Lyrics Uncovered: Tim McGraw, ‘Top of the World’
Tim McGraw's "Top of the World" lyrics have begun yet another chapter in one of longest and most varied careers in country music.
The song came about after songwriter Josh Osborne asked his frequent collaborator, Jimmy Robbins, to set up a session that included Jon Nite, with whom Robbins has written a string of hits. "I'd written with Jimmy quite a bit," Osborne tells Taste of Country. "I'd written with Jon a little bit to that point, but I'd never written with Jimmy and Jon together. I loved everything the two of them wrote together, so I told Jimmy, 'I really want to do one of those writes with you and Jon.'"
Osborne showed up for the appointment a little bit early, and he and Robbins began working on an idea that Robbins presented from a track. "He had the guitar lick, and I just love that lick," Osborne says. "It's so musical, and it just sounds happy over that kind of beat."
It was also Robbins' idea to title the song "Top of the World." The two had part of the track and fragments of lyrics before Nite arrived, and when he got there, he joined in, suggesting a new idea for a chorus and moving part of what they had to after the chorus.
"The song was kind of built mathematically, a little bit," Osborne recalls. "We started from the guitar lick and kind of built backward, and tried to build a big chorus that would give that post-chorus a moment to shine."
It means so much to finally have a single on him, because he's somebody that, I own every album Tim McGraw's ever made.
The "Top of the World" lyrics pull straight from all three songwriters' lives, as Nite and Osborne have been married to their respective spouses for a long time, while Robbins is engaged. "I think we were all in a place where we were wanting to talk about being with that right person, and so much of that lyric came out of that kind of stuff," Osborne relates.
"'Cause when you got love like we got love / I'm holding onto heaven holding onto you / When you got one like I got one / Anywhere you're lookin' it's a hell of a view / Don't know where we're gonna be but I know we're gonna be sittin' on top of the world," the lyrics state.
Osborne praises the unique strengths each of the other writers bring to the table.
"Jon Nite's vocal on the demo is awesome," he enthuses. "Jon is a little bit of a secret weapon. His voice is so good, and I think when people hear Jon sing, they want to sing like him, and I think that helps certain people hear a song. He just knows how to really sell a song."
Robbins' ability to put a track together is also crucial, he adds.
"I think Jimmy has a great ear for giving people a great blueprint," he says. "I think what you hear with the Tim version [of "Top of the World"] is obviously a little bit bigger version [than the demo], and it's a little bit slicker than what Jimmy did. That just comes from having live musicians on it. It's not Jimmy playing all the parts. But some of the structure is pretty much exactly the same. It's very, very similar. I think part of Jimmy's success is, he really knows how to lay the blueprint out for somebody. They can hear the song and go, 'Okay, this sounds like a hit — now I can add this, this and this to it, and then it sounds like a Tim McGraw hit.'"
Once McGraw heard the song, word came back to the writers that he loved it. He placed it on hold for about six months before cutting it, and finally they got word that it was slated to be the lead single from his forthcoming new solo album, Damn Country Music.
"I've been lucky, I've gotten a couple of Tim McGraw cuts in the past," Osborne says. "It means so much to finally have a single on him, because he's somebody that, I own every album Tim McGraw's ever made. This is somebody that I'm a huge fan of, and his song sense is always great. It means the world to me that Tim McGraw picked a song of mine to be on his record, because I've always admired his song sense."
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