Andy Gibson, Paul Jenkins and Jason Sellers, the brainchildren behind Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s recent No. 1 collaboration, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” admit the song was not an easy write, nor intended for a duet.
“It’s like corn liquor,” Jenkins said of the song’s slow-to-ripen success. “It’s got to sit in there a while.”
The three song craftsmen gathered with reporters to share the story behind the powerful ballad prior to the No. 1 celebration Wednesday afternoon (May 11) at ASCAP, one of the publishing rights organizations.
“Songwriting’s hard, especially writing a song that is so simple and universal like that,” Gibson admitted. “There’s not a lot of flowery, songwriter-y type lyrics or sentiment. It’s just straight up what somebody would say to somebody they want to be with.”
In fact, what began as a simple enough idea became a five-part series of back and forth revisions until the song was complete. What’s more, Jenkins’ Nashville studio where the song was born, Velvet Elvis, even went up in flames.
“The place we wrote it burned down,” Gibson said. “But it didn’t burn the song with it.”
Thank goodness, too. After the song’s final edits, Sellers then pitched it to Aldean and his record producer, Michael Knox, who were immediately smitten with the song. The singer, who had been kicking around the idea of wanting to include a duet for his album, My Kinda Party, saw the song’s twosome potential and asked season one American Idol winner and powerhouse performer Kelly Clarkson to be his singing partner.
“The marriage of those two recording this song, I couldn’t think of a better [fit],” Sellers said. “I love this combination.”
And so did the fans who first heard Aldean and Clarkson perform the duet at the 2010 CMA Awards. Not only did the song earn the top position on Billboard’s country chart, it also managed to gain significant airplay from other radio formats.
“They killed it on the CMAs,” Gibson noted. “It was so great. I think it’s probably intimidating to get up onstage with somebody like Kelly, who puts everybody to shame she’s so good. For Jason to just get up there and nail it, I was blown away. I would have been shakin’ in my boots.”
But John Rich, who attended the party on behalf of the publishing company representing Gibson, would later disagree. In fact, he claims to have discovered the songwriter’s talent at a Mexican restaurant on Nolensville Road in Nashville.
“Andy Gibson is a badass,” Rich said to the crowd as he went on to tell the story of how the two began working together. “You were up there playing, and I was in the back eating nachos and drinkin’ tequila.” After introducing himself that night, Rich asked Gibson if he’d like to write songs.
“I am so glad you have allowed me to work with you like that,” Rich said to him. “I’ve seen how hard you’ve struggled. God bless all these great songwriters and Jason Aldean.”
After a few more presentations and commemorative plaques were awarded, Gibson, Jenkins and Sellers took turns expressing their gratitude.
“I just want to thank Jason for taking this song and getting to know you on it and making it such a huge hit and singing it like he believes it and making everyone feel it,” Gibson said. “Because I think when someone can do that with a song, it just makes that song a hit.”
“This is awesome,” Sellers added. “I remember we were at my house one day a long time ago, trying to write a song on my porch. Jason didn’t have an album going yet and, somehow, I’ve kept this relationship. Waiting, waiting, waiting. And finally, something came out of it,” he laughed.
Many well-wishers may not have even seen Aldean who had been standing near the back of the room during much of the celebration. Not wanting to take any of the attention away from the songwriters, he played more to the role of father rather than superstar as he stood with his mother, wife and two daughters until it was his time to say a few words.
Briefly singing the praises of those in the crowd as well as Clarkson, who was unable to attend, he said, “Thank you all very much. Thank you for the party.”View photos from the party.