Love's the Only House

Album: Emotion (1999)
Charted: 42
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Songfacts®:

  • This song is about empathy - the idea of looking at things from someone else's perspective and trying to understand their problems. Each verse presents a different interaction, starting with a woman who brings too many items into the express lane at the grocery store. Instead of judging her, McBride sings about starting a dialogue with the woman, where she learns that she is overwhelmed and upset with her life. Later, we hear about her encounter with an old boyfriend and a drive through the inner city. She approaches each of these scenarios without judgment, concluding that "love's the only house big enough for all the pain in the world."
  • Veteran songwriters Buzz Cason and Tom Douglas wrote this one. Cason's other compositions include "Everlasting Love" (recorded by just about everyone) and "Another Woman" by T.G. Sheppard; Douglas co-wrote "I Run To You" by Lady Antebellum and another domicile song, "The House That Built Me" by Miranda Lambert.

    In his Songfacts interview, Cason explained that they first came up with the groove and melody, and the first lyrics they developed were those in the first verse about the woman going through the express lane with too many items. Said Cason, "I said I loved that, let's write that, and he said, 'I don't know what it means' and we actually kind of finished it and didn't really know exactly what it meant."
  • This made #3 on the Country chart, thanks in large part to a video that did very well on CMT. The clip, which shows McBride in the different situations she describes in the song, was directed by Thom Oliphant, who also did McBride's "Wild Angels" and the Dixie Chicks video for "Wide Open Spaces."
  • Douglas discussed the song in a 2018 Songfacts interview: "That one went through probably three different variations. It started kind of as a Jimmy Buffett 'Margaritaville' vibe and then it became an Elton John epic, and then the end it kind of found its way back to more of a singer/songwriter Springsteenesque song."

    "But the vignettes generally were there from the first time we started writing the song. But it became simpler and simpler over time, as well, especially the chorus in just those two lines that repeat, 'Love's the only house biggest enough for all the pain in the world. Love's the only house,' which is kind of a singer/songwriter device that Dylan uses and U2 uses and Springsteen."
  • Douglas says many of his songs, including this one, are calls to action: "You can't just distract yourself or protect yourself from crises all around us. Hopefully when you get to the end... you just think to yourself, as the singer did, I've got to do something here, whether it be about a single mother who's having a baby, or a homeless woman and her little boy."

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