Story Behind the Song: Lady Antebellum, ‘American Honey’
In 2010, Lady Antebellum released "American Honey" as the second single from their sophomore album, Need You Now. Written by Cary Barlowe, Hillary Lindsey and Shane Stevens, and inspired by a good bottle of "sippin' whiskey," the song hit No. 1 on the country charts -- Lady A's third consecutive and third overall No. 1 hit.
Below, Barlowe and Stevens recall the trip on which "American Honey" -- which has also been certified platinum -- was written.
Shane Stevens: Carey, Hillary and I go to Gatlinburg every year. On the way to the cabin, we stopped at a liquor store, and Carey saw this bottle of whiskey on the shelf, and he goes, "Wow, this is sippin' whiskey!" In other words, it's not shots; you're not going to just chug it down ... you're going to sip on it. Well, that whiskey happened to be called American Honey.
Carey Barlowe: This whiskey actually has honey in it. So we warmed it up in the microwave! [Laughs]
I'm always noodling on the guitar, so right away, I started to hum melodies after we thought that "American Honey" was a good title.The first difficult part was trying to figure out the groove of it. At first, the obvious thing was a guy talking about a girl like American honey ... but we thought that sounded too obvious. So we tried to figure out what to do to make it different, refreshing and more intriguing.
Stevens: Of course, the song's not about whiskey! [Laughs] It's about getting back to a simpler time. But that bottle of sippin' whiskey was sitting on the counter in the kitchen in the cabin, and Carey was playing this riff. And one of us looked over at the bottle and said, "That's a great song title." And then Hillary and I started talking about how honey is slow when it's being harvested. From there, it just turned into a story of a kid getting back to old memories and losing yourself when life gets busy and rushed -- just getting back to simpler times. So that's how we started writing it -- some guitar playing, and some really good whiskey! [Laughs]
Barlowe: Every time me and Shane and Hillary write, once we lock that melody -- right away, one of us is singing lead, and we'll switch around. So it became a three-part harmony, because when the three of us write and we come up with a melody, we'll each come up with a harmony and sing all the way through it. And because we knew it was going to be a three-part harmony song, we wanted to write it for Lady Antebellum, so either Charles Kelley or Hillary Scott could sing it -- like he was singing about a girl, or she was singing about a guy.
Stevens: It couldn't have ended up with a better band. The timing, where they [were] in their career -- and they'[d] never cut an outside song. That was a first for them, which is a huge compliment, because they're such great songwriters ...
And Hillary Lindsey ... she is just magic ... We've been best friends since 1997. There's nothing Hillary doesn't know about me, and nothing I don't know about her! She's a fantastic woman. She's taught me a lot. If I could only grow up to be Hillary Lindsey! [Laughs] All of us are always saying, "I just want to write as good as she does!"
This story was originally written by Marianne Horner, and revised by Angela Stefano.
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