The media portrayed Mellencamp as the champion of small-town America when the song was released. He downplayed his title as "voice of the heartland," saying he was simply writing about his life, not trying to make a statement. But to those living in small towns across America, his music was inspiriting. David Masciotra, author of Mellencamp: American Troubadour
, grew up in the small town of Lansing, Illinois, and was one of many who felt validated by this song. "'Small Town' is an immensely important song in the recent history of American music because of exactly what he said: It celebrates the life that one can live in a town that is off the cultural map," Masciotra said on the Songfacts Podcast
. "It affirms the dignity and integrity and value of the people who reside within those towns. When he wrote it, it wasn't his intention to become the 'Voice of the Heartland' or the keeper of the small town, but with all due respect to Mr. Mellencamp, I don't think that he gets to decide. Bob Dylan said that he didn't want to become the voice of his generation in the '60s. Well, once art exists outside the wider culture, it really becomes out of the control of the creator and it becomes something that embeds itself in the lives of the listeners. And for me, it affirmed the value and the dignity and the relevance of where I lived."