California
by Tim McGraw (featuring Big & Rich)

Album: Damn Country Music (2015)

Songfacts®:

  • This song was written by Big and Rich's John Rich with Rodney Clawson and Vicky McGhee. McGraw first heard the tune when his guitar player played it for him. The country star told Taste of Country that he, "begged John to let me cut it."

    He added: "I've been a fan of those guys for a long time. When their first album came out, they were touring with me. "I'd heard a rough tracking of one of their songs because I was in the studio they were in, at Blackbird Studio."

    John Rich agreed and he and his musical partner Big Kenny contributed guest vocals to the track.
  • Big and Rich recorded their own version of the song as the lead single to their sixth studio album, Did It for the Party. John Rich said on Taste of Country Nights that Big Kenny and him actually intended the song for themselves all along.

    "It's been written for a couple of years, and the guitar player that played on that recording also pays in Tim McGraw's band, and he also used to play for Big & Rich," John Rich explained. He was playing the demo of 'California' on the bus when McGraw heard it and asked him what it was."

    "Next thing I know, Tim is calling me on the phone. 'I heard 'California. I wanna put it on my next record,'" he continued. "I went, 'That's great, but I think it's a Big & Rich song, man. I've really got a feeling about it.'"

    After going back and forth for a time, John Rich finally relented. He recalled, "I went, 'It's a Tim McGraw song! Here you go, buddy.' So he recorded it, and [Big] Kenny [Alphin] and I sang background on his record. And then it wasn't a single on him, so we decided we're gonna take it back, put the Big & Rich thing on it and put it out."
  • John Rich recalled the day he penned the song with Vicky McGehee and Rodney Clawson to The Boot:

    "California" is a song I wrote with two of my longest buddies: Vicky McGehee, who, she and I have, I think, had 10 Top 10s together. I love writing with her because she brings that female perspective to a room when you're writing a song. A bunch of guys sitting around writing songs, saying, 'Oh, girls are gonna love it when they hear that line' - well, how the hell do we know? We don't know. Put somebody like Vicky in there, and that's a great person to follow when you're doing a song.

    And then the other writer is Rodney Clawson, who was my basketball coach in the 7th grade in Amarillo, Texas.

    So, I'm in the room writing 'California' with Vicky and Rodney. There's nobody tighter than the three of us when it comes to songwriting. So I lay this idea on them: I said, 'The song is called "She's in Love With California."'

    Rodney goes, 'I like that. What's the story?'

    I said, 'Man, so many people chase the American Dream - they're going after something huge. To do that, it requires sacrifice: People get left behind, situations get left behind, the whole town gets left behind, but they're going for it. What if we wrote a country song about somebody leaving somebody, not for somebody else but leaving them for an idea of what they're going for in their life: "She's in love with California, and it's breaking my heart'?'"

    They went, 'Yeah, that's good.'

    So we put this Eagles groove underneath it - this easy-going flow - and really told a really cool story that I think a lot of people identify with."
  • John Rich recalled the innovative idea that bought this tune to life. "I thought it'd be an interesting way to write a country song," he explained to ABC Radio, "that somebody is leaving somebody, not for another person, but for an idea. So they're going after, basically the American dream, and California's kind of the land of dreams. I mean, that's Hollywood and that's the West Coast, and man, everybody's got these ideas of what it might be like."

    He later figured out how relevant the concept is to Music City. "It just struck me that, even in Nashville, everybody that's ever made country music and moved to Nashville left somebody behind, or their hometown or whatever it is," Rich said. "There's always a sacrifice that happens. I just thought that'd be a really interesting way to write one, and probably a lot of people would identify with it."

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