82: The House That Built Me

82: The House That Built Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

The House That Built Me

Story by Allen Shamblin

Song written by Allen Shamblin and Tom Douglas

Recorded by Miranda Lambert

Since I graduated from high school in 1977, I have had a ritual where I go back every year to my hometown of Huffman, Texas. I’ll go through the Dairy Queen drive-through and then drive by the house my dad built on Sunny Glen Drive. It’s just a way I recalibrate myself, and it seems like over the past few years, since 9/11, with the world going the way it has, it’s more and more important for me to go back there. It’s a touchstone for me.

“The House That Built Me” was actually written about seven or eight years ago. I brought in the title, but it was truly a co-written song. Tom Douglas and I both drew on our experiences from our childhood homes while we were in the writing process. The upstairs bedroom where I learned to play guitar, the dog buried in the backyard, the fingerprints — all of that is drawn straight from our lives. We actually buried a couple of dogs in my backyard. I was crazy about dogs growing up, and still am.

In the song, the singer says he (or she) is broken, and that came from our lives, too. When you’ve lived as long as Tom and I have, there are certain things that just break your heart, and home seems to be the place to go to feel better. I have a home in Tennessee now and a family here, but when I go back to those earliest memories of my childhood home, it just seems very healing to me. It brings me great comfort the older I get.

Maybe part of that brokenness or grieving is the breakdown of community. I miss the days when we could get on our bikes and stay gone all day and nobody thought a thing about it. Everybody knew everybody in our neighborhood. The world’s not like that anymore. We have to keep a much closer eye on our children than my parents had to keep on me.

The song has an unusual format. That just came out in the writing. The lines that repeat, “I thought if I could touch this place” — work like a chorus, but it’s hard to define. That’s just the way it came out. We weren’t really analyzing it in the process. We were just following one line to the next, following the heart of the song wherever it led us. We went where the emotion took us lyrically and melodically. It’s usually better to do it that way. Most of the time, when you are writing a song, the head will steer you wrong, but the heart will always steer you right.

So it was pitched for a while and it just wasn’t connecting with people the way we thought it would. Then two years ago, Tom called me up and said, “Let’s take another look at ‘The House That Built Me.’” We could see the holes and the weak spots so clearly after letting it sit for a few years. Within an hour and a half we had rewritten it.

Tom went in and demoed it with just a piano and a light drum groove and sent it to Scott Hendricks, who is a great producer. Scott put it on hold for Blake Shelton. Blake was picking Miranda up at an airport one day and Miranda got in Blake’s truck and he started playing the compilation CD of the songs he had on hold. I think it was the third or fourth song on the CD. When Miranda heard it, she said, “Blake, I want this song,” so they called Scott Hendricks from the truck and Blake said, “Scott, I need to talk to you about something. Miranda just heard ‘House that Built Me.’ She was pretty moved by it and says she’d like to have it.” So Blake and Scott graciously released the song to Miranda.

Miranda really made it hers. Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke ended up producing it for her and they did a simple acoustic version of it and it worked great. The fact that it was a woman singing, I think, really helped the song connect with the public better anyway. It worked better for the video, too. It’s a pretty bold request for a man to come up to someone’s house and ask to walk through it, so that might not have worked as well with a male.

The House That Built Me

I know they say you can’t go home again

But I just had to come back one last time

Ma’am I know you don’t know me from Adam

But these handprints on the front steps are mine

Up those stairs in that little back bedroom

Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar

I bet you didn’t know, that under that live oak

My favorite dog is buried in the yard

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it

This brokenness inside me might start healing

Out here it’s like I’m someone else

I thought that maybe I could find myself

If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave

Won’t take nothing but a memory

From the house that built me

Mama cut out pictures of houses for years

From Better Homes and Gardens magazine

Plans were drawn and concrete poured

Nail by nail and board by board

Daddy gave life to mama’s dream

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it

This brokenness inside me might start healing

Out here it’s like I’m someone else

I thought that maybe I could find myself

If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave

Won’t take nothing but a memory

From the house that built me

BRIDGE:

You leave home and you move on and you do the best you can

I got lost in this old world and forgot who I am

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it

This brokenness inside me might start healing

Out here it’s like I’m someone else

I thought that maybe I could find myself

If I walk around I swear I’ll leave

Won’t take nothing but a memory

From the house that built me

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

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