May 04, 2011 12:00 PM

ZAC BROWN BAND

‘As She’s Walking Away’

The tune about the girl who got away began in a Florida bar

Have you heard the one where two guys walk into a bar to watch a fight … and end up leaving with a hit song? That’s exactly what happened to “As She’s Walking Away” cowriters Wyatt Durrette and Zac Brown. “Zac and I were sitting at a bar in Orlando watching a UFC fight, and a girl and a guy walked in. All night, she stared at me and I at her,” Durrette has said. “We kind of spoke all night from across the room but didn’t say anything to each other. She was with her boyfriend, so obviously I couldn’t approach. But you find yourself kicking yourself when you leave.”

Instead of the girl, he left the bar that night with the makings of a No. 1 hit. But it was Zac who came up with the idea of adding the advice of someone older and wiser-in this case Alan Jackson. “I wrote it for Alan to sing it,” Brown has said of having his fellow Georgia native duet on the song. The result was pure magic. Though it’s still no consolation to Durrette: “I’ll probably never see her again,” he said. “I don’t even know her name. She’ll probably never know this song’s about her.”

THE BAND PERRY

‘If I Die Young’

A cloudy day at home inspires a moving ode to living in the moment

The song with the word “die” in the title has given life to the self-titled debut album from the trio of siblings from Alabama. But don’t let the lyrics fool you: Thankfully there was no tragic event behind the song. “It’s about life,” says lead singer and songwriter Kimberly Perry of the tune. “It’s about making the most of your relationships when you’re on the planet,” she says. So what did inspire the idea? “I was sitting on my bed on a cloudy day, and I saw that I had written the words ‘live fast, die young’ in my journal. It hit me in this whole new way,” she says. “I started wondering if I died, had I made the most of my life? I started daydreaming about what I’d want my funeral to be like. The lyrics unfolded, and the song just poured out of me.”

MIRANDA LAMBERT

‘The House That Built Me’

A gift from her fiance earned the singer a Grammy and her biggest hit ever

Miranda Lambert and fiance Blake Shelton were driving home from the airport when they popped in a CD of music being pitched to Blake for his next album. That’s when it happened. Miranda started bawling as she listened to the words of a song titled, “The House That Built Me.” “I knew the very first moment I heard it, it was special,” she says of the song cowritten by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin. Having grown up in an old farmhouse that her dad fixed up little by little over the years, she says the connection was undeniable. Shelton agreed. “I took one look at her and just said, ‘If you have this strong of a reaction to a song, you need to record it!'” And just like that, he gave it to her. Jokes Miranda: “After it hit No. 1, he asked for it back!” But Douglas agrees the song found a perfect home with Miranda. “It could not have gone to a better artist,” he says. “If a man sang it, there would be kind of a creepy factor. Who wants a strange man knocking on your door?”

EASTON CORBIN

‘A Little More Country Than That’

It was initially dubbed ‘too country’ for Nashville!

Written by Rory Lee Feek, Wynn Varble and Don Poythress, this tune-about a man professing his rural roots to his future bride-spent five years on the shelf. “It was too country for everybody,” says Feek, who, with wife Joey, performs as the duo Joey & Rory. Even George Strait passed on it. But when newcomer Easton Corbin heard the demo, he was sold. It became his first single and the first No. 1 hit for a debut male artist since 2003. “I grew up surrounded by dirt roads just like in the song,” says the singer, who spent much of his childhood on his grandfather’s farm in Florida. “Everybody knew everybody. The song reminded me of that way of life. It’s who I am.”

LEE BRICE

‘Love Like Crazy’

A song about faith and everlasting love finds a home with a man who believes in both

“When I first heard ‘Love Like Crazy,’ I thought, ‘Smash!’ Then I thought, ‘This reminds me so much of my grandparents,'” says Lee Brice, who took the song to a record-breaking 56 weeks on Billboard’s country chart. “My grandparents were married for over 50 years. They had gone through so much and made it through. I always grew up wanting that, so I just connected with the song.” Brice’s producer Doug Johnson had penned the tune with fellow songwriter Tim James in an hour and a half. “There were three of us writing that song: Tim and I and the good Lord,” says Johnson. “We wrote it fast enough so that we couldn’t get in the way of it.” Brice’s favorite line in the song? “‘Never get too old to call her baby!'” he says. “It’s the whole point. If you find that special person, never forget what that means.”

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