Lyrics Uncovered: Billy Currington, ‘Don’t It’
Billy Currington's "Don't It" lyrics see the singer continuing the good-time vibe that has made him one of country radio's most reliable hitmakers, but according to one of its writers, the song owes part of its inspiration to a heartbreaker.
Three of Nashville's top writers collaborated on the song. "I wrote it with Ashley Gorley and Ross Copperman," Cadillac Three frontman Jaren Johnston tells Taste of Country.
"We write together a lot, the three of us, and we literally went in there — I think Ross had a little bit of the track going when we walked in, and I picked up a guitar and started playing that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers thing over the top of it," he says, humming the main guitar line from "Breakdown."
The "Don't It" lyrics developed organically from there, with the longtime collaborators jumping in with spontaneous contributions. "We all just started freestylin' over it, and it just came out ," he recalls. "I don't even remember how we came across the title, 'Don't It.' It was one of those things where nobody had that title. We just kept going, and it led into that."
The trio have worked together so often that they felt comfortable jumping in wherever they felt inspired. "We were all kinda in there on this one," Johnston affirms. "Ashley, he's one of those guys that, he moves so quick; he and I are both walking around the room, and if you get us both going, it's kinda like two sword fighters just going! It's a lot of fun."
The song happened very quickly, but there was one point of contention.
"I remember when we got into it — one of the lines in the chorus, I said, 'Come on, baby, bring on it,' instead of bring it on, kind of a play on words," Johnston recalls, laughing. "And Ashley loved it, so we put it in there. Ross kept questioning it, like, 'Man, is that gonna make sense? Are people gonna get that?' And I was like, 'Dude, that's the coolest line in the song, just trust me.' And now that's the one that everybody talks about, so it's a trip."
We turned it in, and literally within days it had been cut. The next thing you know, it's gonna be the next single.
The "Don't It" lyrics combine two of the principal themes of country music: alcohol, and the possibility of romance: “Baby if you want a good time / We can get on it / Take a shot or you can sip on it / Find a floor and we can dance on it, slow song it / Far as I can tell that finger ain’t got no ring on it.”
Johnston and Copperman finished a demo and turned it in that very evening, and Currington was one of the first pitches on the song.
"I didn't even know that he was cutting," Johnston says. "That was one of those where you put it in the publisher's hands and see where they see it fitting. I think originally I was like, 'This would be cool for Dierks [Bentley],' but he wasn't cutting yet."
Johnston was thrilled with Currington's take on the song. "He's killer," he raves. "I've never had a cut with him, and I didn't know how my vocal on the demo would go over on his ears. And actually, I ran into him at the CMA Awards, and he came up to me. We'd never even met, and he goes, 'Jaren, I'm Billy,'" he recalls with another laugh. "I go, 'Dude, I know who you are!' And he gave me a big old hug and said how much he loved the song, and he had just cut it."
The finished record is very similar to the original demo. "It's exactly the same," Johnston states. "I'm pretty sure that's me doing the 'Hey, hey, hey.' I think they used that from the demo on the track. I think so. It's real similar.[Producer] Dann Huff did a great job."
The radio success of "Don't It" is one of those rare perfect storms that seems to happen almost by itself. "It happened so quick," Johnston says. "We turned it in, and literally within days it had been cut. The next thing you know, it's gonna be the next single. It just happened so quick, and it's been on the charts and done so well. It's just exciting to be a part of it, because I love the natural — it's kind of got the country version of an old Heartbreakers song, but it's a cool twist on the lyric. I'm proud of it."
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