Lyrics Uncovered: Florida Georgia Line, ‘Sippin’ on Fire’
Florida Georgia Line's "Sippin' on Fire" lyrics have got country radio in the mood for romance, but with a twist.
The song started out with two writers, but ended up with three. "It was my first introduction to Cole Taylor," songwriter Matt Dragstrem tells Taste of Country. "He was a new writer, and I was a new writer — actually, I got signed that day that we wrote that song, I got signed to Big Loud Shirt."
Dragstrem had been in town for nearly a decade, but he was thrown in the deep end on his first day under contract. "Basically, we came in with no expectations about what song we wanted to write, or what style," he recalls.
"I had a little bit of a loop, a little bit of an idea. It wasn't completely fleshed out, but we had a kind of idea. We started writing the chorus first, and basically we just kinda collabed and decided to make the chorus as long as possible," he adds with a laugh.
The pair weren't writing to fit the title. "'Sippin' on Fire' actually wasn't even the hook; it was just a line, a part of the chorus," Dragstrem reveals of the '"Sippin' on Fire" lyrics. "We struggled with the chorus for probably an hour or so, and I remember thinking 'Sippin' on Fire' would make a weird, cool title, so I said we should make it the title of the song. I'm not sure it makes sense, but I kinda like the implication of playing with fire; it's kinda dangerous, it's not good for you, but you can't let it go. So we just kinda messed around with that, and we looked at each other and said, 'Bingo!'"
The pair changed the melody line to the verse completely before recording a demo. "Cole was like, 'We should try something else on the verse melody,' and it was completely different, and kinda just clicked into place," Dragstrem says. "I think that's a big testament to, let the song go where it needs to go, and don't be so controlling over it."
The song got pitched around and passed on by various artists, but Big Loud Shirt's creative manager, Seth England, also manages Florida Georgia Line, and he thought with some changes, it could be a hit for them. He called in Rodney Clawson — one of the hottest hit writers in contemporary country music at the moment — to make a few changes to the "Sippin' on Fire" lyrics.
I kinda like the implication of playing with fire; it's kinda dangerous, it's not good for you, but you can't let it go.
"He said, 'I think the chorus is a hit chorus, but the verses aren't really lining up with the chorus," Clawson tells us. "Basically I just took the song and looked at it, analyzed it, and I re-wrote the verses, and then we edited the chorus just a little bit," he recalls. "The chorus is probably ninety percent of what they originally wrote. I just took the verses and scrapped what they had, and wrote what I thought would fit the chorus, storyline-wise."
The finished "Sippin' on Fire" lyrics tell the story of a somewhat taboo relationship, with the protagonist trying to convince a woman he'd be better for her than the man she's with: "Girl you melt me like ice and whiskey / With those blue fling looks that you give me / You can't hide what's inside / And it's killing me right now to see / You wanna slip off with me again."
Clawson actually got the call while on the road with Lady Antebellum, writing songs with them. "The day that we wrote 'Bartender,' that night when they went in to do their soundcheck and meet and greet and all that, I sat down and I re-wrote the first and second verse of 'Sippin' on Fire' on the Lady Antebellum bus," he reveals with a laugh. "That was a good songwriting trip for me!"
The resulting track was tailor-made for Florida Georgia Line — literally. "It was a little bit of an inside job," Clawson says. "We kinda have the inside track to them. I had them in mind when I was re-writing the verses. I had in mind what I thought they would want to say to their audience. I kinda targeted what I did with the verses to them."
England played the new demo for FGL, who were eager to move forward on cutting the song. "I found out at the ACMs that they were gonna cut it, and I was just freaking out, because it's one of my first big cuts," Dragstrem says.
For Clawson, "Sippin' on Fire" is another in a long list of hit songs, but for his co-writers, it's their first hit. "I know how rare it is to have — my first cut was on Kenny Chesney, but this is my first single, and I'm super grateful for it," Dragstrem observes. "I've been in town for 8-9 years, and just got signed a year and a half ago, but I've been writing ever since I was at Belmont. To have this be my first year at a publishing deal, and have this song has changed a lot of things."
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