Charles Kelley said they wrote the song about those special nights early in the dating process when you don’t want to push it too far.
“You don’t want to send the wrong message and run them off. You naturally restrain yourself without even thinking about it,” he says. “It just happens … anytime you’ve met someone special. It just feels different, and you just know it.”
Although the lovers in the video are falling in love abroad, band members Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood shot their portion in Lebanon, Tenn., near where Scott grew up. Shaun Silva directed the video.
“It was at an old rail station, but in order to shoot, we had to get on a train and physically ride so they could get things in the background,” Haywood says. “So we would ride on a train from Lebanon to Watertown (Tenn.) and back. We would shoot individually for 30 minutes, and they’d turn the train back around, we’d sit on the other side of the booth and shoot it again. I thought it was kind of a cool way to shoot.”
Scott adds, “There’s something to just the whole train car. It’s very romantic. They’re starting a relationship … passing each other in the train station and catching eye contact. I mean, it’s just very romantic. … Being the girl in the group, I’ve seen so many movies where the guy’s running after the train and she’s leaning out. It just sets that mood.”
Asked how long it took in the studio to find the sound they wanted for “Just a Kiss,” Haywood said, “Musically, we got it within a three-hour period. But we spend a lot of time trying to get the vocals [and] the dynamic between Hillary and Charles on lead, back and forth. They sing it together and sing it separate. … When they’re going back and forth with different lines, we’re trying to follow that story and capture that emotion.”
“We always want to go in and beat it, too,” Scott says. “You do three or four different comps (vocal takes). There are lines that will stick out to you and you’re like, ‘Oh, no, I want to get in there and try to beat that.’ The strings were really fun with this song. I remember Kris Wilkinson, who arranges the strings for us, came in with a mock-up of what she was thinking. That’s one of my fondest memories of this song — sitting with her and hearing different melodic things that the strings could play and hearing them on the record now. And remembering sitting in the control room humming it to her. We also knock a lot of the arrangement stuff out in preproduction. We go into a rehearsal space for four or five days and knock out the arrangement, so when we get into the studio, everything’s mapped out.”
Since debuting in 2008, the photogenic trio has become known for its dynamic approach — not just sonically but also the vocal interplay between Kelley and Scott, with Haywood often providing the melodies on guitar and keyboards.
“I think that’s what makes it a little more unique for us,” Kelley says, “but we feel like we’re like a midtempo band. We’re excited to come with some tempo after this. I do feel like as writers, we excel more at writing ballads and midtempos for some reason. I don’t know why. Up-tempos — to write those and not sound cheesy is a real hard thing to do.”
“Truthfully, especially in a duet form,” Scott says. “You look back on music history, and, I mean, there have been some amazing up-tempo male-female duets, but there aren’t that many.”
“Duets are much easier as ballads and love songs,” adds Kelley.
“Because you build that drama,” Scott concludes. “I think that’s the never-ending challenge of trying to find an up-tempo duet, or write an up-tempo duet with a male and a female lead that doesn’t come across cheesy or forced — or not us.”
After winning five Grammys in February for their triple-platinum album and inescapable single — both titled “Need You Now” — the band’s publicist received 500 to 600 unsolicited emails with all kinds of show biz offers. Instead of entertaining those lucrative deals, though, the band retreated to the studio to finish writing and start recording their third album.
“Everything we do revolves around when we’re in these booths and writing these songs and taking them into the studio,” Haywood says. “For us, [winning the Grammys] was that inspiration of putting more time in the studio instead of just going off to take some kind of promotion or endorsement. It was like, ‘Let’s get the music right, and then we’ll go from there.'”
“We went back into our own little world of getting in the control room and singing and working through because we knew if we didn’t stay focused, then the music would suffer. And the whole reason we’ve gotten to where we are is because we’ve made the music the priority,” Scott says.
As a result of that decision, a new album, Own the Night, is set for release on Sept. 13. And “Just a Kiss” has already cracked the Top 10 at country radio and the all-genre Billboard 100.
“We’re so excited it’s done so well,” Scott says. “We were ready for new music, but once we put the single out and felt the response and saw how excited our fans were getting, it was like, ‘Yay, we really do know each other really well because y’all were ready for new music, too!’ Everything always works out in the right timing.”