Lyrics Uncovered: Kenny Chesney, ‘Setting the World on Fire’
Kenny Chesney was so excited when he heard the "Setting the World on Fire" lyrics that he not only cut it and put it out in advance of his new album, he actually held up the project specifically so he could include the song.
Songwriter Josh Osborne counts it as one of his favorites among all of the songs he's ever written. The "Setting the World on Fire" lyrics derive directly from a very special personal experience.
"A couple of years ago I won a Grammy for 'Merry Go 'Round' with Kacey Musgraves," he shares. "That all takes place in L.A., and my wife and I were staying at this hotel and I just remember that night ... it was such an amazing moment."
They ended up going back to the hotel, near La Cienega Boulevard in L.A., after the Grammy parties, singing in the hallway, drinking champagne and screaming from the balcony, staying up all night in their excitement.
"So many of those images were just stored in my mind, because this whole night in my mind — this is gonna sound ridiculous, but this whole night was sort of champagne-colored in my mind — but I'd never really written about it."
Ironically, two different ideas from co-writers Ross Copperman and Matt Jenkins led to Osborne getting to write such an autobiographical song. Copperman had a track already started when they got together, Osborne recalls.
This is gonna sound ridiculous, but this whole night was sort of champagne-colored in my mind ... But I'd never really written about it.
"He started playing that music that became 'Setting the World on Fire,' and it just already felt emotional, and it felt alive, and it felt like a moment to me," he shares. "And Matt Jenkins — not knowing my whole story that night with the Grammy stuff — Matt was like, 'I have this line I'd written down on a piece of paper about, 'We got drunk on La Cienega Boulevard.' And I don't know what it means, but I love the poetry of a line like that, how real it sounds.' And I just was like, 'Oh my god.' So then in my mind, this song became, let's just write about that moment, let's just write about that night."
Jenkins also suggested the title, and though the details differ, "so much of the imagery in that song came from that moment, which was sort of crystallized in my mind," Osborne says of the "Setting the World on Fire" lyrics. "That song became so much of just talking about that night, and talking about that moment, and trying to find words and poetic ways of saying things that happened."
"Up all night and we were feelin' so good / Yeah, we got a little higher than we probably should / We were in a hotel singin' in the hallway lights / We were strikin' the matches right down to the ashes / Setting the world on fire, setting the world on fire," the "Setting the World on Fire" lyrics state.
They worked rapidly, as Copperman had an event he had to go to. Osborne cut a single vocal take and added the harmonies, and when Copperman mixed the demo and sent it to the other writers, they realized they had created a special song. Chesney heard it within a few days and texted the writers to let them know he was cutting it. But that wasn't the end of the good news.
"I saw Kenny at an event. I just saw him in passing. I was walking down the hallway, and I was like, 'Hey, Kenny!' I just waved at him, and he was having a conversation with somebody," Osborne recounts. "He stepped out, he grabbed my arm, he pulled me in and hugged me, and he whispered in my ear and said, 'Pink's gonna sing on your song.' And I was like, "What?!' I'm stunned, and he was like, 'It's gonna be awesome.' And he slapped hands and went back to his conversation, and I'm standing there like he just dropped a bomb on my head."
Chesney not only cut the song as a duet with the pop superstar, he released it to radio in advance of the record and even held up the release of his next album to re-vamp it after adding the track. Initially titled Some Town Somewhere and set for release in July, Chesney's album is now called Cosmic Hallelujah and set to drop on Oct. 28.
Osborne is also a co-writer on Miranda Lambert's much-anticipated new single, "Vice," and the two songs ended up seeing release at almost the same time.
"Unfortunately, those things are really rare, but fortunately, they happened to me, so I can't complain about it," he reflects with a laugh.
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