Carrie Underwood, ‘Before He Cheats’ — Story Behind the Song
Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins talk about the day they wrote Carrie Underwood‘s 2006 No. 1 smash, ‘Before He Cheats.’ The third single from her 2005 debut album, ‘Some Hearts,’ the song topped the Billboard charts for five weeks, becoming Underwood’s third consecutive No. 1 hit.
Chris Tompkins: At the time, Gretchen Wilson was going in to record. After her first record, everybody wanted to have a song on that second record, and I was trying to think of edgy stuff. I never would’ve thought that Carrie Underwood would record it! I went into my office that morning and began typing lyrics … not even picking up a guitar or a pen or anything … and I typed up that first verse. I’d just moved into my new house, and Josh had come over, and we were just looking for ideas. I played him what I’d typed earlier. And without even talking about it, Josh just sang that chorus line, ‘Maybe next time, he’ll think before he cheats …’ So we just started talking about it from there, how to match that first verse, and started thinking of some quirky stuff like that. And like good songs always do, the song kind of wrote itself from there. Usually a song takes a couple of writing sessions, four or five hours each — and talking and goofing off, having coffee. But this was such a quick write. It took about two hours. It was the first song I wrote in my new house!
Josh Kear: Chris had called me halfway through a day I actually had off and said he had a piece of something and wanted me to come over. So I dropped what I was doing and went over. He played me those first few lines, ‘Right now, he’s prob’ly slow dancing with a bleach-blonde tramp …’ And when he hit the line ‘She can’t shoot whiskey,’ I was completely hooked! Funny thing is, I used to always say, the first woman that ever gets really pissed at me and is willing to break my car windows and fill my car up with wet concrete is the one I would marry! I used to joke about that for years, and it’s nothing more than a joke! But when we were writing this song, I thought, ‘Wow! If she knew this was going on inside the bar — which was what we already had laid out in that first verse — how would she react to that?’ And that’s when we thought, let’s actually let her get pissed! And the chorus is every bit of that. It’s a lot of stuff that most people would say you can’t put in a song, but we did it anyway.
When we were writing it, we were actually trying to keep it humorous … but when Carrie got hold of it, she just did it so well and really made it her own. We expected it would be a little more lighthearted … but when we heard it, we thought, wow, she really drove it home! We couldn’t be more grateful to Carrie — for just wailin’!