“In The Blood” came on the heels of your first hit, “Good.” It seemed like “In The Blood” was also on the radio every hour on the hour. So talk about that song and the line, “Who did you love before? Who did they love before you?”
There’s some interesting things about that song. If you listen to I was completely inspired lyrically, melodically by a Catherine Wheel song called “Black Metallic.” That was their big song. Listen to “Black Metallic” and you can hear where I got part of the melody. I’ve said that to people before, and they go, “I don’t hear it.” I say, “Well, I do.” I was definitely inspired by that song melodically.
But the lyrics… I usually don’t tell people where my head was, but my girlfriend at the time, her uncle had had AIDS and he was in the last stage of battling AIDS. He passed away in ’96. It was really about AIDS and it was literally about: what’s in your blood? Do you really know the person you’re with and who did they love before you and who did they love before them? And it was really just a very literal lyric to me. It was really about her uncle Patrick, who was an amazing guy. He was an editor for The Advocate. He lived in West Hollywood and he was still somewhat healthy. But dealing with it was a tough time. But that’s what the lyrics are about. So it really wasn’t about a relationship. It was really about this man. I rarely told people about that because it’s kind of heavy.
The Pretty Reckless has been one of the most consistent and powerful bands in rock music over the past decade. They’ve had six songs that topped the Active Rock Radio charts, and a bunch of others that came close to the #1 spot. We spoke with the band’s leaders — singer Taylor Momsen and guitarist Ben Phillips — about some of their biggest songs.
Read a bit of our interview below and scroll down to listen to, or watch, the full interview.
Talk about “Follow Me Down” (a #1 hit on rock radio in 2014).
Taylor: I was reading [1955 novel] Lolita at the time. I had watched like every [film] version of Lolita. I was very obsessed with the Lolita story. And that’s kind of the inspiration for “Follow Me Down,” the concept of doing something sexually, that is not necessarily considered appropriate. And reveling in it and getting away with it and enjoying all the naughtiness of it.
Let’s talk about “Take me Down” (a #1 hit on rock radio in 2016). Songs about dealing with the devil are a constant throughout rock and roll history. For me, it never gets old.
Taylor: That obviously stems from the Robert Johnson legend of going down to the crossroads and selling your soul for your music. In the blues, in our case, rock and roll…
Ben: That [story] inspired the  movie Crossroads. There’s a little throw to the Rolling Stones in the very beginning. There’s a little Beatles, a little Eric Clapton… There are little nods to anyone in the ’60s who was playing Robert Johnson’s music.
Taylor: It all came together when got to the “All I want to do is rock, rock, rock!” part. We started to lay down the guitars for the song, we’d finished the lyrics yet, but we were recording it. I just hadn’t finished the words and I was outside taking a break and I came in and said, “I got it, I got it! ‘Don’t care what happens when I die as long as I’m alive all I wanna do is rock, rock, rock!” I went right into the control room and just sang it right into the microphone. And that ended up being the take.
We were fortunate to talk to Chris Lane on Zoom at a rather exciting — and exhausting — time in his life. He and his wife just had their first baby. The experience was, obviously, life-changing. And in Lane’s case, it also informed one of his most popular songs: “Ain’t Even Met You Yet.” The song and video are almost so intimate, and so relatable, you feel like you’re talking to a friend. In the song he wonders what his son’s first words will be? Will the dogs approve? And there’s a line that most guys wouldn’t say out loud, much less in a song. Lane discussed the song, and some of his others, with a smile.
Congratulations on being a new dad, Chris. Your latest song “Ain’t Even Met You Yet,” obviously, is about the experience that you’ve been going through for the past few months. Talk about writing that song.
So “Ain’t Even Met You Yet” is about the feelings that I was having of becoming a first-time dad. And I feel like first-time parents probably have very similar feelings: scared to death and ready at the same time. And so I decided to write about it. “Ain’t Even Met You Yet,” the title kind of came out. I wrote it two or three months before Dutton was born. And when I finished it, I thought, “Wow, I should record the song.” Not even to put it out into the world. At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about it in that way. I just wanted to record it so that when he’s old enough to understand, I’ll say I wrote you this song.
And it’s been very exciting to see the reaction that the song’s actually gotten. I appreciate all the love people are showing.
The line, “Just between us too, sometimes mom is crazy.” Did you run that past her before recording it?
[laughs] Good point! That was one of my favorite lines of the whole song and one that I will raise a beer to every time I sing it on stage. I wrote the song out on the back porch at my house, and Lauren was sitting in the living room and kind of running around the house all day long. And when I finished that line, I wanted her to understand it’s not meant to be negative. It’s meant in a sweet way because she’s always dancing and she’s always singing. I did run it by her, and just said, “Hey, I just want to make sure that you are cool with me saying that. I don’t mean it in any other way other than, you know how you are. And she’s got the best personality in the world. So much fun to be around. And hopefully that’s what people took away from that line.”
The How I Wrote That Song limited series gives music fans a front-row seat for conversations with songwriters behind some of the biggest hits of yesterday and today. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs from the people who wrote them. New episodes will be released every other Monday through December 12. How I Wrote That Song is produced in partnership with Beasley Media Group, XPERI (HD Radio), and BMI.
