This The Driver track captures the highs and heartaches of life as a Music City songwriter. "I've got a song called 'Leaving Nashville' that's about the struggle of the songwriter," Kelley told The Boot. "It's really dark; it's about ups and downs. Sometimes you play it for people, and it's like, 'Man, that's really kind of depressing,'"
The song was written by American musician Abe Stoklasa and Canadian folk singer-songwriter Donovan Woods. The pair also wrote together Tim McGraw's Sundown Heaven Town track, "Portland, Maine."
Kelley told American Songwriter magazine that he recognized the truth in the lyrics: "One day you're the king the next you're not,'" he said. "You may go a year without having a cut and then the phone starts ringing."
"Being in a band like Lady Antebellum, we have had our fair share of ups and downs, and it's hard for me to listen to this song and not hear myself in that," Kelley added. "What I love about it is this inside look of Nashville and the music business, but I think it's so relatable because [we] all know what it's like to have those moments in life where you're never going to give up on a dream because it's addictive."
The song's co-writer Donovan Woods moved from Canada to Nashville to pursue a career as a songwriter. He says that his experience there has been overwhelmingly positive, but Woods tends to write very dark songs. He does cop to throwing up in a few parking lots.
In our interview with Donovan Woods, he gave us his take on Nashville, which informed how he wrote this song. "You know how Times Square, there's something about it that's totally revolting? It's just consumerism at its complete and total right there, but at the same time, there's something electric and alive and super compelling about it. You feel like, Wow, I'm happy to be here, even though it's a nightmare [laughs].
I think that there are a lot of those places in America. Toronto is like that to some people in Canada. A place like Las Vegas or a place like Los Angeles and certainly Nashville – those places where you're drawn to them because there's that weird hope that you could make something out of yourself and become something really wonderful because there's so much opportunity in them, but, at the same time, you're repulsed by it. I was trying to communicate that feeling of dichotomy in a place like that where it's obvious you love it. I'm never leaving, but it's really nothing but heartache.
So that was the idea and you can't ever talk about things that are that big. So to talk about a big idea like that, you have to use little tiny things like getting a call from an old friend to hint at those big huge ideas. I always find the best way to do it is to use little tiny, tiny, tiny things that are as small as possible."
This song is far more morose than what Charles Kelley is known for. And while most in the industry wouldn't expect him to do a song like this, his friend Abe Stoklasa knew he would consider this song and approached him about it. Stoklasa's co-writer Donovan Woods told us: "Charles is cool as hell and loves good songs that he's willing to do. That whole album for him is a big risk. He's got a comfortable gig, so for him to put himself out there like that is cool."