29: Here in the Real World

29: Here in the Real World

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Here in the Real World

Story by Mark Irwin

Song written by Alan Jackson and Mark Irwin

Recorded by Alan Jackson

When I came to Nashville, I got a job at The Bluebird Café as a “bar back,” which means that I would clean glasses, stock beer for the bartender, clean tables, and do all the other grunt work. I did that for two years and eventually graduated to bartender. That’s what I was doing when I met Alan Jackson.

While I was tending bar there, I got a chance to meet a lot of people. That was one of the best things about working at The Bluebird. I met a lot of other songwriters and publishers. In that environment, everybody was always networking and giving everyone else advice and letting them know who was looking for songs and which publishers were looking for writers and that kind of thing. Then someone told me, “You should check out this company called Ten Ten Music.” It was a fairly new publishing company. It was run by Barry and Jewel Coburn, who were from Australia and had been in business for a couple of years. Barry was also managing several new acts and one of them was Alan Jackson.

I started taking songs to them and they liked what they heard. They didn’t hire me as a staff writer, but they did allow me to bring in material on a song-by-song basis. If they liked the song, they would go ahead and write up a contract and pay for the demo and start pitching it. One night we were having dinner at Barry and Jewel’s house and they introduced me to Alan and said we should try to write together. Alan had a songwriting deal with a publishing company owned by Glen Campbell then. He and I got together the next day.

I’ve always been a big movie buff, particularly when it comes to movie trivia. I can remember who played what in a movie I saw ten years ago, but I can’t remember something I read ten minutes ago. So we were sitting around trying to come up with some ideas and Alan had the first lines, but didn’t know where to go with it. He was sitting there and just hit a D chord and started singing, “Cowboys don’t cry and heroes don’t die. . .” and I don’t know what happened, but the idea of movies popped out. Once that happened, the song came together in about 45 minutes. Alan and I have written together only two times and that day we wrote “Here in the Real World” and another time we wrote a song that was later recorded by Chely Wright.

I’ve discovered that when I’m writing with someone, the thing that takes up most of the time is coming up with the song ideas. Once you figure out the theme — what you want to write about — the song comes out pretty fast after that.

Barry had taken Alan around to several labels in town, but couldn’t get a deal for him. Then when he found out Tim DuBois was going to be running the Arista Record label in town, he took him over there and Alan got his record deal with Arista. When Alan sat down with Tim, he played him nearly everything he had written, and Tim loved “Here in the Real World” and said, “That’s going to be your next single.”

When the song hit #1 for Alan, I was still bartending at The Bluebird. I hadn’t seen any royalty checks yet because they take several months to come in. A lot of people gave me grief over that. They didn’t think I needed any tips since I had a #1 record on the radio, but I did!

After Alan started selling millions of records, he bought a vacation house on Center Hill Lake near Nashville and named it “The Real World” since that was his first really big hit. He had that written in big letters on the brick entrance to his home there. When I heard he did that, I bought some paint and took it home to my house in Nashville and painted “The Real World” on my mailbox!

Here in the Real World

Cowboys don’t cry and heroes don’t die.

Good always wins, again and again.

And love is a sweet dream that always comes true

Oh, if life were like the movies, I’d never be blue.


But here in the real world,

It’s not that easy at all,

’Cause when hearts get broken,

It’s real tears that fall.

And darling, it’s sad but true,

But the one thing I’ve learned from you,

Is how the boy don’t always get the girl,

Here in the real world.

I gave you my love, but that wasn’t enough,

To hold your heart when times got tough.

And tonight on that silver screen, it’ll end like it should,

Two lovers will make it through, like I hoped we would.


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