This haunting, vulnerable ballad was penned by Austin, Texas, Country singer Keith Gattis and was originally recorded by him on his Big City Blues album. Chesney told Billboard magazine that he was aware he was taking a risk in doing his own interpretation, "because it's been cut twice before and both were really good." He added that Keith Gattis' version, "is incredible, and I heard Charlie [Robison's] version of it 10 years ago when it came out, and it haunted me. Now all this time has passed, and I still think it's a little taboo to touch it - but I sure felt it. The time was right for me vocally and emotionally to sink my teeth into that song."
The song title refers to a street in the Hollywood Hills, California.
Regarding the song's meaning, Chesney explained the narrator is desperately longing for companionship. "I've loved that song for a while. There is a certain longing in this song that in a lot of ways I really relate to," he said. "It's about wanting something that's obviously not there ... this searching that we all have for love and lust, and someone that's not in your life anymore. It talks about all of the measures that we go through to feel loved and to get that certain thing back that's just driving you crazy. 'El Cerrito Place' has that certain insanity about it that I think is very relatable. There's searching and longing that all of us have inside. I've felt every bit of emotion that the character in that song deals with."
Chesney recruited Nocturnals frontwoman Grace Potter to sing backup. "She has a way of singing the harmony that makes you feel that person's pain even more," he said of the singer, who first collaborated with him on "You and Tequila
Speaking with Houston, Texas radio station KILT, Charlie Robison said he wasn't surprised that Chesney recorded his own version. "When that song first came out as a single, he called me and was like, 'Man, I can't stop watching that video and can't stop playing that song,'" recalled the Texan singer-songwriter. "I went to sing it with him at some of his shows, too. So I had the feeling he was going to end up doing that song someday and sure enough, he did.It's hard to take a song that there's a definitive recording of and make it your own, and I think he did a good job with it," he continued. "You've gotta stay true to it, but then again you've gotta put your own twist on it at the same time.