Pages Navigation Menu

Start With Something That's True

SBTS: Carrie Underwood’s “Smoke Break”

SBTS: Carrie Underwood’s “Smoke Break”
Story Behind The Song


There’s nothing worse than getting stuck when you’re in a co-write. You get frustrated, then start looking at the clock knowing the longer being stuck goes on, the less likely you are to write the song.

Momentum starts to wane – and your 90 minutes is slipping by – so take a break!

And that’s how “Smoke Break” was born. A lot of “we’re stuck” breaks.

Written by Carrie Underwood and two long-time co-writers, Chris DeStefano (“Little Toy Guns,” “Kick The Dust Up”) and Hillary Lindsey (“Two Black Cadillacs,” “Girl Crush,” “Jesus Take The Wheel”), “Smoke Break” is a song that happened after the group of co-writers got stuck on the original song idea they were working during their co-write back on June 3, 2014.


Carrie Underwood “Smoke Break”



Finding The Hook


According to Chris DeStefano, who had brought over tracks on a laptop the group had started working with, “We kind of got stuck a little bit on the song that we were writing, so we decided to take another break.” So they all grabbed some coffee and headed for a relaxing spot near a little fountain in Underwood’s yard.

Every time they got stuck, they took a break in the 75 degree sunshine behind Underwood’s cabin.

“It was good just to step outside,” recalls Lindsey. “And it cleared our head for a minute. We weren’t even talking about that song anymore. It was, ‘Wow, what a beautiful day.’ ”

After a few times heading out back, “I think Carrie might have said, ‘Hey, we should write a song called ‘Smoke Break.  You know, ‘Coffee Break’ doesn’t really sing that good, but ‘Smoke Break’ would be awesome to write about,” says Destefano.

So Chris went inside, got his guitar, and they wrote it.


The Process & Characters


“The process was a bit different, too, which I think definitely came out in the song,” DeStefano says. “We wrote the whole thing just on acoustic guitar. I just kinda started on that vibe, that little intro riff, and we were just off to the races.

The whole song came out in about … it wasn’t even an hour that it took us to write that song. It was just one of those writes that was such a different dynamic than usual, but it just came out so effortlessly.”

The song focuses on two different characters – one woman, one man – grappling with their unique stresses.

She’s working three jobs to raise four kids.  The man, meanwhile, is a small-town guy who’s fighting his way up the corporate ladder in a big city, struggling to maintain his integrity for a boss who may not value it.

According to DeStefano, the song idea was broad: “Life gets crazy sometimes, and sometimes you’ve just gotta step away.”

The situations themselves in the song weren’t meant to be literal, but used as examples of the larger song idea.  “It can be anything … just sitting down to a movie or going out on the lake, or going on a vacation somewhere.

We’ve all been there. We’re all there; we’re all trying to do what we can to stay afloat and to work hard, and for me, make my parents proud. Like the song says, be a good son and always strive,” says DeStefano.


More . . .

Behind the Scenes: Making The Video

Behind the Scenes: Making the Recording


This story was compiled from a stories originally appearing on and



  1. I believe that is where some of the best songs come from, out of the smoke break. Once in a while you get so tangled up in the words and story line of a song that you just have to back away from it for a little while and in those few minutes, something comes out so free and easy that you can hardly believe it. It may not have anything to do with the original theme but is so simple and innocent and beautiful.

    • Yes – it’s strange how sometimes doing something pretty mundane (cleaning the house, washing your car) can calm/clear your brain and the muse shows up! I think as songwriters part of our process should always be to create moments – opportunities – for the muse to arrive. My poetry professor used to insist it was a responsibility. If we don’t – who will, and how will art survive?

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest