WATCH: The Real Story of Runaway June’s ‘We Were Rich’ Lyrics
Runaway June's Naomi Cooke isn't joking when she says you'll never cry alone in a room with bandmate Jennifer Wayne. The trio's dark-haired vocalist learned that lesson — again — the first time she heard the lyrics to "We Were Rich," their new radio single.
Three of Nashville's top songwriters (Ross Copperman, Nicolle Galyon and Ashley Gorley) wrote the lyrics to "We Were Rich," a sweet turn of country nostalgia that was an obvious choice for a single once the pandemic strengthened its grip. The song needed to be heard.
"Reynolds wrap, old rabbit ears / TV tray, back in the day we'd watch 'The Wonder Years' / Old Wagoneer, wood panel doors / We wore out our old jeans that were faded from the store," the group sings to start the song.
“This song is really a conversation,” new Runaway June member Natalie Stovall tells Taste of Country. "As soon as someone hears it, it takes them back to that place and they can't wait to share what their story is and that’s my favorite part of it so far."
"And that old couch / We'd pull the cushions off if we found 50 cents / We'd go crazy, we thought we were rich."
Wayne says the line about the found money in an old couch is the one she attached herself to immediately. For Stovall, it was the "pizza after church" lyric that comes soon after.
Cooke's attachment shows the resonance of these words across generations. After growing up the fifth of 10 siblings in a very poor home (at one point, they lived on a school bus), the lead singer of Runaway June says she now understands how, in reflecting fondly back on these memories, she's offering validation to her parents' hard-fought effort to raise them right.
"Even though we didn't have anything — we had one bike to share between all of us," she begins. "We had to share toys, we had to share a bathroom. I always felt loved, I always felt protected, I always felt like it was going to be okay. Providing that for your child sets them up to be a strong adult in the world and that's worth more than any toy you could ever buy.
“I think for a parent to hear a song like this saying, ‘We didn’t have it all but looking back we know how hard you guys tried to make us feel safe and make us happy,’ is so powerful," Runaway June's lead vocalist on the song shares.
"We didn't have it all but we all thought we did / And Mama always said that we were blessed and I believed her / I never thought the grass was greener / On the other side of our old chain link fence / Yeah, we were rich."
"We Were Rich" was included on Runaway June's Blue Roses album (2019), and Cooke and Wayne say the track is very close to Copperman's demo. In fact, they even him brought him back in as an uncredited consultant to help finish the song (Dann Huff produced the album), but it was recorded when Hannah Mulholland was still in the band, so Stovall was charged with adding her parts this spring. The rest of the team knew the potential of this message, but Stovall says she felt no pressure.
“To me, I could hear fiddle on it the second that I heard the song. So it didn’t feel forced," she shares. "And I knew it didn’t need much, but I wanted to add that texture … and the crazy thing was, there was room for it.”
"Got a few more dollars in my pocket / Since the day I left that cotton town / And back there they all think I made it / God knows I'd trade it / For everything we had in that house."
Wayne and Stovall add soft backing vocals to Cooke's lead through the chorus and final verse as the trio reminisce over a traveling acoustic flashback. Sharp details like the color of the carpet at church and the way a KOA can level social classes allow you to access your own version of these events.
The song ends with a nod to their individual stories. Neither Wayne, Cooke nor Stovall grew up in a cotton town, but they all left home and they all understand the tug of a hometown. That tug has been pulling harder for those unable to see family since since March. Upon listening, you may agree with us that it's one of the Top 10 country songs of 2020, but for reasons nobody would have imagined several years ago.
LOOK: Top 10 Country Songs of 2020