This tear-jerker about teenage love was co-written by Country Music Hall of Famer Bill Anderson, together with Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. Anderson's own recording in 1969 of "My Life (Throw it Away If I Want To)" was named the top country song of 1969. Since then his many writing credits include "Whiskey Lullaby" by Brad Paisley and "Give It Away" by George Strait.
Kristian Bush said on the duo's website of the alternative influences that went into the vocals, "We ended up with a haunting wail in the chorus and this R.E.M. background vocal. It's simple and dark."
The lyrical content of this modern take on 1960s teen tragedy songs is built around all those "what ifs" that run through your mind as you explore regret. Jennifer Nettles said on the duo's website: "Nothing mitigates loss. But everyone has regrets, so we can all relate."
Jennifer Nettles spoke to Dave Dawson of Nu Country TV about this song: "It's so interesting - the theme of that song is a teen tragedy. Remember back in the fifties there was a trend to have teen tragedies like "Last Kiss." It ended up the song we did with Bill Anderson is a modern take on that subject - it was pretty interesting He has a tendency to be very dark - it's Country Gothic. So for this song to turn out the way it did I was very pleased - we wrote it with him in Nashville in our hotel room. It was really organic. A lot of times songwriters have an idea they want to pitch to. He came with an open palate. We took the story line from there. Someone finishes up dead. It's a mixture of Concrete Blonde and REM. It has an alt sort of sound, like the late '80s."
Concrete Blonde and Bob Dylan also have songs called "Joey," and while Kristian Bush is a big fan of the Concrete Blonde song, his Joey was titled after one of his best friends. This Joey also shows up in the Sugarland song "Everyday America" in the lyrics, "Joey stares at a trophy, took us all the way to state back in '85."
Bill Anderson told Limewire that he had some concerns about this number. He admitted: "I was a little confused about this song. Sugarland has been so hot, and they've had several #1 records right in a row, but this record has been so different for them that it didn't move up the charts as quick as some of their others have. I don't want to be known as the writer that killed Sugarland's career!" Anderson added that despite it's slower pace, he stands behind the tune. "I think after people listen to the song a couple of times and hear what it's about, they come away with a different feeling about it. It's one of the two or three songs that gets the biggest response in their concert show, so I think it's a case of people listening to it. It's actually got a hidden message in there, if you take time to seek it and hear it out."
This song was written backwards, which is a hallmark of Bill Anderson's songwriting. They started writing it from the end - where Joey dies - and worked their way back to the first line.
When they finished writing this song, Bill Anderson said that it had been a while since he wrote a "teenage tragedy song" like this one. He then explained to the Sugarland duo that songs like "Last Kiss" and "Leader of the Pack," which have tragic storylines, were popular in the '60s. "He gave us historical perspective for the song we were just writing," Kristian Bush told us. "Of course I glommed onto that like it was candy. I was like, Okay, yes. I will uphold that and I will make the music sound like that. So when you hear the song, it's supposed to be what those old songs were with the longing and the mourning of the girl that had lost her love in a car wreck."
Camille from Toronto, OhThe way Jennifer Nettles sings this song makes it one of the very saddest songs I have ever heard in my life. I heard it a couple times and thought "Is this about what I think?" and now that I looked up the lyrics, I don't think I can bear to listen to it again, it is that sad. That said, Jennifer Nettles voice is one of the most underrated and underappreciated in the music business! She has that unique sound that's all her own. I also love her fashion style and that she doesn't flaunt her sexuality...she doesn't have to, she's so talented and so gifted musically!
Coleen from San Antonio, TxThe first time I heard this song I began to cry uncontrolably! In September of '07 on homecoming night my nephew Joey was killed in a drunk driving accident with 3 other teenagers. I remember my niece saying..."What if I would have went to that party with them. He never would have been in that car." Many have lived the lyrics in this song.
Samantha from West Charleston Vermont, Vtthis has got to be one of the most saddest song i have ever heard. i can also relate to this song my friend nathan currie went missing 2 years ago and the last time i got to c talk to him was in his car and i never saw him again and i ask what if i went with him or what if i told him to stay with me or what if i could turn back time to tell him what was gonna happen. it is an on going thing for me. i have many regrets for that night.