Lyrics Uncovered: Kenny Chesney, ‘Wild Child’
Kenny Chesney's "Wild Child" lyrics are a breath of fresh air at country radio, and according to songwriter Josh Osborne, it was clear the song was special from the start.
The third single from The Big Revival came about from some unusual circumstances. Osborne and co-writer Shane McAnally got an unexpected call from Chesney's reps on a Friday, asking if they could fly to St. John the following morning. The friends had written together extensively, and even scored hits with Chesney, but neither one knew the superstar well. They were a bit concerned that might make the trip awkward, which turned out to be unfounded.
"We met up with him the next morning real early and flew out on his jet, and he was the nicest, most down-to-earth guy. Instantly made you feel comfortable, almost to the point of being funny," Osborne tells Taste of Country.
"He was so appreciative of us going with him. He was like, 'I really appreciate you guys doing this, and I think it's gonna be fun.' And we're freaking out — I mean, geez, we're with Kenny!" he adds with a laugh. "This is what we all want."
Chesney himself actually proposed the song during the flight.
"Kenny mentioned he wanted to write a song called 'Wild Child' that he thought would be this awesome idea of writing a different way about women. More about their spirit, not just how they look," Osborne recalls.
The three actually ended up writing a different song the first day of the trip, but they got the ball rolling on "Wild Child" the following morning.
"I had my guitar and started messing with those chord changes, just trying to give it something interesting," Osborne relates. "We were just trying to color up the music a little bit, and Shane kinda fell onto that rhyming pattern of 'Wild child, got a rebel soul with a whole lot of gypsy / Wild style,' changing that second word so much and making 'wild' a big lyrical part of that. So we had kinda worked on that chorus for a half hour, hour or something like that, and had some pieces of it, and then went over."
They finished the song sitting around the outdoor bar area of Chesney's pool.
"We played him what we had, and he loved it, and just jumped right in with both feet," Osborne says. "He's a really, really good songwriter. He jumped right in and was really coloring up those verses, and the second he started singing the chorus, it just instantly sounded like a Kenny Chesney song. And then we thought, 'This might be something special.'"
The cut happened very quickly after that.
"He recorded the song probably a week later. It was awesome," Osborne says. "We got to go into the studio for that and watch his process with Buddy Cannon. It was really a cool moment."
It just instantly sounded like a Kenny Chesney song. And then we thought, 'This might be something special.'
It got even cooler when Chesney decided to bring Grace Potter in for the track.
"For us to have that trip, get to know Kenny, write a song that we're proud of, have him cut it and love the cut, and then for him to add Grace ... When Kenny told us he was gonna have Grace sing on it, I was like, 'Oh my god, this is the song that keeps on giving,'" the songwriter states.
Chesney has been very vocal about how important it is that the song portrays women in a very different light than some of the most recent offerings on country radio, which he says "objectify the hell" out of women.
"It started about one particular woman, and then it began to branch out into a lot of different women that we knew," Osborne says of the "Wild Child" lyrics. "I don't think he was intentionally set out to write a song that was the opposite of all these things, but I think the song naturally took that on, and as a songwriter or someone who listens to the radio, you're looking for a different take on something, and at this particular time, writing about a woman in this particular way is different. Kenny was really — the line about Bonnaroo and Burning Man, that was Kenny. He was saying these things that were so natural and poetic, but fit in the song. We slowly started to understand what we were writing."
"Wild Child" is part of what seems like a turning point, where country radio is once again embracing a wider variety of songs of more substance.
"I think at a certain point you just want to try something different. And I think that's why somebody like Kenny has been so successful for such a long period of time," Osborne reflects. "Kenny, to me, is one of the best at giving his fans what he knows they want, but also what he knows they'll accept. He's willing to stretch out to a point, because he wants to keep them interested, and he wants to keep them engaged in his career. And I think a lot of artists lose sight of that. I think more and more of them are paying attention to it now, and I think that's why you're hearing more different stuff. I think more people are suddenly becoming aware of that, and I think music is going to be better for it."
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