By Kurt Wolff
It started with a Beatles poster.
During a songwriting session, Dallas Davidson and Craig Wiseman were talking about the Beatles, Davidson recalled in a recent conversation with Radio.com. There was some Beatles memorabilia in Wiseman’s office. “I like the Beatles, who doesn’t like the Beatles,” Davidson said. Yet at the same time, he added, when he was growing up, “we listened to Hank Jr. and Lionel Richie, not the Beatles.”
And that detail is significant, as it played a key role in the key opening line of what turned into a smash No. 1 hit for Blake Shelton last year, “Boys ‘Round Here.” Cowritten by Davidson, Wiseman and Rhett Akins, and featuring special guests the Pistol Annies and Raelynn, the song has now been nominated for Vocal Event of the Year at the 2014 Academy of Country Music Awards.
Related: See all 2014 ACM Award nominees
“The boys ’round here don’t listen to the Beatles,” the song begins, “run old Bocephus through a jukebox needle at the honky tonk, where their boots stomp, all night.”
“We spit the whole line out in one whole breathe,” Davidson says of that opening lyric, “and then we were off to the races.”
When Shelton and his producer Scott Hendricks heard the song, it immediately struck a chord with them both.
“I knew immediately this is something Blake is going to like, and sure enough he did,” Hendricks told Radio.com.
“‘Boys ‘Round Here’ is a song that pretty much represents who I am as a human being,” Shelton said. It’s “a representation of the kind of people I surround myself with — just good old boys that work and listen to Hank Williams, Jr. And that’s about as deep as it gets.”
One unusual detail about the making of “Boys ‘Round Here” is that, as Hendricks explained, he “used elements of the demo in that song,” which isn’t normally done. There was an acoustic guitar in the demo that “even the best musicians in this town could not duplicate,” he said. “It’s a $200 guitar that sounds like no other guitar on the planet. The guy who plays on our sessions has $80,000 guitars that sound incredible, but they don’t sound like this $200 guitar. So we built this track … around this acoustic guitar.”
“And honestly,” Hendricks said, “that was probably Blake and my favorite song on the record.”
“Boys ‘Round Here” is from Shelton’s 2013 album …Based on a True Story, which has also been nominated for Album of the Year at this year’s ACMs.
“We set out standards high on the songs,” Hendricks said of the recording process for …Based on a True Story. “We honestly set out to make what we wanted to be album of the year.”
“Every album seems to be a little more challenging than the next,” he added, “but we’re up for it.”
The 49th ACM Awards will be broadcast live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 8pm ET on CBS.