There’s a song on Keith Urban’s 2016 Ripcord album that I’ve always liked. It’s called “Gettin’ in the Way.” And after hearing the story behind that song on Tuesday night (July 24) at the CMA Songwriters Series at Joe’s Bar in Chicago, I fell a little more in love with it.
Jordan Reynolds, one of the song’s co-writers, said that it came from something fellow songwriter Emily Weisband’s dad had said. “She said, ’I was in the kitchen with my parents back in Virginia, and as my dad was leaving the house, he grabbed my mom and started hardcore making out with her.’ I said, ’Dad, I love that you’ve still got this fire going on, but it’s gotta stop.'”
“He said, ’Hey, I would stop, but your mama’s lips keep getting in the way.'”
The night was full of gems like that from Reynolds and Brett Eldredge, along with the other country songwriters who joined them to take turns sharing songs and stories: Ross Copperman, Tom Douglas and Heather Morgan.
When it was Douglas’ turn, he told the sold-out crowd what inspired him to write a Tim McGraw song.
“I am happy to be here tonight, and you can probably figure out why I’m here. Every songwriters’ round needs a little eye candy,” the 65-year-old said. “Everybody’s got a role to play, I suppose.”
Douglas went on to explain that he loves newspapers and admitted that he has a crush on Peggy Noonan, a 75-year-old columnist for the Wall Street Journal. “The title of this one column she wrote was ’Meanwhile Back in Omaha.’ The premise was that Washington, D.C. can seem so dysfunctional, and as I was telling that to my co-writers, Jaren Johnston said, maybe it’s ’Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,'” he said of the song that became the Grammy-nominated McGraw and Faith Hill duet.
Copperman, who has penned about 15 No. 1 songs in the past five years, shared some of the thinking that went into Kenny Chesney’s “Get Along.”
“Everyone on this stage has made really impactful music,” he said. “With this one, I wanted to write a song about the current state of our politics and that as a society we should just get along.
“And I’ve always wanted to slide ’Virginia is for lovers’ into a song,” the native of Virginia said, “and I finally got to do it.”
About halfway through the 90 minutes of country music, the songwriters invited teenagers Armoni Tafee and Ifeanyi Elswith to the stage to share an original song. The group had met Tafee and Elswith earlier in the day, when they’d visited Chicago’s Notes for Notes studio at the James R. Jordan Boys & Girls Club. During the visit, the songwriters worked with students to assemble guitars, ukuleles and other instruments made from recycled materials. They also doled out songwriting wisdom to the students, and later helped them record their songs.
The CMA Foundation’s Notes for Notes program helps fund similar studios across the country so that from an early age, kids have the opportunity to create, experience and play music right where they live.