When McAnally wrote “American Kids” with Luke Laird and Rodney Clawson, he told the Nashville Songwriters Association International that he sent it to Chesney right away.
“I emailed it to him, and he didn’t respond to it,” McAnally recalled. But then he went out on the road to write with Chesney, who was scrolling through songs on his computer, and ran across that song.
“Here’s an old email from you. It’s a song I’ve never even listened to,” Chesney had said.
“It was ‘American Kids,’ and my heart was beating so hard, because I know how this goes. I had a feeling he was going to love it, and then I’m going to have to figure out how to tell him that it’s on hold,” said McAnally, because Little Big Town had wanted the song for their own record. “He probably listened to it for about 25 seconds, and he pulled his headphones off and was like, ‘There it is! This is the song.’”
Of the song’s lyrical imagery of growing up as an American kid, McAnally said that it was supposed to feel like snapshot after snapshot.
“I just wanted the feeling to be that as soon as you had one image, you had the next,” he said, “as if you were looking through a scrapbook.”