By Sterling Whitaker May 12, 2016 3:00 PM
Jason Aldean‘s “Lights Come On” lyrics were inspired by the audiences at country music concerts — but not necessarily his audiences.
Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley from Florida Georgia Line co-wrote the song with Jimmy Robbins, Jordan Schmidt and the Warren Brothers, Brad and Brett Warren. It’s unusual for that many writers to collaborate on one song in Nashville, and it actually came about by accident.
Schmidt is the first writer FGL signed to their song publishing company, Tree Vibez Music, and he and Robbins were set to write with Hubbard and Kelley for their new album when Hubbard sent a text explaining that they had double booked with the Warren Brothers, and asking if they minded them coming in on the session.
The whole group got together at Kelley’s tree house studio for the session. “The Warren Brothers are the ones that came with the title, and they had that rockin’ riff going,” Schmidt tells Taste of Country. “They brought that in, and we started to work on it, and we kinda lost momentum after a while and lost track, and wrote a different song, and then came back around to it.”
Schmidt says having so many writers live in the room didn’t present the complications that it could have in terms of conflicting ideas and opinions.
“We’re all comfortable with each other, and we know each other well enough, it happened pretty rapid-fire,” he says. “I’ve done sessions since then that were five of us, and it was a nightmare.”
"It was just bizarre, it was so fast-tracked. The whole thing … my head is still spinning from it."
They ended up finishing three songs that day, and made a demo of “Lights Come On” with Hubbard singing lead. The song was clearly intended for Florida Georgia Line.
“They were looking for a big show-opener kind of song, and that’s the approach we took,” Schmidt says. “They were involved in it as if it was gonna be their song.”
That’s not what ended up happening.
“After we did it, they were in the middle of making a record, and we just did a really crappy demo,” Schmidt relates. “I was like, ‘Well, I don’t even have to make a real demo out of this, because you guys already want it.’ But Jimmy and the Warren Brothers were like, ‘Oh, you’re just being lazy … do a demo,'” he recalls with a laugh.
Schmidt ended working on the track on his laptop one weekend while in the waiting room of the hospital, where he had taken his wife after she broke her ankle. The following Monday, Hubbard and Kelley were at Major Bob Publishing on Music Row, where A&R Director Tina Crawford is a longtime associate of Jason Aldean’s.
“BK just kinda stopped by her office and said, ‘Hey, just send it to Aldean and see what he says about it,'” Schmidt relates. “She sent it that morning, and apparently he called her up and said, ‘Hey, this is my last day in the studio, and I really wanna do this song. Can I do it?’ And BK and Tyler were like, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ It’s cool, because they’re still writers at heart, as well, and they knew if they didn’t cut the song, they’d do it with another song. So they gave it to Aldean.”
The “Lights Come On” lyrics perfectly capture the energy of one of Aldean’s arena or stadium shows: “When the lights come on and everybody’s screamin’ / Lighters in the sky, yeah, and everybody’s singing / Every word to every song to the girl they’re takin’ home tonight / When the lights come on and everybody’s feelin’ / A hallelujah high from the floor to the ceiling / Yeah the drink that we’re drinkin’, the smoke that we’re smokin’ / The party we’re throwing’s going all night long when the lights come on.”
One of the “Lights Come On” lyrics had to be altered for Aldean’s recording.
“In the demo, they said, ‘Your FGL boys about to blow it up,‘” Schmidt says. “Obviously Aldean changed that. Everything else is exactly as it was. My demo was a little bit heavier, with a little bit more of a wall of rock guitar. When I heard his version, I thought, ‘Okay, that sounds more country.'”
Aldean not only added the song to his recording slate at the last minute, he ended up releasing it as the lead single from his upcoming seventh studio album, which is due later in 2016.
“It doesn’t really happen that you manage to catch the artist on the last day of recording and have them love the song so much that they record it that day, and then release it as a single,” Schmidt points out. “It was just bizarre, it was so fast-tracked. The whole thing … my head is still spinning from it. I’m just very thankful, very happy.”