Lyrics Uncovered: Randy Houser, ‘We Went’
Randy Houser's "We Went" lyrics have given him another No. 1 hit at country radio, providing a big kick-off for his latest album, Fired Up. But according to one of its writers, the song almost never even made it to the demo stage.
The up-tempo song describes a couple out for a joyride in the country who end up running from the cops, tearing through cornfields and dancing at a favorite hole-in-the-wall joint for a memorable night out.
The song came about from a co-write between Justin Wilson, Matt Rogers and John King. The three friends had written together in pairs, but it was their first time writing together as a trio. Wilson came to the session with an old pop song stuck in his head. "I said, 'It'd be nice to do something kinda funky like that,'" he recalls to Taste of Country.
Rogers started playing a groove on the guitar, and because he's an advanced player, Wilson initially didn't quite follow what he was doing. "So I kind of messed them up and put some extra minor chords in there," he relates with a laugh.
"And it just kinda married together, and honestly, we didn't even have an idea that day. We just started writing to see where it would go, and as we started writing, we started out 'Black Cadillac with a pocket of cash ...' and then we changed it to Pontiac. And when it got to the chorus, we hit the end of the chorus, we had 'We went taillights fadin' ...' on the top of the chorus, and as we ended the chorus I said, 'What's the title that we're writing toward?' And Matt goes, 'Man, we should just call it 'We Went.' So I said 'Okay, then we've got to start the next verse with 'We went ..'"
Thank goodness someone had the work tape, and thank goodness my publisher decided to demo it.
They ended up constructing the "We Went" lyrics around that unusual device, with the chorus setting up the beginning of the next verse: “We were taillights fading / From some blue lights chasing / Cut a path through the corn out on County Road 44 / Tore up a fence, jump in a ditch / Felt so good, didn’t want it to end so we went …”
"It was a hook, but it's kind of like an anti-hook, you know?" Wilson observes. "There's nothing that really hooks into it, other than just a story."
The session lasted less than two hours, and though the writers were pleased with the results, Wilson was unsure. "I was like, 'Man, I don't know. I don't know if people are gonna like this or not,'" he admits. "I actually left the room without a work tape, without a recording of the song."
In fact, when it came time to demo the track, "I had to call Matt and say, 'Dude, I need for you to send me that work tape. I need to play it for my publisher to see if I'm gonna demo it or not,'" he shares.
"I played it for them, and they really flipped out. 'We have to do this! Why wouldn't you do this?' You just can't tell, sometimes. Sometimes you know, sometimes you don't really know if it's as good as you think it is or not."
The song turned out to be the strongest from that batch of demos, and since Wilson's voice is somewhat similar to Houser's, the singer was the obvious choice to pitch it to. "And they sent it off, and it didn't take but a couple of weeks and Houser was like, 'I love this. We've gotta do this,'" Wilson relates. "It normally doesn't happen like that. Thank goodness someone had the work tape, and thank goodness my publisher decided to demo it, 'cause I was in my own head about it. I just wasn't sure. But it just came out incredibly. And Randy was going in to cut pretty soon, so it was a perfect storm, really."
The result was a dream cut for Wilson. "He was one of the top guys on my list of people I would love to hear sing a song that I wrote. So to get that, I was over the moon about it," he says. "I'd say it was a pleasure writing it with two of my good friends, and to have another good friend produce it, and to have another good friend sing it. It feels good all the way around."