January 10, 2022
Outsiders Radio Episode #74
AIR DATE: April 2021
SHOW THEME: Luke Laird
ERIC: Hey everybody, it’s Eric Church back for the seventy-fourth episode of “Outsiders Radio.” First of all, thanks to everyone who’s supported the release of Heart & Soul. This album was an incredible labor of love, and we’ve tried to share the experience of making it with you here on Outsiders Radio. Last month, you met Casey Beathard, who co-wrote a bunch of the songs on the albums. Today, you’ll hear from Luke Laird. He & I have collaborated on several big hits over the years, including Give Me Back My Hometown and Drink In My Hand. He also has a few songs on Heart & Soul. But Luke has written some big hits for others, including THIS one by Kenny Chesney.
Kenny Chesney and a song partly written by Luke Laird: American Kids. Luke was one of the writers who came to our writing retreat in North Carolina in January 2020. He came out towards the end of the month, and got to work pretty quickly.
Luke: I feel like 98% of the time, everything we’ve written has been one of his ideas. We wake up the next day, I’m an early riser so I got up at 5 or 6. And Eric texted me at 6, which anybody who knows Eric would be what? Usually he texts me late at night. But he texts me, and said ‘I’ve got this idea, I can’t get this thing outta my head, can I come over there. So I go sure. Eric comes over and it’s the start of Crazyland. This is one of those moments when I go ‘Lord thanks that I get to be here,’ because he could have written that song with anyone. He was kind to include us on it. I may have helped a little, I don’t know, but that was Eric with a great idea, coming up in the morning, and just being a part of it. So that night, they record it, and it was awesome.
Rodney Atkins with a song from ten years ago: Take a Back Road. That song was partly written by Luke Laird, who came out to our Heart & Soul writing retreat in North Carolina in January 2020.
(Luke PeopleBreak) I knew I was going out there, so like any time before I go to write, I start coming up with ideas for Eric. So I texted him and said ‘Should I send you some ideas before we get there?’ And he goes, ‘Sure man, whatever.’ So I sat down one night, had this guitar riff, mumbled some words, and this thing came to me called ‘Break the news.’ So I texted it to Eric, he goes, ‘Yeah that’s cool.’ That’s the last I heard of it. Fast forward a month later, I get to North Carolina, he goes, ‘Hey man, I wanna play you People Break.’ I’m like, “What’s that?” He goes ‘Remember that thing Break The News?’ Eric one night finished it, and it ended up being People Break, and one of the hooks was ‘Break the news to a broken heart,’ I was like, this is so awesome.
Sam Hunt with a hit from last year: Hard To Forget. We’re spotlighting Luke Laird, who was one of the writers on that song. In fact it was Luke’s idea to use a sample from an old Webb Pierce song “There Stands The Glass” as part of Sam’s song. As you can hear, Luke’s a very creative guy, and has worked with a lot of artists. One of the first was Carrie Underwood.
Luke: You know Carrie’s the first big artist who took a chance on writing with me. When I first started writing with Carrie, it was probably was a year after American Idol. Her management was very protective around her. But once you got in a room, she was like any other writer. In the last few years, she’s married and has kids, she has a cabin where people write, and it’s a way more relaxed environment. As far as writing, its still about getting an idea, kickin’ em around, and seein’ what sticks.
A couple of hits written by Carrie Underwood with Luke Laird. We’re spotlighting Luke on this edition of Outsiders Radio. He can write thoughtful, emotional songs. But he can ALSO write a fun summertime smash. Like Pontoon.
Luke: Yeah man that’s one of my favorite stories. I wrote that song with two of my best friends: Barry Dean and Natalie Hemby. We had written a song called Fine Tune for Miranda Lambert. Natalie told me she played the song for someone at her publishing company, and someone in the other room was hearing the song through the wall. So they came in and asked, ‘What’s that song? Pontoon?” She laughed and said, ‘No it’s Fine Tune.’ So she told that story to Barry & me, and we decided we had to write Pontoon. It was one of those days that was just so much fun. Then my wife Beth pitches it to Little Big Town’s management company. We get a call that Little Big Town wants to cut it. So I go heck yeah, and they’re working with Jay Joyce, it’s gonna sound amazing. I think it’s a cool song, but what Jay Joyce did on the production was just unbelievable, so that’s how that one went.