“It really kicked my booty!” Lauren Alaina could be talking about a number of obstacles life has thrown her way over the years, but right now she’s referring to COVID-19. “I was so mad when I got it because I have taken this pandemic very seriously and I ended up getting it somewhere, where a group of people was gathered everyone had tested negatively. And somehow I got it and I was pretty sick. I was only really sick for three or four days. And then it took me a couple of weeks to feel one hundred percent again. But it’s no joke, I’m better now.” When we sat down (remotely) to discuss some of her songs, she was in a joyful mood and took a lot of pride in her ability as a songwriter.
Let’s talk about your new song: “Getting Over Him.” You could have written it all just from your point of view and not had this sort of dialog with Jon Pardi. So it’s almost a movie casting decision.
I had gone through two really crazy breakups and I’d never really been single for a long length of time since high school, and I was kind of like casually dating this guy. And it didn’t work out. I mean, it was super casual, like we went on a couple of dates, whatever. It wasn’t a big thing, really, but it was nice to flirt with someone again. And when it kind of fizzled out, one of my friends said if his only purpose was to help you get over that last guy, [that’s ok].
And so I wrote down that he was my “get over him guy.” I went into the writing session with Emily Weisband, who I work with a lot, and Paul DiGiovanni, my producer, and I also write with him a ton. I brought this idea up and I was like, “I want it to be like a dirty country sound.” I actually prepped Paul with that.
[Later] I brought this idea up to Emily and she loved it. And we wrote the chorus and then we wrote the first verse. And when we were preparing for the second verse, I was like, “Do you guys think we can make this a duet and tell the male perspective as well?” So we just kind of created this character from the other side of it. We got another songwriter in town to actually sing on the demo. And I was listening to it and I was like. “Wow, we described Jon Pardi.” He literally is the definition of going out and having a good time on the weekend. And that’s what this song is about, just two people flirting in a bar. And I have been in a lot of bars with Jon Pardi. I never flirted with him! He’s married and he’s like my brother, but he plays that role really, really well. So I just called him and said, “Hey, I’ve got this song, no pressure, but I think you could be really cool for it.” And I just texted it to him and he said yes immediately. And we got him in the studio.
Check out the rest of the interview in the video above.
The 100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers limited series podcast gives music fans a front-row seat for conversations with songwriters behind some of the biggest hits of yesterday and today. You’ll learn the stories behind the songs from the people who wrote them. Each episode will focus on one writer: sometimes, they’ll just talk about one song, other times, they’ll talk about a number of hits.
100 Years of Radio – 100 Years of Hit Makers special podcast series is produced in partnership with Beasley Media Group, XPERI (HD Radio), and BMI in celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast.
So, let’s talk about Brockhampton’s “Sugar.”
It all started when I met up with one of my friends, a guy called [Bowofoluwa Olufisayo] Odunsi. Odunsi (The Engine) is a Nigerian artist and producer. So I was hanging out with him. And Jabari [Manwa], who is one of the one of the members of Brockhampton. He was in London at the time and he was just hanging out with Odunsi over four or five days. You know, we just became really good friends. And he was like, “Hey if you are ever in L.A., come through, let’s make some great music and let’s just have fun.”
And so a couple of months later, I was touring with Burna Boy, I’m his guitarist, and we just finished Coachella. It was incredible, it was crazy. And after Coachella, I hit Jabari up: “Hey bro, let’s let’s do this, let’s work.”
So for three weeks after that we just just went in and just a bunch of songs and made a bunch of beats. And “Sugar” was one of those.
So, you’re Burna Boy’s guitar player, and you also write for other people.
Right, That’s correct.
Are you always saying, “Hey, man, I write songs too.”
[laughs] No, no, he loves to work with everyone and we actually have a song together. But, you know, that’s just one out of 10 million songs he has. Hopefully it will come out [at some point].
Are you a multi instrumentalist as well, or do you write everything on the guitar?
I actually grew up in church, so I got to learn everything. Guitar is my main instrument, but I also play keys. I play bass. I play drums. And the triangle [laughs]!
What do you remember specifically about “Sugar?” Was there a moment where it clicked and you’re like, “Whoa, this is going to go far?”
Right from the start, actually.
We had worked on, like, a gazillion songs. And I just started playing this riff on the guitar, the guitar progression that you hear on “Sugar.” And Jabari was like, “Oh, my God, that’s so dope! Record it!” So I recorded it. And then he starts working on the beat and then I jump on the keys, put some chords in and then put some bass in. Then he starts working on the hi-hats.
And then I went out for a meal and then by the time I was back, some of the other guys already started recording, The Brockhamton guys — I call them the Brockhampton family — they work really fast. Literally the song was done that day and by the next day it was getting mixed.
It clicked for me when we were hearing it back and I was just looking out the window into the pool in their mansion. And I was just like, “Man, this song is not only great, but it’s really capturing my heart and my soul. And I’m connecting to it on a spiritual level, you know?” And I just knew that, you know, the song is going to be something.
To check out the rest of the interview, download and listen to the podcast: scroll up to download it.