71: Southern Voice

71: Southern Voice

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Southern Voice

Story by Bob DiPiero

Song written by Bob DiPiero and Tom Douglas

Recorded by Tim McGraw

“Southern Voice” was actually a concept that my co-writer, Tom Douglas, had. We had a writing session at his house out by the Harpeth River, and he said, “I got this idea and it’s called ‘Southern Voice.’” I don’t know where exactly it caught fire. We were doing the verses and we wrote, “Hank Williams sang it, Number 3 drove it,” and all of a sudden we just started doing these shout-outs like “Chuck Berry twanged it, Will Faulkner wrote it.”

When that started rolling, I remember just writing the lyrics and not having any melodic thing going on at all. I remember thinking, “This is interesting. Let’s just follow this down the rabbit hole for a while.”

For Tom to come up with anything with any up-tempo groove is not normal for him. He’ll tell you that. He’s very much a slow, ballad kind of guy, but he really wanted to write something that rocked. And I wanted to write something that had more meat on the bones lyrically, so it was a great combination of what we wanted to do.

At first, I had no idea what the song would sound like, but phonetically how the words were falling created a natural groove in my head. Then we got to the chorus and, personally, I always wanted to use the word “Apalachicola” in a song. I’m such a word hound; I love words and their power and their shape and their sound. To me, Apalachicola just sounds good and it’s so rhythmic.

I don’t want to get too songwriter-y, and get a focus group in here to decide what people we should really target in the song, but we wanted a really good cross-section, at least in terms of our own understanding, of great people from the South, and from different walks of life: stock car drivers, guitar players, novelists, social heroes like Rosa Parks, and spiritual figures like Billy Graham. I was envisioning the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, and seeing all these faces, and trying to decide which of these faces we wanted to use, and which ones hadn’t been used.

Probably the first listen-through of the song, casual listeners are just hearing the groove, and like the way it sounds or, if they’re a big Tim McGraw fan, they might not hear those references. But by the second or third listen, they are delving into the lyrics a little more. That’s what makes a song a hit. The more you listen to it, the more you get out of it.

For me, coming from Ohio, but living more of my life in the South than I did in the North, I took in everything that was Southern over the past thirty years. All these things just came out in the song. Finally, what we decided on musically was pretty much straightforward — three-chord rock and roll and the melody was pretty simple and easy to remember.

When we took it to Tim, he immediately put it on hold, so it had a very arduous trek to the radio from that point. Tom saw Tim and Faith at a restaurant right after that and Tim said, “I loved your song and it’s going to be the name of the album and the name of the tour,” and we were just blown away.

He did actually cut it right after that, but then somebody at his label decided they were going to put out a Tim McGraw Greatest Hits album first, so that delayed Southern Voice by at least a year and a half. And during that time, he continued to find new songs and record them, so we were concerned that he would become too familiar with it or burn out on it, or maybe he would decide to take the album in a different direction, but he didn’t. He put out the Southern Voice album about a year and a half later, but he put out another song as a single first. So it was a little over two years from the time the song was recorded until the time it actually was heard on the radio, but by February of 2010, it had hit #1.

The song is a nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers. One of the high points of my career was seeing Tim perform that song on The Jay Leno Show with Greg Allman. Greg, to me, is one of the greatest guitar players that ever drew a breath, and that’s why I mentioned the Allman Brothers in that song. To hear him sing that song on the show was pretty mind-blowing.

Southern Voice

Hank Williams sang it, Number 3 drove it

Chuck Berry twanged it, Will Faulkner wrote it

Aretha Franklin sold it, Dolly Parton graced it

Rosa Parks rode it, Scarlett O chased it

CHORUS:

Smooth as the hickory wind

That blows from Memphis

Down to Apalachicola

It’s “Hi y’all. Did ya eat well?

Come on in. I’m sure glad to know ya”

Don’t let this old gold cross

And this Allman Brothers t-shirt throw ya

It’s cicadas making noise

With a southern voice

Hank Aaron smacked it, Michael Jordan dunked it

Pocahontas tracked it, Jack Daniels drunk it

Tom Petty rocked it, Dr. King paved it

Bear Bryant won it, Billy Graham saved it

CHORUS

Don’t let this old gold cross

And this Crimson Tide t-shirt throw ya

It’s cicadas making noise

With a southern voice

Jesus is my friend. America is my home

Sweet iced tea and Jerry Lee

Daytona Beach, that’s what gets to me

I can feel it in my bones.

Smooth as the hickory wind

That blows from Memphis

Down to Apalachicola

It’s “Hi y’all. Did ya eat well?

Come on in child. I’m sure glad to know ya.”

Don’t let this old gold cross

And this Charlie Daniels t-shirt throw ya

We’re just boys making noise

With a southern voice

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Southern voice

I got a southern voice

A southern voice

To purchase the original demo of this song,
go to www.countrysongdemos.com

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