Prisoners Putting Lyrics in Their Sentences

There’s an Eric Church song about being on death row. It’s called “Lightning.”

I’ve often wondered what a person on death row might think about it. Would they relate to it? Or would they think that until you’ve been in a prison, you would never ever know what it feels like?

And what if those prisoners could write their own songs?

Nashville hitmaker Tom Douglas (Lady Antebellum ‘s “I Run to You” and Miranda Lambert ‘s “The House That Built Me” ) is going to see about that.

He’s been spending time at the Hill Detention Center in Nashville, teaching a songwriting class to six inmates. And on Monday (July 28), Douglas and the inmates will record the song they’ve been working on.

“I have a desperate desire to talk about brokenness and then talk about redemption,” Douglas said in a story published by Nashville’s daily newspaper, The Tennessean . “These guys are writing from a depth that is really uncommon just because they have experienced more in their lives than most people. They’ve experienced more in just a few years than most people will ever experience in a lifetime.”

The collaborative effort will have lyrics from each inmate — about jail and hope and redemption — and a chorus about being a life soldier.

By the end of that old Church song, he does end up riding the lightning.

But there’s another prison song I love, Tim McGraw ‘s “No. 37405,” about doing 15 years for drinking, driving and killing someone. But this one has a happier ending. One about the kind of redemption Douglas is talking about. The last line is about the day he gets paroled: “He turns in them prison clothes, and stands there at the fork in the road.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.