A couple of huge hits written in part by Luke Laird. He may be one of Nashville’s most successful songwriters. But it all started on a family vacation back in the 90s.
Luke: My first trip to Nashville was in 95, it just blew my mind, I went to a show at the Bluebird Café, and I was like, I knew I wanted to be a songwriter. I knew it wasn’t gonna be easy, but that’s what I wanted to do. So I had to get here as soon as possible, and it really changed my life. So when I wrote Music Row, I was thinkin’ about that first trip to Nashville, and once I wrote that song, nobody else was gonna record that song, and I had a couple of other personal songs, and my wife encouraged me, but that song was the catalyst for everything.
That is songwriter Luke Laird and the title song from his autobiographical solo album Music Row. We’re featuring Luke’s music this week on Outsiders Radio. The 1990s were pivotal in Luke’s childhood, and he wrote another song about that time called 1994.
Luke: 1994, that’s another one of those…like there are days you want to pour out your heart, and some days you’re literally just having fun. So I’m a huge 90s country fan, and I thought ‘1994’ would be fun to sing. This was before cool-retro 90s country. That’s the music I know. It was so much fun, I didn’t think anybody would record it. One day Jason Aldean’s producer called me looking for songs. I knew Aldean was a 90s country fam. So I played this song, it was so goofy, and we leave. We get a call from Knox that afternoon, and he goes, ‘Man I’m gonna have to record that dumb song. Jason likes it.’ That’s how it happened. One of the few times I played a song for the artist. Still can’t believe he cut that song, but super grateful he did.
Jason Aldean with a song about country music in the 90s called 1994. That song was written by Thomas Rhett and Luke Laird. We’re spotlighting Luke this week on Outsiders Radio. Luke & I have written several songs together over the years, including a few on Heart & Soul. But perhaps the biggest was Drink In My Hand.
Luke: I’ll never forget writing that song. He was opening for Miranda Lambert. It was in North or South Dakota. It was freezing. I remember it being freezing, it was -9 degrees. He was playing a show in an armory. I went in, and I can’t remember where the bar was, but everybody was walking around with red solo cups, holding them up in the air. This little melody came in my hand: “All I wanna do is put a drink in my hand.’ So I went back to the bus. Eric came back to the bus and goes, ‘What are you working on.’ So I played it for him, and he goes, ‘Man I love it, let’s write it.’ There must have been ten verses. Eric’s wife was writing it down. After I wrote it, I knew it felt really good. It ended up being his first #1 song.
I can’t wait to get back out and play that song live, and in fact it’s happening very soon. We announced our Gather Again Tour a few weeks ago, and tickets will be available starting May 7th at 10AM. The tour actually begins in Lexington KY on September 17. We’ve been spotlighting Luke Laird, one of the songwriters I’ve worked with over the years. I want to end this edition of Outsiders Radio with another song we wrote from Heart & Soul. This one means a lot, especially now, and here’s Luke to tell the story. I’m Eric Church, see you next time on Outsiders Radio.
Luke: Yeah Through My Ray Bans, a couple years ago, he, Barry Dean & I got together and Eric had that title. When he said that title, I liked it, but wondered how that would be cool. But I knew Eric would know. So we ended up working on a song that had a different feel. So he called me one day and said he wanted to work on Ray Bans again, and it’s a totally different thing. So I went out to his property, post Vegas, and he was having a rough time. I remember him saying ‘I saw the footage, and I saw people there from the Church Choir.’ It hit him hard, and that’s when the tone changed and went to another level. He knew that idea could be bigger. He was in an emotional state where he wanted to write, and that title spoke to that. So we worked on it, and that’s another one he worked on before I got there. So we got there and he played People Break and Ray Bans, and I was just blown away.