Jeannie Seely Recalls the Conversation That Inspired ‘Life of a Rodeo Cowboy’ [Exclusive Video]
When Jeannie Seely wrote “Life of a Rodeo Cowboy,” the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter had no idea that the song would be adopted by Merle Haggard in 1978, or that it would land on her 16th studio album, Written in Song, set for release on Jan. 13; she was just writing about her nephew, who happened to have a very interesting career. Click play on the exclusive video above to hear Seely talk about the unique inspiration for the song, and what it was like to hear a country music legend perform it.
An apt listener and observer of the world around her, Seely got the idea for “Life of a Rodeo Cowboy” from a conversation with her nephew Shane, who took a break from his career as a rodeo cowboy to visit his aunt in Nashville. Their visit was cut short, however, when Seely’s nephew and his traveling buddies couldn’t resist an opportunity to head to a bull-riding event in Mesquite, Texas.
“I thought they were gonna stay for a couple of weeks or so, but after just a few days, Shane came in and said, ‘Well, I wanted to come in and tell you goodbye and thank you for everything,'” Seely recalls. “And I said, ‘Well, Shane, are you not having a good time? I thought you were gonna stay longer.’ And he said, ‘Oh, it really has been nice being with you, but we heard they’re riding bulls down in Mesquite, and you know how it is when you’re a rodeo cowboy.'”
Seely’s nephew couldn’t have known that his words would turn into a hit, but the country artist knew they were the foundation for a great song. As soon as Shane left, Seely grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the first lines of the tune: “Well, it really has been nice bein’ with you / But I’m afraid that I’ve got to leave / As you know, I’m a rodeo cowboy / And there’s a rodeo down in Mesquite.”
A short time later, Haggard discovered “Life of a Rodeo Cowboy” and infused Seely’s song with his down-home country twang and signature baritone vocals. In the video above, Seely says that having one of her tracks recorded by Haggard — a legendary songwriter in his own right — was “such a great compliment.”
On Seely’s upcoming studio record, Written in Song, “Life of a Rodeo Cowboy” is joined by 13 other well-known songs penned by Seely, many of which have been recorded by historic country artists such as Haggard, Dottie West, Ernest Tubb and Ray Price.
“Written in Song is such an exciting project for me for many reasons,” Seely says in a press release. “It consists of 14 songs that I have written over the years, most of them recorded by my peers and my heroes. It’s also very rewarding to know that these songs have stood the test of time and are just as viable today.”
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