By Annie Reuter
When The Cadillac Three‘s Jaren Johnston sat down to write “The South,” he wanted the track to be “an epic, Southern song that hits you immediately the first time you hear it. You know it’s a serious situation you just heard. That’s what I wanted to do. I sat down and wrote that.”
Johnston explains to Radio.com that his goal was to write something that hit people the way “Sweet Home Alabama” hit him the first time he heard it.
“I wasn’t born in Alabama but I knew I wanted to be a part of whatever that song was saying because it was pretty much the most bad-ass thing I heard with that riff,” he recalls. “I was listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin at the time when I wrote it and I wanted to do a mix between ‘Cashmere’ and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ or ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ and that’s what came out.”
An ode to the South, in the song the Cadillac Three name-dropped several Southern states that represent the lifestyle the trio grew up in. Johnston even admits he has an addiction to putting cities and states in his songs.
“I really went for it on that one so I named every damn one I could think of that rhymed,” he says with a laugh. “That’s not too easy because a lot of them are five syllable words. I think I did pretty damn good.”
So how exactly did he choose which states to include in “The South?”
“I know I had to get Louisiana in there because that’s where my family’s from and obviously Tennessee,” he asserts. “The rest, anything with an ‘a’ ending, I was like, ‘I can make this work!’ It just came.”
Although, not everyone was happy with the song. Specifically, people form the states that weren’t mentioned.
“We got some hell for not having Arkansas in there,” bandmate Kelby Ray adds.
Apparently people from Texas, West Virginia and Missouri were also miffed.
“I had a guy the other day tweet us and ask why we didn’t put Wisconsin in there,” Neil Mason adds. “I was like, ‘That’s pretty far north.'”
The guys did record another version with Texas in it for their Texas fans, but that is likely the last revision they’ll make to their ACM-nominated song.
“You can’t please everybody,” Johnston concludes.
“The South” by The Cadillac Three featuring Florida Georgia Line, Dierks Bentley & Mike Eli of the Eli Young Band is nominated for Vocal Event of the Year at the 50th annual Academy of Country Music Awards.
The 50th annual ACM Awards air Sunday, April 19 at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.