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Story Behind the Song: Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson, ‘Don’t You Wanna Stay’

In early 2009, Andy Gibson, Paul Jenkins and Jason Sellers got together to write a song, with its title already in pocket: “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” The song they wrote that day ended up being recorded as a power duet by Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson, for Aldean’s My Kinda Party album — and it became a Top 50 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a Top 20 song on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and a multi-week No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart. It also became the best-selling country collaboration single in digital history, with over two million copies sold, a record it held until 2014.

Gibson, Jenkins and Sellers 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.

Gibson: 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.

Jenkins: 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.

Sellers: 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 a while, 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?”

Jenkins: 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.

Sellers: 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.

Gibson: 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.”

Jenkins: 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.

Gibson: 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 on stage. 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.

Jenkins: 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]

Sellers: 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]

This story was originally written by Marianne Horner, and revised by Angela Stefano.

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