Country Strong

Album: Country Strong Soundtrack (2010)
Charted: 81
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • This is the first single and title track from the movie Country Strong. The song is performed by the film's star, Gwyneth Paltrow, and it was written by the husband and wife songwriting team of Jennifer Hanson and Mark Nesler plus Nashville songwriter Tony Martin.
  • Paltrow explained in an interview with The Boot how she related to the song: "When I first heard the demo, I felt very connected to it. I'm not from the South, and I'm not from the country, but my father, who I was incredibly close to - 'I'm country strong like the ground I grew up on' - that, to me, is the foundation that my father [late producer Bruce Paltrow] laid for me. He passed away, but I think of my father every day, in every decision that I make. I feel like I'm an independent, capable person because of the foundation he gave me, and of the values he imparted to me, and we had such a strong family. So I thought of my dad when I heard it. The lyrics are very empowering and especially in the context of the story of the movie."
  • Paltrow told The Boot how the message of the song helped her overcome nerves during the recording sessions: "I felt very liberated when I was singing it, because I was petrified! It was the first track that I cut, and I worked on it with my singing teacher in London for months before I flew here and was recording it with Byron Gallimore [Tim McGraw's longtime producer]. I felt, 'I don't know if I can pull this off, this music, it's serious. It's great. It's hard to sing.' But when I first started doing it, I felt very liberated by it, like, 'No, I can do this. I have to find it within myself.' And that's 'Country Strong.' It's like, 'You can rise above it and you can do it. It's a challenge. It's not your comfort zone.' I was really happy with the way it turned out. It's been such a surprise for me; just the idea that I could hear myself on country radio, especially now that I'm such a fan of country music, and it's come later in my life. It's like a dream. It's surreal."
  • Vince Gill provides backing vocals on the track. Paltrow told The Boot how they hooked up with the country singer-songwriter: "I was in Byron Gallimore's studio, and I had just finished singing the song, and they were doing the monitor mix. Byron just said, 'You know who would be great on this is Vince. Let me call Vince.' I said, 'What? What do you mean?' He was like, 'I'll just call him and see if he wants to come in. His voice would be so perfect on this chorus.' I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, but really?' So, he just called him and got him to come in."
  • Paltrow did not know how to play the guitar before the movie and had to learn how to strum the strings convincingly pretty quickly. She explained to The Boot: "We started the movie in January, and I started lessons in London with my guitar teacher in September, and I played every chance I got. My hands would not cooperate with my brain, and it was painful and it was difficult, but I got to a place where I was at least playing the right chords. Of course, the first day of shooting, I had to sing live and play in the movie. It was so terrifying. [laughs] But I got there in the end. I can play enough. My husband [Coldplay Frontman Chris Martin] always says I'm 'better than [U2's] Bono, not as good as the Edge' in playing guitar."
  • The song reached the Top 40 of the country chart - not the first time Paltrow has been involved with a hit record. Her duet with Huey Lewis of the Smokey Robinson song "Crusin'" topped Adult Contemporary the week of December 16, 2000. Also in November 2010, after the actress performed a cover of Cee-Lo's "Forget You" on Fox TV's Glee, her rendition debuted at #11 on the Hot 100.
  • Jennifer Hanson told the story of the song in an interview with The Boot: "'Country Strong' was an idea that Mark had actually gotten from an interview he saw with Steve McNair, who was the former Tennessee Titans quarterback. It was 2001, and it was the year that Mark and I went to the Super Bowl. Steve kept getting hurt and injured. They asked him, 'How do you keep playing when you're hurt?' Steve said, 'Well the boys on the team call me "Country Strong."' He was from Mississippi, so he had this thick, southern drawl when he talked. 'Country Strong' was his nickname.
    Before that day, I had been sitting in the kitchen. I had gotten up early that morning, and I was sitting there with my guitar. This melody fell out of me. There was nothing that inspired it other than just picking up the instrument, and melodically it fell out. When I ran it by Mark after the Super Bowl, he said, 'I think I've got an idea for that melody.' He thought the chorus melody I had was perfect for his 'Country Strong' title. We took the title and the chorus melody to Tony, and the three of us finished the song together."
  • Hanson's original intention was to record the song herself. She explained to The Boot how it ended up in a major Hollywood movie: "At that time, we were writing for me. I had not signed my first record deal at that time; I was just writing. When I eventually landed my deal at Capitol Records, that song just didn't fit my first record and the direction we went. I didn't end up cutting it.
    The song jumped around quite a bit over the years. It was cut by Miranda Lambert when she was on Nashville Star. Had she won, that would have been her first single, but Buddy Jewell won that year, so that never happened. Then it was cut by a couple of other artists through the years. It sat there forever.
    When the movie came up, Sony, my publisher and Tony's publisher pitched them 'Country Strong.' They were looking for songs for a specific theme. The music supervisor for the movie fell in love with the song. He felt it would work for Gwyneth Paltrow's character. They cut it, and it took on a new life. The movie was originally supposed to be called 'Love Don't Let Me Down,' but they changed it to 'Country Strong' after hearing the song. It became this important part of the movie. That song has been on quite a journey. We could not have dreamed that scenario."

Comments: 1

  • Megan from Stevenson, AlDang! I love this movie! Me and my friend sing this all the time! Such a great movie and album!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Grunge Bands Quiz

Grunge Bands QuizMusic Quiz

If the name Citizen Dick means anything to you, there's a chance you'll get some of these right.

Carol Kaye

Carol KayeSongwriter Interviews

A top session musician, Carol played on hundreds of hits by The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Frank Sinatra and many others.

Steve Morse of Deep Purple

Steve Morse of Deep PurpleSongwriter Interviews

Deep Purple's guitarist since 1994, Steve talks about writing songs with the band and how he puts his own spin on "Smoke On The Water."

Francesca Battistelli

Francesca BattistelliSongwriter Interviews

The 2011 Artist of the Year at the Dove Awards isn't your typical gospel diva, and she thinks that's a good thing.

Kristian Bush of Sugarland

Kristian Bush of SugarlandSongwriter Interviews

Kristian talks songwriting technique, like how the chorus should redefine the story, and how to write a song backwards.

Ben Kowalewicz of Billy Talent

Ben Kowalewicz of Billy TalentSongwriter Interviews

The frontman for one of Canada's most well-known punk rock bands talks about his Eddie Vedder encounter, Billy Talent's new album, and the importance of rock and roll.