single, the song is all about the reasons people from the state should be proud of where they come from. It’s also meant to bring together people from both North and South Carolina, talking about how they’re all one big family and how that fact alone makes them even stronger.
18. Southern Sadness – American Aquarium
Southern Sadness tells the tale of a boy who wanted nothing less than to leave North Carolina when he grew up and he spends his entire youth hating his hometown and state. Eventually, he makes it out of the state and sees what life is like for him away from the home he’s always known. Unfortunately, the grass was indeed not greener, causing him to realize he only hated his hometown out of teenage angst, and he decides to go back as he won’t feel at home anywhere else in the world.
19. Southbound – Doc Watson
Southbound perfectly captures the feeling of a drive home after being away for a long time. Doc Watson’s amazing guitar skills are on full display in the song, but it’s the sentiment about finally being able to head back to the South that makes this song so popular. And, the hills of North Carolina make for a beautiful and warm home compared to the cold and snowy places Northerners are stuck calling home.
20. Carolina Can – Chase Rice
Carolina Can isn’t some metaphorical reference to a train car or a beer can, it literally states that North Carolina can remind you of who you are. Chase Rice knows this well, as any time he seems to lose himself while away from his hometown, nothing reminds him of who he wants to be better than a trip back to Lake Glenville. Plus, no matter where his life takes him, North Carolina will always be his true home.
21. Greensboro Woman – Townes Van Zandt
Greensboro Woman is a great song that encompasses everything wonderful about young couples in love. This one is set in a cabin in North Carolina, a track many in the state have heard and love.
22. Carolina Calling – Mipso
We’ve discussed the call many hear to return home in this and other articles before. But I’m not sure anyone describes it better than Mipso does in Carolina Calling. The narrator spent a decade of their life away from the Carolinas, going to college and growing into adulthood. Despite constantly hearing the old saying “You can’t go home again,” he feels the pull of his home state and desires to return more than he wants to go on somewhere else.
23. North Cack – G Yamazawa Feat. Joshua Gunn And Kane Smego
This will be the first of our two songs to refer to Cackalacky, so a little explanation is necessary. Cackalacky is a nickname for one of North Carolina’s most beloved sauces, and with a state that loves its barbecue as much as North Carolina, that’s a huge deal. North Cack might not be all about life in the state, but it’s a track that anyone from there is going to be able to relate to thanks to their Cackalacky sauce, and it’ll probably bring up some fond memories of your childhood.
24. Carolina Drama – The Raconteurs
Carolina Dream is a song that could almost be labeled a murder ballad. The narrator is a boy named Billy, who comes home to see his mother’s boyfriend—a real piece of work—choking a pastor inside his home. After realizing the pastor is likely Billy’s father, he grabs a glass bottle of milk, smashing it over the boyfriend’s head and killing him. Eventually, he hides the body and runs off with his father to Tennessee. Just a quick handling of family drama in the South to most.
25. North Cackalacky Girl – Reigning Sound
North Cackalacky Girl is our other song that draws on the Cackalacky nickname, but this time it’s just about a woman from North Carolina. The narrator marvels at the magical connection he has with her and how easily she understands him.
26. Heads Carolina, Tails California – Jo Dee Messina
Jo Dee Messina just wants to be with her lover, and she doesn’t really care where they end up. Her song Heads Carolina, Tails California is all about being happy because of who you’re with more than where you are. So, while she isn’t saying she necessarily wants to move to North Carolina, it’s definitely just as viable a choice for her as going to California. It’s also clear that where the couple is now isn’t ideal, so the two are going to get out of there as soon as they decide on a destination.
27. Carolina – Corey Smith
North Carolina isn’t just a great place to call home, there are some wonderful vacation spots in the mountains that make a great getaway for a pair of lovers. Corey Smith’s Carolina details exactly one of those trips, seeing a couple fall even more deeply in love as they spend time together in a cabin outside of Spartanburg. When it’s time to leave, they realize they spent all their money and have to skip a few meals, but everything was worth it because they made some lifelong memories in the Carolinas.
28. Carolina Low – The Decemberists
The term “Carolina Low” can be used to refer to two different things: either the low country of North Carolina or South Carolina as a whole. Regardless of what The Decemberists meant for it to mean, Carolina Low is a quiet and somber song about the state. The narrator seems to be about to start a mine in the hills but sees his deal ruined by romantic complications.
29. Charlotte’s In North Carolina – Keith Whitley
Charlotte’s In North Carolina is a fun tune that plays on both one of the largest cities in North Carolina and a woman’s name. Keith Whitley’s song mixes the two together, talking about their lover—named Charlotte—leaving and going to North Carolina. It’s a sorrowful country tune that sees the heartbroken narrator come to terms with the end of a relationship and wish his loving Charlotte the best of luck.
30. Crow Jane – Etta Baker
Etta Baker is one of the most well-known guitarists to come from North Carolina, so it’s no surprise to see her name on this list. Crow Jane is her ode to her home state, with several available versions that include both lyric and instrumental tracks of the song. Whichever you decide to listen to, her skills on the guitar let her speak through her music rather than needing any sort of deep lyrics to help her deliver a message.
31. 19 You + Me – Dan + Shay
The track 19 You + Me is one of the bigger hit singles on this list. It’s mainly about a couple who are having to have a long-distance relationship due to certain circumstances. While sad, the song describes the power of love and its ability to overcome even the crappiest of obstacles.
32. She’s Carolina – Cody Webb
She’s Carolina is an emotional autobiography from Cody Webb about his time with a girlfriend in North Carolina. It discusses all the amazing memories they made together and how they scraped by without a lot of money, still managing to do the things that were important to them. While it might not have worked out in the end, the experiences are something he’ll never forget.
33. Blue Bandana – Jerrod Niemann
Blue Bandana is just a fun country song that is easy to jam out to and the perfect addition to any playlist about the state of North Carolina. Jerrod Niemann’s single also has some awesome guitar licks in it that shouldn’t be overlooked. It mainly centers around the sunset in the Carolinas, disappearing behind the mountains of the Tar Heel State.
34. Carolina in The Morning – Dean Martin
Carolina can be a great place for lovers, and Dean Martin sure thought he’d like to wake up next to his in the Tar Heel State. Carolina In The Morning extolls the beautiful nature of North Carolina, discussing how lovely it would be to sit together in the sun and listen to the birds sing.
35. Oh, Carolina – NEEDTOBREATHE
Oh, Carolina is another song about a long-distance couple. While our other one talks about the way love overcomes obstacles, this one perfectly describes how you crave each other’s presence when you’re separated by such great distances.
36. Pretty Girl From Raleigh – The Avett Brothers
Southern women have a reputation for being fun-loving, rambunctious, and sweet, but not all of them live up to those expectations; there are plenty that have a big temper. The Avett Brothers talk about a girl from North Carolina with fiery wrath in Pretty Girl From Raleigh, a funny bluegrass song that sees the narrator get plenty of entertainment watching her deal with a lot of problems thanks to her attitude.
37. Carolina Moon – Scotty McCreery
To round out our list, we’ll talk about another song that shows people from North Carolina always want to go back. Scotty McCreery had to leave his home state to find success, traveling all over the south from Memphis to Florida, but his favorite memory in all of his time traveling has been looking at the moon in North Carolina. He loves the place so much that when he dies, he wants his body buried in the state.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.