Brantley Gilbert wrote this song a few days after he played a selection of demos for his fifth album to his label president Scott Borchetta. The singer recalled to The Boot
that the Big Machines Records head honcho told him it was "an amazing body of work." However, though there were singles, he didn't know if he had "the single."
Gilbert felt he needed to come up with something quickly as there was already a long gap between records, so he called Rhett Akins and Brock Berryhill and asked them if they had plans for that weekend. It turned out they were free and Josh Dunne also came along for their writing session.
Gilbert explained they were "shooting for an uptempo, feel-good radio song," which he acknowledged is "like catching lightning in a bottle." But some way or other, it happened and they came up with "What Happens in a Small Town."