Story Behind the Song: Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell, ‘What Happens in a Small Town’
Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell's duet, "What Happens in a Small Town," is the first single off of Gilbert's forthcoming new album, but it almost wasn't even in the body of songs included on the project at all. To learn more about how the song was written, in Gilbert's own words, read on.
What had happened was, I came into [my label head] Scott [Borchetta]'s office, and I had been working on this record ... I micro-manage every lyric on these songs, and re-write 'em about a hundred times before I give 'em to Scott, so I'm under the impression that by the time [he sees them], I've been through everything that could be wrong with them, and I'd be tired of them if it wasn't a good call.
He listened, and came back, and was like, "Dude, this is an amazing body of work and you should be proud of it. That being said, I have singles, but I don't know if I have the single."
I ain't gonna lie: I went home, got on the bus and probably cussed a little bit, and maybe threw a water bottle. Because you just think you're at that place in the creative process to where you're done with that. But I reckon it's better than having a label president that goes, "Oh, whatever works, just hand me something."
But we didn't have the single, and we kind of had a time issue going on, because even for us, we'd had too much time in between records. I called Rhett Akins and Brock Berryhill, [who ended up co-writing the song with Josh Dunne] and asked them what they were doing that weekend.
We were shooting for an uptempo, feel-good radio song. Which, we all know, a seek-and-destroy mission on an out-of-the-gate single for a record is like catching lightning in a bottle. But some way or other, man, it happened. And it just kinda sounded like a duet from the beginning, and it stayed that way all the way through it.
After we finished writing it, [we went] into the whole, "Okay, well, who's the right match to do the duet?" It was my first male-female duet, and it had to be right. If you know me, you know I'm kind of obsessive compulsive, about everything. So a lot of thought went into it. I was talking to Scott one day, and he brought up Lindsay's name, and it just clicked ... I made him call and ask Lindsay, because I was scared she'd tell me no.
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