Jason Aldean, ‘1994’ — Story Behind the Song
Thomas Rhett was just four years old in 1994 but, having singer Rhett Akins for a dad, he was naturally already a music fan. One of his favorite singers at the time was country crooner Joe Diffie, who scored five No. 1 singles during the decade, including 'Home' and 'Bigger Than the Beatles.'
Fast forward to 2012. Thomas was in a writing session with buddies Luke Laird and Barry Dean, and the three decided that rather than continuing to work on the slow song they were writing, they would switch their focus to penning an uptempo tune. The original was a love song about a guy and a gal in a favorite romantic spot, listening to Rhett's hero Diffie on a boom box. The writers morphed that idea into a more upbeat number, and '1994' was born. The song became a hit single off Jason Aldean's 'Night Train' album.
Rhett reveals it was his idea to include the "Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie" phrase at the end of the chorus because he felt like the song needed a little something extra. There is also a line about "doing the Diffie," and during his live shows, the singer-songwriter has been known to bust out a few dance steps to accompany the tune. The writers sprinkled the titles of a few of Diffie's songs into the lyrics as well.
"It was one of those crazy things where we wrote it and demoed it, it was cut two weeks later, and then it was on Jason's record," Rhett tells The Boot. "Jason heard it when Luke was playing some songs for his producer, Michael Knox, at ASCAP, and he happened to stop by. He started listening to the songs that were being pitched for him, and I was told that '1994' was the only one he asked to hear again. The next day they told us he was cutting the song and it was going to be the third single off the record."
As the opening act on Aldean's Night Train tour, Rhett got to hear his song during each one of Aldean's shows.
"Watching him play it live [was] really cool," Rhett admits. "The tour [was] incredible. I [was] blown away by some of the places we [got] to play ... including Madison Square Garden ... Playing with Jason, every place you go to is huge. The seats go up a mile, and you can't even see the people in the back of the arena. It [took] some getting used to, trying to figure out how to be everywhere at once, because the stage is ginormous, and you have so many places to walk. And you have to figure out how to entertain a crowd in 20 minutes of time."