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Story Behind the Song: Kenny Chesney, ‘Live a Little’

The first time Kenny Chesney heard the demo of his 2011 single “Live a Little,” he knew immediately that the song was “him.”

“”Live a Little” defines me: I’m a very focused guy, I keep my eye on the ball, I work really hard, and I’m hands on, a lot of times to a fault. But you do, at some point, have to set it down, no matter what you do … and I’m still learning that, even now,” Chesney tells “This song will be in our show forever; it’s going to be a staple. I’m going to keep reminding people through music that you’ve got to love life, and you’ve got to live it, and you can’t work all the time. The tempo and the edginess of this song reflects our show to a T.”

Below, David Lee Murphy, who co-wrote “Live a Little” with Shane Minor, tells The Boot about an end-of-summer day at his farm outside Nashville, where he and Minor wrote the lighthearted song.

Shane and I were just sitting around, and he said, “Hey, I’ve got this idea for a song called “Live a Little, Love a Lot.”” And I thought, “Man, that’s got such a great ring — live a little, love a lot!” So we just started writing and jamming on the guitar.

We wrote the chorus that morning, and then we went to lunch. We went to Sonic, out there in Franklin, [Tenn.], and we took a back road home, back to my old farmhouse … We were singing that chorus we’d written all the way back. It was end of summer, and we had our windows down, just singing at top of our lungs: “Live a little, have some fun!” We couldn’t quit singing that chorus; we were having so much fun.

We didn’t write this song in one day; it took us two or three days. We had fun with it, took our time. It’s a fun, upbeat song about stepping back and taking time to have some fun, live a little … and smell the roses.

After we wrote it, we thought, “Man, Kenny would kill this!” So we demo-ed it, and my manager, Doug Casmus, took it over and played it for [Chesney’s producer] Buddy [Cannon]. And Buddy was like, “Man I want this right now for Kenny.” So Kenny heard it and put it on hold.

Then, one night after that, Kenny snuck into a bar in Nashville and put on a show, just packed this bar — one of those surprise performances that nobody knew until the night of the show. It was really cool. Anyway, he had called me before to tell me to come down there … this was after he’d cut the song, but I hadn’t even talked to him about it yet. When I got on his bus, he said, “Man … you’re gonna love this song. I think it’s a hit.” And when he told me he’d cut “Live a Little,” I was really stoked. I was tickled to death when I heard the record. I crank it up every time I hear it … I just love it.

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

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