John Michael Montgomery knew he had a keeper when “The Little Girl” made his producers and record label president cry.
“The first time I heard it, I was in [Atlantic President] Barry Coburn’s office with my producers, Buddy Cannon and Norro Wilson,” Montgomery told country.com. “Barry played it, and it just kept drawing me in, and by the end of it I was wiping my eyes. I looked around, and they were all doing the same thing. If you can get four grown men in one room to wipe tears from their eyes, you’ve got something special.”
Despite its raw depictions of child abuse, drug addiction and domestic violence, “The Little Girl” struck a chord on country radio as well, holding the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s country singles chart for two weeks. Montgomery celebrated his sixth charttopper with songwriter Harley Allen during a gathering at BMI’s Nashville offices Monday evening (Nov. 6). The tune is the first No. 1 for Montgomery since 1995’s “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident).” It’s a first Billboard No. 1 for Allen, who also penned the Alan Jackson hits “Between the Devil and Me” and “Everything I Love.”
“All I could envision when I heard this song is my 4-year-old daughter behind that couch going through all these things,” Montgomery said, referring to the song’s most powerful verse. “It floored me, and I thought, ‘I’m going to put this song on my album whether it’s a single or not. Somebody’s going to hear me sing that song. I want to be the one to tell that story.'”
Allen, who brought his own little girl, 3-year-old Katelyn, to the celebration, said the story came to him through an e-mail from his brother. “It was one of those stories you see passed around on the Internet,” Allen told country.com. “I became incredibly inspired and sat down and wrote that song in a matter of 10 to 15 minutes. I think this one came from God. I think He wanted this song written. For some reason, He let me write it.”
Allen once toured with his brothers in the bluegrass group the Allen Brothers, and he released a solo album in 1996 on Mercury Records. He performed his own acoustic version of “The Little Girl” during the party.
“Actually, after I wrote this song, I was afraid it was too strong for country radio, but I didn’t care” Allen said. “I thought, ‘Well, I’ll cut it.’ But then I started playing it for people and, seeing their reactions, I realized that everybody wants to hear this song.”
Although Montgomery concedes that “The Little Girl” was a good lead single to kick off his new album, Brand New Me, the singer says he’s hoping for a bigger impact on those who hear it.
“Hopefully, some parent will hear this song and look in the mirror and go, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s me,'” Montgomery said. “And their kid will have a better life because this song about reality slapped them in the face.”