Lambert said of this song written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin: "That's another one of those songs where I think, 'Dang it, why didn't I think of that?' Everybody's had that comfortable home place - or maybe even a person - that made you who you are, but that you can't ever really go back to. I grew up on an old dairy farm in the country. We had older ladies knock on the door all the time and ask if they could come in because they were raised there, or their husband lived there when they got married… so many different stories. My mom would give them tea, and I'd sit there and listen to them tell the story about our house. And now I know the people that live there. I would be really sad if I could never go back there again… because our dog is buried in the yard, and there are just so many memories. I heard this song and I cried for two hours. When a song hits you like that, you know it's gonna affect other people the same way."
Lambert first came across this with her boyfriend, Blake Shelton, while listening to songs for Revolution. She told CMT that it was a "life-changing song " for her. She added: "I love it. That song came on and my reaction to it was... I just cried. I don't really cry when I listen to music, but that song definitely hit me really hard. I asked Blake if I could have it. We called the producers at midnight and asked, 'Can we switch this? It's on hold for Blake... can we put it on hold for Miranda?"Lambert explained that it was memories of the house that she grew up in, which triggered the tears when she first heard the song. "My parents live right down the street from the house I grew up in. I grew up in one house until I was 14, and they live in the house where I lived from 14 on. Our friends live in the old house, actually."
Lambert told CMT that when she went into the studio to record this song, she asked her mom to do her a special favor... but didn't tell her why. "My Mom went and took pictures of [the house] for me, and e-mailed them to me when I was cutting the song. I didn't tell her why. I just told her I needed pictures of the old house. I had them on the music stand in front of me when I was recording that song."
This was the first Country #1 for Lambert. The singer-songwriter is the second contestant of the reality singing competition Nashville Star to top the chart. Chris Young, who led with "Getting' You Home" on the Oct. 24, 2009 tally was the first.
Co-writer Allen Shamblin told The Boot the story behind this song: "The song was originally written probably six or seven years ago. We were at Sundance [Film Festival] in Utah doing some writer shows for the Bluebird Café in conjunction with Sundance. I had the title for the song, and I ran it by Tom. We started talking about the idea. When you co-write a song, you each dig into your own heart for where you're coming from. The inspiration for me was the last ten years or so with having my own children. I often think about the neighborhood and the house that my father built that I grew up in.About two Novembers ago, Tom contacted me on the phone. He said, 'Hey, let's revisit this song.' We finally got back together to work out some of the holes, and the song really came into focus then. People really responded to the new version."
Lambert received a record nine nominations for the 2010 CMA Awards, and walked away with three trophies - Female Vocalist, Best Album for Revolution and Music Video of the Year for this song. The three Awards were the first she had won in her career.
Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin won Song of the Year at the 2010 CMA Awards for this song. After the ceremony, Shamblin recalled his childhood home and the inspiration for the song. "For years I have wondered what it would be like to go knock on the door and go back in and see where I used to sneak out the back window and see where I learned to play my guitar," he recounted. "This song is about wondering what it would be like to go back to where I grew up."
At the 2011 Grammy Awards, Lambert performed this song after being introduced by her fiancé Blake Shelton. She took home the award for Best Female Country Vocal that night.
This won the Single Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Video of the Year prizes at the 2011 ACM Awards. Lambert also won Top Female Vocalist of the Year at the same ceremony.
Although she comes across as a tough cookie, Lambert admitted to Redbook magazine that she has a vulnerable side and the lyrics to her more emotional tracks get to her every time she sings them. "I cry onstage once a week, singing 'The House That Built Me,' and I always tell the crowd, 'Don't tell anyone I was cryin'!'," she said.
Lambert's parents were amazed how other songwriters could so perfectly capture their daughter's childhood. Speaking with Today in 2010, the singer's father Rick Lambert said, "It's like the persons that wrote that song were channeling into our lives at that horrible but great time in our lives."
Co-writer Tom Douglas told Songfacts that earlier versions of the song didn't work because they were too complicated. "We had too much information, so the song became simpler and simpler over time. It was at the very end that we found the line that preceded the hook, 'If I could just come in, I swear I'll leave, won't take nothing but a memory.' We didn't have that line until the very end. Once we found that, everything else locked into place."
Douglas sang this for Shatter the Madness, a four-song collaboration with Shamblin released in 2016. The concept piece follows a man on the road to redemption. Douglas explained how the song fit into the project: "It's about the parable of the prodigal child who runs away from home and creates a new identity in life for himself, only to get lost out there in the world and has to find his way back home. That was the first step. You've got to come back home first to remember where you're from and remember who you are."