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Story Behind the Song: ‘Joey,’ Sugarland

Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles talked to The Boot about the song she and Kristian Bush wrote with the legendary Bill Anderson.

‘Joey’ is a teen tragedy song. It’s important to set the stage in the first few lines — sort of when the curtain rises, it’s what we see in the first scene. So the idea of, ‘What if I had said yes? What if I had gone out that night? What if you had turned left, and everything would’ve turned out alright?’ And then we just went from that into, ‘Oh my God, this is a car accident, and this is someone who is lamenting the loss of this boyfriend.’ When we were about halfway through it, Bill said, ‘This is like the teen tragedy songs of the 50s and 60s.’ It’s like ‘Last Kiss,’ which even Pearl Jam did a cover of recently. Several of those songs came about around that time.

So from a music historian perspective, when you tie it with Bill Anderson, I think there is a beautiful irony that’s in the influences that he might have had as a writer and then consequently that spilled into this song that’s on a record in 2008. That’s one of the things that is so wonderful about Bill — he can remain totally himself, and yet keep himself completely relevant by being open to changing musically or appreciating music on a broader level. He doesn’t box himself regardless of his tradition and how long he has been in this industry. It was pretty special to write with him.

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