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Story Behind The Song: Country Hits

Story Behind The Song: Country Hits

Every song has a story behind the writing of it. The craft, the idea creation, and the minutia of working it into a song.

As songwriters, I think we’re naturally drawn to the “how” of a song’s creation – the story behind the song.  It’s the age old mystery we all want to solve for – consistently: how did someone get from point A to point B to create a hit song?

I love hearing about how a song evolved from a “sitting around” moment, or a phrase heard while standing in a check out line at Cracker Barrel!

Here are the stories behind several of country music’s biggest hits. While it’s not a silver bullet, hopefully it will inspire your writing!


“House That Built Me”

Songwriters: Allen Shamblin & Tom Douglas



At the original co-writing session, Allen had shown up with the title “The House That Built Me” they wrote around the idea and ended up with something, but not the song you heard on the radio.

About four years after the original session, Tom called Allen and said he thought there was something to a song they’d written a while back, and did he want to get together and sort out what was wrong with it.

Allen agreed, so they went back through the song with all of it’s red underlined “concerns” and rewrote parts, finishing it. Allen left for his annual trip to his hometown in Texas while Tom did a demo.

He gave it to 4 song pluggers, who got 4 holds. One was Blake Shelton. Miranda Lambert heard the song because Blake picked her up from the airport and happened to have a cassette of pitch songs. She had been reminiscing about her hometown when she was on the plane, so when she heard the song, 4th one in, she knew it was for her.


“God Made Girls”

Songwriters: Rae Lynn, Lori McKenna, Nicolle Galyon & Liz Rose



This song originally started out from a title in Nicolle Galyon’s notebook: “God Made a Farmer.” The phrase came from a Dodge Ram commercial! During their conversation around titles, it morphed into “God Made Girls.”

Starter lines included: “Somebody’s gotta turn off the lights/Somebody’s gotta tuck them in at night.”  They didn’t make it into the final version of the song, but created the structure for the anaphora device, repeating “somebody’s gotta…”throughout the verses.

Each verse is built around a set of observations that typify the differences between men and women, but in the end, are things women do that inspire their men to be better partners in life.

According to the writers, “The chorus was the difficult part.  The word ‘girls’ doesn’t rhyme with a whole lot of other words, and they couldn’t seem to make it work.  The key came when they decided to just repeat the ‘God made girls’ line five times every time the chorus rolls around.



“Mean To Me”

Songwriters: Brett Eldredge & Scooter Carusoe



“I wanted to write a song telling someone, ‘If I could mean half as much as you mean to me, that would be amazing,” he said. ‘Just describing these wonderful things that are special in this world. ‘If I could be the fire in your firefly. If I could be the name that changes yours. If I could be the faith that sets you free. The answer to your prayers.’ The real special things in life. If I could be that, then I’d be what you mean to me.” – Brett Eldredge



“Ain’t Worth The Whiskey”

Songwriters: Cole Swindell, Adam Sanders


Live Version By Songwriter Adam Sanders



At a late night writing appointment Josh Martin threw out ‘Ain’t Worth the Whiskey,’ a title he’d been carrying around for a while, and it started from there.

According to Josh Martin: “Adam threw out a few more titles, and I started spitting out more titles, and Cole said, ‘What are we doing — why the hell ain’t we writing ‘Ain’t Worth the Whiskey’? So we stopped in our tracks, and I said, ‘I agree.’ And Adam said, ‘Yeah, I like that, too.

That’s probably the best hook that’s gonna come out of the room tonight.’”Swindell hit upon the song’s unique angle/song idea during a conversation as they worked through the lyrics:“I didn’t really want it to be a non-drinking song,” Martin recalls. “I didn’t want it to be about, we’re gonna quit drinking because this girl has broken our heart.

And then Cole said, ‘Let’s do the opposite — we’ll drink to this, and we’ll drink to that, but she’s not worth the whiskey.’”



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