Lyrics Uncovered: Carrie Underwood, ‘Smoke Break’
Carrie Underwood's "Smoke Break" lyrics actually came about during a break from work.
Underwood was writing another song with Nashville songwriters Chris DeStefano and Hillary Lindsey, two of her frequent collaborators. They were holed up at her cabin where she often writes, and since the weather was so beautiful, they kept taking frequent breaks by the fountain outside. "We kind of got stuck a little bit on the song that we were writing, so we decided to take another break, and I think Carrie might have said, 'Hey, we should write a song called 'Smoke Break,'" DeStefano tells Taste of Country. "You know, 'Coffee Break' doesn't really sing that good, but 'Smoke Break' would be awesome to write about."
The idea grew very quickly and organically, and the result is a sharp turn away from Underwood's most recent offerings, "Something in the Water" and "Little Toy Guns," both of which the trio wrote together.
"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 went in and grabbed my guitar and 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 "Smoke Break" lyrics present Underwood in a different light, as a blue collar worker who just needs some time away from her hectic life: "She said I don't drink, but sometimes I need a stiff drink / Sipping from a high, full glass / Let the world fade away / She said I don't smoke, but sometimes I need a long drag / Yeah, I know it might sound bad / But sometimes I need a smoke break."
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.
"It wasn't the literal meaning of it, but more the idea of, look, life gets crazy sometimes, and sometimes you've just gotta step away," DeStefano tells us. "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."
The second verse switches the narrator from a blue collar woman to a white collar man, then ties it back into the central theme of the chorus, making the message much more universal than just the lament of one person. DeStefano says that came about just in the process of working on the song.
"That was really the ripple effect of staying very focused on these two characters and where they're at in their lives," he says. "So many people can relate to both of those people in the lyrics."
Though many fans have interpreted the "Smoke Break" lyrics as reflecting Underwood's post-baby stress, the song was written before she knew she was pregnant. "It's really interesting how it's all played out," DeStefano says. "Obviously I couldn't be happier for Carrie and Mike, but we certainly didn't see that all coming when we wrote 'Smoke Break.' That's one of the powerful and awesome things about songwriting; sometimes people will find different angles and ways of looking at the songs you write."
DeStefano finished up a rough demo after Underwood sang her guide vocals, and he says producer Jay Joyce has perfectly captured the vibe they were going for with the song in the master studio recording. "Jay did such an amazing job," he says. "The heart and the soul that was originally there on the demo was captured, but he definitely exploded it more, which I love. I love the big choruses, I love that kind of vibe. I feel like he really captured that, so I couldn't be happier."
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