Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson, ‘Don’t You Wanna Stay’ — Story Behind the Lyrics
About two years ago, three songwriters got together to write a song, with its title already in pocket. That title was ‘Don’t You Wanna Stay,’ and the song they ended up writing that day would be recorded as a power duet by Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson for Jason’s current album, ‘My Kinda Party.’ Earlier this month, the smash hit topped the Billboard charts and stayed there for three consecutive weeks. The three writers of the song — Jason Sellers, Paul Jenkins and Andy Gibson — sat down with The Boot to recall the one simple thing they tried to remain focused on while writing this song: what two people in love would really say to each other in everyday life, as opposed to penning poetic, romantic lyrics.
Andy: Paul had this hook, “don’t you wanna stay,” and right away I thought, “Wow, that is just so simple.” It wasn’t over-the-top, flowery-emotional … not gooey kind of romance. It was realistic! And we wanted to keep it that way throughout the whole song, lyrically. We wanted to make sure it was stuff you’d actually say in real life. Keep the lyric real simple, yet still have that super romantic, strong emotional connection.
Paul: It was one of those things where you have the title and some semblance of the melody just pops into your head. I don’t know where exactly it came from. I sang what I had to Jason, and we thought, “What if we did something like, ‘you’re chocolate and I’m peanut butter’ … and then we had the start of the song for a minute.
Jason: As writers, a lot of times something in your life happens and you write it from that. But in this particular case, we had this title. So we started thinking about the concept. In our business, they want tempo, tempo all the time. But every once in awhile, you find the right ballad. And we just felt like this kind of sentiment might really catch a lot of people who might feel that moment of, “Man, this is so awesome, let’s not cut this short! Can’t we just keep this going? Matter of fact, can’t we just keep this going forever?”
Paul: When you’re a songwriter, you’re always trying to break it down, say it in the most simplified way for each other in our everyday lives … it’s just our instinct. We’re always aiming to do that, encapsulate it in some magical way. Right from the beginning, this is a love song. And we tried to keep it as confessional as we could.
Jason: You write a lot of songs, and sometimes the lyrics are more art-driven, in a poetic sense. But we just wanted to write this as if someone was saying this to the other person. Once we had a clear path, we started writing it.
Andy: I remember when we were writing the second verse, and we we had said earlier, “Don’t wanna just make love, wanna make love last.” We came back to that and thought, “That’s so simple and it means so much. I don’t wanna be with you right now, I wanna be with you forever. It’s those kind of things people hear — girls, especially– and they’ll go, “Wow!”
I wanted to write something like the kind of person I am — I’m not some big party animal out looking for girls. When I love somebody, I love them. And I wanted this song to give that same emotion and feeling: “I don’t want to be with anyone else. I just want to be with you. I don’t want to just love you and leave. I want to be with you.”
Paul: There’s always going to be the crafty kind of lyric that’s got the hooks and a lot of different ways to look at the hook, and I love that too. But people are getting more tapped into the emotion of music, and they’re looking to music to be an opiate, in some way, these days. They want to resonate with something and feel good … or feel something. To me, that’s the new frontier in country music.
Andy: I went to Jason’s show about a month before this song went No. 1, and I was standing down by the stage. When they started singing this song, the stadium just exploded. To hear everybody singing, I couldn’t believe it. It was so surreal, it blew me away. I had a hard time not breaking down and crying when I saw everyone in the audience singing this song I had a part of, louder than he was onstage. Here I am, this 6’2″, 200 pound lug, standing there, trying not to cry like a baby! I was so excited and touched that these people liked something that I’d done.
Paul: This is my first No. 1 … I’m still pinching myself! Just hearing it on the radio would’ve been plenty — but it’s awesome to hear it all day on the radio! [laughs]
Jason: I’ve made jokes before that I’ve been to No. 2 so many times, that if this song goes to No. 2, I’ll just have a No. 2 party — because they don’t throw parties for No. 2! And now that it’s been No. 1 for three weeks, I said, “Hey, can we count this as three No. 1′s?“ [laughs]