Dustin Lynch, ‘Cowboys and Angels’ — Story Behind the Song
Singer-songwriter Dustin Lynch moved to Nashville from tiny Tullahoma, Tenn., and began collaborating with Music City tunesmiths in addition to working on his debut album. The self-titled disc was released in August of 2012 and entered Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart at No. 1.
Lynch’s debut single, ‘Cowboys and Angels’ — co-written with veteran songwriters Tim Nichols and Josh Leo — reached No. 2 on the country charts and was certified platinum after selling one million units. Lynch sat down with The Boot at his publicist’s office on Music Row to talk about the coincidental occurrence that convinced him they had something special when the three writers got together to pen the tune.
It’s awesome when you sit in an old house like this, because [points] not two blocks that way on 16th [Avenue] is THiS Music, in this renovated old house. The front room there is where the song came to life. It’s so neat … I can remember the exact day like it was yesterday. I guess that speaks volumes for how special the song is.
‘Cowboys and Angels’ has always been the foundation block we were going to build the album around. I’ve written hundreds of songs since then, but it’s always been there. I had the idea for a long time, but I was just waiting on the right guys to co-write the song with. It was my first co-write ever with Tim Nichols and Josh Leo, two guys that I idolized for obvious reasons — they’re both hugely successful songwriters, and Josh Leo is a guitar-playing and producing god. So, just to meet the guys I was pumped about, much less to get a chance to write a song with them.
When Tim asked if I had any ideas that I wanted to write about, I was so nervous that I kind of defaulted and said, “I’m fresh out.” Tim started throwing out some ideas, and we weren’t really sticking on anything I was liking. So, he opened up his notebook — he’s got a little brown book that he keeps his ideas in — he said, “Here’s an idea that I’ve always wanted to write for a long time, it’s called ‘Cowboys and Angels.'” When he said that, I about fell off the couch. I showed him the piece of paper that I had written that on. For two guys that have never met to have the same idea, we all of a sudden looked each other and were like, “Well, I guess this is the idea that we’re gonna write.”
Tim had taken a call, and Josh and I started talking about the kind of feel we wanted for ‘Cowboys and Angels,’ and he came up with that awesome guitar riff and progression that it has, kind of a cowboy-campfire thing.
When Tim came back, we started playing him what we had and the melody we had, and he started with [sings], “There’s a want and there’s a need, girls like her and guys like me, cowboys and angels.” And from there it just fell out. We wrote another verse that didn’t make the cut, so we went back and repeated the first verse because it was so strong. It was a present from the good Lord above; we just got to hold the pen. We sat there the rest of the afternoon just making sure we had it perfect.
I’d been writing pretty solidly in town for a year, and I knew that was a special song. I honestly didn’t know it would change my life like this, but since the moment we both realized we had the title written down, we knew it was a special song. There’s something about cowboys and angels that are meant to be together, on paper and off paper.