Lyrics Uncovered: Blake Shelton, ‘Sangria’
Blake Shelton's "Sangria" lyrics are bringing a sexy vibe to country radio, but according to one of the songwriters, the hit song very nearly got away from Shelton.
"Sangria" began from a random note that Josh Osborne made to himself. "I had written down that title, just that word, in my phone," he tells Taste of Country. "It was just a word that I thought sounded like a cool song title. I couldn't believe it hadn't been a song."
Osborne had initially envisioned the song from the perspective of a female, but one day as he was preparing for a session with J.T. Harding and Trevor Rosen, it took a turn in a different direction. "My brain just started flipping it around, thinking, 'Well, if the girl was drinking sangria, the guy would be tasting it on her lips.' That's kind of a sexy image."
He had part of the chord progression and chorus, and when he showed those to the other writers, the song quickly began to take shape. "Trevor and J.T. loved it, they were like, 'There's something super cool and sexy in that.' And Trevor, who's brilliant melodically, said, 'If we had a chorus that really lifted and did an alternate kind of phrasing and then came came back to that, that really would set that off.' We were off to the races at that point."
They ended up finishing the song in one session. "The bulk of the time working on it was spent on coloring up the lyrics, trying to find different ways of saying things that maybe you'd heard before, but we were just trying to say them in a slightly different way," Osborne relates.
The finished "Sangria" lyrics are a variation on the familiar theme of a night of drunken passion, but with a much more poetic slant: "We're buzzing like that no vacancy sign out front / Your skin is begging to be kissed by a little more than the sun / You take my hand in yours, you lean in / And your lips taste like sangria, your lips taste like sangria."
Rosen, Osborne and their wives had recently attended a wedding in Mexico. "We were both picturing those bars in Mexico that are on the beach," Osborne says. "And J.T. had just been in L.A., and was staying at this old abandoned hotel in Malibu. So many of those images started popping up, like, 'We're buzzing like the no vacancy sign out front,' and the strings of white lights that are on a lot of the bars in Malibu, and even the one in Mexico."
It was probably a two hour write, and I bet you an hour and forty-five minutes was spent on the lyric.
Their hard work paid off in the "Sangria" lyrics, which are evocative even when describing what could have been some fairly mundane events. "Even to the point of, "What's the sexiest way you can describe a drunk person stumbling down the hallway?'" Osborne says with a laugh. "'A wrecking ball dancing down the hallway.'"
They realized they still weren't quite finished. "We had the two verses and the chorus, and we felt really good about it, and J.T., who's really an amazing writer and has a great sensibility about keeping a song interesting, said, 'We need one more thing, we need one more section,'" Osborne recalls. "He just started singing that, 'The only thing I want to do tonight ...' and it was just so different and cool, but yet it felt like it fit in the song. A lot of times the hardest part can be the words. It was probably a two-hour write, and I bet you an hour and forty-five minutes was spent on the lyric."
They recorded a demo that included the guitar line that is one of the primary elements of the finished recording, but when they got the track back, that guitar part was not present in the mix. Osborne credits one of his favorite engineers, Ben Phillips, with saving the track. He calls Phillips "the secret weapon of Nashille. He's such a great engineer, and probably the biggest majority of my cuts have come from songs that Ben has mixed. He really added an atmosphere to the song ... when we got that mix back from Ben, it was like, 'Oh, this is perfect.' And not long after that, it was cut, and I do think a lot of that had to do with somebody like Ben being involved, and having the ears to make it really sound special."
Though the "Sangria" lyrics weren't written with Shelton in mind, it was a natural pitch for the singer, especially since Osborne had written "My Eyes." But producer Scott Hendricks initially passed on the song, and nearly passed again when it was re-pitched from another publisher.
"And then maybe a week later ... Scott had originally passed again, and then came back a couple of days later and said, 'You know what, I actually think I might play this for Blake,'" Osborne says. "From what I understand, he said he couldn't stop singing it after he heard it. It got stuck in his head. He took it to Blake, and luckily, he went for it."
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