Ever hear the phrase, "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there"? Well, the small town in this humorous country tune, written by Larry Bastian and DeWayne Blackwell, is not a nice place to visit and you'd never want to live there. It's so drab and boring, the trains don't even bother stopping there to let people off. The song, featured on Garth Brooks' self-titled debut album, taps into folks' conflicting feelings about small-town life. Bastian explained in the singer's 2017 book, The Anthology Part 1: The First Five Years: "Small towns are the first things you run away from, the first thing you run away from and the last thing you go back to. That's a small town. You can't get away from it quick enough and you can't get back to it quick enough."
According to Bastian, he and Blackwell were working together in Hollywood when Blackwell decided to try his luck in Nashville. He ran out of money halfway there and ended up stranded in a small remote town. He told Bastian, "Man, this is really lonesome out here, you know, nobody gets off in this town," and Bastian replied, "I think that might be a song."
Having grown up in Yukon, a small farming town outside of Oklahoma City, Brooks appreciated the humor in the song. He explained in The Anthology Part 1: "I love it because these guys take humor and they keep building it in this song, so they say high school colors are brown early on, but the whole thing pays off in those last lines when they say, 'Hell, I'd go for a drink, but this county is dry.' As if it can't get any worse, right? But another great thing about this song, the reason nobody takes offense at it, is you can tell the two writers are from a town like this. You can't be this close to the material and not be from there."
Brooks thought this was a perfect track for the album because it's followed by the country weepers "I Know One" and "The Dance
." He said, "Laughter does not prepare you for the sock in the gut that hopefully you're going to get coming up after this song."
Bastian also co-wrote the album tracks "Cowboy Bill
" and "I've Got A Good Thing Going." Blackwell, who wrote the 1959 hit "Mr. Blue" for The Fleetwoods (which Brooks covered on his next album, No Fences
), also wrote Brooks' smash "Friends In Low Places
The art director hated the shadow falling across the singer's face on the album cover, but Brooks' manager loved it, claiming it brought mystery and intrigue to a new artist. The debut had a modest start, shipping 20,000 units, but sold 10 million copies in the US by 2006.