This Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally penned tune celebrates the spirit of America's young people. Chesney first came across the song on a writing trip with McAnally, who wrote his previous hits "Somewhere With You" and "Come Over." "When I heard it, I knew I was gonna cut it," Chesney said. "It was unlike anything I'd ever heard - and I listen to a lot of songs. The rhythms, the images, the way the melody moved… It just grabs you and holds on, but even more importantly, it feels really good."
Clawson, Laird and McAnally wrote this song in a non-linear fashion, each adding words and phrases as they formed the song's lyric. McAnally says that in the end, the successive images give you the feeling that you're watching a slide show.
The song contains the line, "A little messed up, but we're alright." Chesney reflected: "Hey, life is hard. People work long hours, have all kinds of stuff going on in their personal lives. But if there's one thing I've seen over the last 10 years, looking out at the faces in the crowd: you can't keep my fans down. These are people who no matter what are in love with life, and they're gonna find the good times no matter what."
"It's not a perfect world," he added. "We are all a little screwed up, but we're all okay. I love the idea of the screw up as part of it, because honestly it makes the parts that're great, that much better. You appreciate those things that much more."
The song celebrates the spirit of youth across America. "There is so much more to being alive than partying, tailgates and bonfires," said Chesney. "It's every single detail of being young, growing up, remembering when, laughing about how, but especially knowing you can still do all those things! American kids are so much more complicated, more fun, more real — and if there's anything about this song, beyond the rhythms, the hooks and the playing, that I love, it's the fact that it captures all the little things that life really is made of."
Chesney worked with director Shaun Silva on the song's music video, which shows the country star out in the Southern California desert with a group of young people and a colorful psychedelic school bus. "The spirit of this thing - the song, the bus, the idea of the kids riding around, having fun, playing music and just celebrating life - makes you want to get involved," Chesney told Entertainment News. "Fun is where and how you make it. Out in the sun with a bunch of friends - and the people who work on my videos have been making them with me for more than a decade - even buckets of paint and a bus that needs to be covered can give you a reason to have fun."
Kenny Chesney was the first choice for this song, but the writers never heard back from him so Little Big Town started working on it. Shane McAnally later joined Chesney in St. John, where the pair wrote "Wild Child." When they were flying back home, Chesney said he was worried that he didn't have a first single for his The Big Revival album. He opened his laptop and started going through some old emails when he noticed the demo of "American Kids" that McAnally had sent him months earlier. Chesney admitted that he never listened to the song, but when he put on his headphones and gave it a spin, he was hooked and knew right away that it would be the single. McAnally says that Little Big Town was very gracious about it when he asked them to give the song up.
Lady Antebellum passed on the song before Chesney recorded it. "It just didn't fit," said Charles Kelley of the trio to The Tennessean. "'American Kids' is a song about growing up in the '70s. It makes more sense with Kenny Chesney."