Recently, Alan Jackson was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame which to many of his fans was a long time coming. Jackson can lay claim to 35 #1 songs at country radio. He recalls when it all started in 1993 with the fan favorite ““Chattahoochee””, a song that he originally didn’t want to release (can you imagine?!).
“I love that song, but it’s about the river where I grew up,” Jackson said. “When the label wanted to put that song out, I said, ‘I don’t think many people around this country are going to give a flip about the Chattahoochee River or know what it is.’ And they said, ‘It doesn’t matter, everybody has a Chattahoochee River.’”
Obviously, the label was right and most of us grew up singing the song and adopting it as our own life story. Other hits of Jackson’s would give listeners the same feeling and he explains that he really creates a reality for the songs he writes which translates to relatability with fans.
“As I write and sing the songs now, I pretty much visualize the story. That may help, I don’t know.” Jackson said.
Another songwriting tool Jackson uses is to put all of his life’s experiences to work for him.
“I think it’s helped me, too, as a songwriter, that I didn’t got to college and had been working since I was 12, when I wasn’t in school. I did everything you can imagine, so by the time I moved to Nashville, I had already lived a lot of lives and had a lot to pull from. I think that helped. When I think back to the guys I’ve always loved, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams and Willie Nelson and other great writers, most of them had lived a life really young, too, and back then you had to. By the time they were in their 20’s, they had done a lot” Jackson affirms.
One song in particular that has hit home with people was the Twin Towers tribute “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning).
“I know everyone likes to talk about this one, and I’m still very amazed about how that song has hung on and almost taken on a new life of its own outside of the 9/11 part of it. It’s a song about faith and love. After 9/11, I was as disturbed as everybody and was very emotional, and I told myself I didn’t think I would want to write a song about it. It felt like it was too disturbing at the time, and I didn’t want to feel like I was jumping on and taking advantage of people at a time like this. But it was about the middle of October, just a month or so after, and I had agreed to play a concert down in my hometown for a fundraiser for a home for underprivileged children. We did the show and flew back to Nashville the same night, and I got back home and went to bed. Somewhere in the middle of the night I woke up, and that song was laying here.
The chorus just came out; the melody, the lyrics just started pouring out. I got up in my underwear and had to get it down. It was pretty much the whole chorus. I went back to bed and got up the next morning, and that’s when I started writing all the verses and started seeing all the things I wrote about become visual: all the footage I’d seen on television, interviews with people about how it affected them. The verses were witness to all that. And even after I wrote it, I played it for my wife, of course, and she said, “I don’t know if I can do anything with the song.” And then my manager and my record label heard it and said, “You’ve got to put this song out.” So we debuted it on the CMA Awards sometime in late October” Jackson told Billboard Magazine.
Congratulations to Alan Jackson for being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he sure does deserve it!