According to Lori McKenna, this song is much more - and much less - complicated than it appears. It's an intricately woven tapestry about life experience, and country superstar Faith Hill understood it immediately.
"Poor Faith. She totally got the song, she told me, the first time she heard it," McKenna told us. "And I was so happy that she did. But a lot of people don't get the song, and I think it's because maybe they read in too much to it. But basically, 'Stealing Kisses' is like just a page from my little town here, as far as the cop in the beginning, I just remember when we were kids and we'd be drinking a 6-pack at the end of some dead end street somewhere, and the cops would come and they'd take your beer and send you home. And they sort of wink at you, like 'Hey, see you tomorrow night' on the next street over.' It's just like these towny things that we all experience growing up here, and I'm sure it happens in a lot of towns.
And then that girl being married to that boy and finding herself just lonely. I don't actually mention the kids in that song, but one of the things that I found so striking as I got older and as I had my kids is - I live in a little tiny house, and we have five children, and you can still feel lonely. I always say 'I don't even go to the bathroom by myself sometimes, because there's a 2-year-old following me around.' But you still somehow have that disadvantage of feeling lonely sometimes. And I've had conversations with my neighbors, and my friends who are moms, who are sort of experiencing the same things. So the song is really just that big example, a specific example of that loneliness you could feel even though you're with somebody."
Songwriting is therapeutic in many ways, and while a lot of McKenna's songs may seem dark, she doesn't walk around with a little rain cloud over her head. In her Songfacts interview, she said: "During my shows I think people start to worry about me after a little while with the songs. And I always say it's so funny that they come out this way, because I am just such a happy person. The writing is the way I get everything out, and it just sort of makes me feel better.
It's like a journal almost. I know a lot of people that unfortunately don't get to do that sort of thing, and they end up drinking or whatever they end up doing. Seems like people figure out something to do, and it's not always the best thing for them. For me, especially with the whole mom thing, I've always had the gift of having, not a talent, but just being able to express yourself some way, and so you maintain your own person. Instead of just being a mom or just being a wife, I've always been drawn to something. And that's what I mean as 'a gift.'
I'm just passionate about something that makes me feel better. My husband, on the other hand, the poor guy, he's tried a thousand different things and he doesn't have anything other than his kids and his family that's he's passionate about in that way. We've been married for 18 years, and I've watched him sort of struggle with that, and be constantly looking for something that's going to keep him himself, and make him fulfilled - without the kids. Because the kids grow up and get older and then you're in trouble, you know? I think everybody has a dream, and I think everyone has a talent. And I think the real gift is being able to find what that talent is and what your dream is. I think there's a lot of people that just can't figure it out."
Many songwriters have an ability to really express their emotions and make something beautiful in the process. McKenna explains it like this: "I always wrote songs. Since I was a teenager I always wrote songs. That was like my journal, and it was always my way of expressing things. And the thing about a song is you can take a little piece of an emotion that you have and you can exaggerate it to sort of make your point. Which is why a lot of the songs, I feel like they're all sort of bittersweet. But there is a sweetness in there, but a lot of them are on the darker sides. But I think that in writing a song, because it's three minutes long, and if you don't have to make every single line exactly about you, you have the ability to be completely honest, and just sort of say something that maybe you wouldn't say in a conversation, but you would say in this way. And I think it just comes from most of my years of writing.
I always just did it for myself and nobody else was going to really hear it. You know, I didn't leave my house until I was like 27, because I didn't think anybody would like the sound of my voice. So they were always just my little things that I sort of made for myself and kept for myself, and that was how I expressed myself. I've written with other people, and I've had situations where I've written with people that want to say something, but then when it comes time to really say it, they won't go there. Like, 'Oh no, I couldn't say it.' It's like, 'Well, that's what you just said to me. Why are we wasting our time if we're not going to really tell the truth?' And thank God my husband doesn't really listen to them.
At the end of the day it all comes down to the fact that my husband doesn't listen to me. Thank God. He's great about it. He has had a time or two of strange conversations with people, and he says, 'Oh no, she's a writer. She makes stuff up in her head.' And he gets it, he knows. He knows what it's all about."
Nominated for Female Vocalist of The Year, Faith Hill performed this song at the 2006 Country Music Awards. Lori McKenna joined her onstage, and it was an intense experience. Says McKenna, "I was standing behind her, playing guitar, and when she got to the one part of 'Stealing Kisses,' I started to sort of lose it. I'm standing there on stage at the CMAs, and there's all these people and TV cameras, and I don't want to make a fool out of myself in front of poor Faith. And my legs started shaking, I did start getting a little upset, as far as I'm going to start crying. And I shouldn't do that, it's not very professional. But I did, I held it in until she got off stage, and everyone - her friends from Warner Brothers and all her people there - were sort of over congratulating her, and I just lost it. Because she did a fantastic job on that song. Sort of blows me away how much she gets it. And she really does, you know." (Check out our interview with Lori McKenna
The video, directed by Sophie Muller, follows Hill restlessly wandering through a small town where she sits at home, wanders a grocery store, and haunts a local high school. The British director also helmed the video for Hill's 2005 duet with husband Tim McGraw, "Like We Never Loved At All."