By Kurt Wolff
It’s been a high-rotation radio hit and received numerous accolades, including Single of the Year nomination at the 50th ACM Awards, but Lee Brice‘s single “I Don’t Dance” actually had humble beginnings. The song started with just the title, a quick three words that Brice wrote down in a ‘notes’ program on his phone.
“If I get ideas, a title, anything—even if it’s not good—I just write it down,” Brice explained to Radio.com. “So I can just scroll back through, and maybe those ideas pop back out at me. Well, I wrote ‘I don’t dance’ down in my phone a long time ago.”
Later, Brice says, during a songwriting session with two of his buddies, Rob Hatch and Dallas Davidson, the idea resurfaced. “He [Davidson] had said something about ‘dance’ just in passing. And that title popped out, and we just started [writing] it.”
The premise for “I Don’t Dance” is simple. It’s about a guy who knows he’s not much of a dancer, but for the right woman, he’s more than willing to give it a go, because he knows he’ll do anything for her. “I don’t dance, but here I am,” Brice sings, “spinning you round and round in circles.”
“It’s really simple,” said Brice, “but it’s so true and to the point.”
Brice said that, originally, in his mind “I Don’t Dance” was “a song for Sarah, before we got married,” referring to his then-fiancee Sarah Reevely, whom he married last year. “It was kind of about our first dance.”
But then, during that writing session, the song took on a new life of its own. As Brice explained, something “magic” happened that took “I Don’t Dance” from being a song he planned to play at his own wedding to a single that can speak to anyone and everyone.
“Immediately when we finished writing it, I realized it wasn’t just a song I was writing for my wife,” Brice said. “Maybe because it was coming from that place”—meaning, his own relationship and upcoming nuptials —but whatever the cause “it turned out so special.”
“It’s such a personal song,” said Brice. It’s “very honest and very real.”
That writing session, in fact, wound up being so “special” that, as Brice explained, the work tape that he, Hatch and Davidson made to document the newly written song wound up being used on the final recording. “I just added stuff around it,” Brice said. “That was it, that was the original live guitar and vocal work tape that’s [on the single]. It just had a magic to it.”
Since that songwriting session, “I Don’t Dance” has gone on to far greater acclaim than Brice or his writing buddies could have anticipated. It became the title track of his 2014 album, and it reached No. 1 on the country singles charts. Earlier this year, it also earned that aforementioned Academy of Country Music Awards nomination. (Brice’s previous single, “I Drive Your Truck,” won Song of the Year at the 2014 ACM Awards.)
The song also helped Brice find the direction he needed for I Don’t Dance, his third studio album, which he released last September.
Brice said he, Hatch and Davidson wrote “I Don’t Dance” in two days, but he knew right away this wasn’t an ordinary song. “I knew that day…I called [Hatch and Davidson], I said, ‘Guys, I think this is the title track to my record, this is the basis of what this next record is going to be.”
Brice said he “had a lot of songs already planned” for the album, but “I Don’t Dance” stood out. “I didn’t know exactly what the whole feeling [on the album] was going to be until I wrote ‘I Don’t Dance.’ I felt like it said, ‘This is who I am right now for this album space.’”
The 50th annual ACM Awards air Sunday, April 19 at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.