It’s been three years since BIlly Currington released an album and this time he wanted to do things differently. Instead of just working with longtime producer Carson Chamberlain, Currington also enlisted country hit maker Dann Huff and hip-hop producer Shy Carter on We Are Tonight.
Currington sat down with Radio.com on record release day and filled us in on why he selected some of the tracks on the album, including a cover of Jack Johnson‘s “Banana Pancakes,” and how he came to duet with Willie Nelson.
While Currington’s “Hey Girl” is climbing the charts, he admitted that it wasn’t his initial pick for a first single.
“I was actually asking for ‘We Are Tonight’ to come out first,” he told Radio.com. “The record label head was like, ‘Man, ‘Hey Girl’ has this unique thing about it and I just think your fans are going to love it for your first single.’ So I agreed with him and we put it out and it’s been a blast. They told me it hit Top 5 this week so I’m very excited.”
Currington said the reason he first decided to cut the song is that “Hey Girl” is a simple and great pickup line that he used as a kid.
“My buddy and I, he reminded me of this the other day. He’s like, ‘Man I can’t believe you recorded a song saying the same thing we did when we were kids on the beach.’ When we’d see a girl and be too shy to say something, we would go, ‘Hey girl’ and it always brought a smile and started a conversation.”
Pickup lines aside, Currington’s latest release encompasses 10 feel-good tracks that detail a wingman situation gone wrong, summer love and the difficulties of being a hippie, the latter which features Willie Nelson.
“Hard to Be a Hippie” was written by Deanna Bryant, John Scott Sherrill and Scotty Emerick. Friends with Emerick, Currington pulled up a video of him performing the song on YouTube and called him up to ask about recording it. It turned out Willie Nelson was already interested in cutting the song.
“Four months later I ended up on Willie’s bus. We played a show together so Scotty already knew him,” Currington recalled. “During that time Scotty was like, ‘Billy wants to record that song ‘Hard to Be a Hippie’ too. Are you still interested?’”
Nelson was and when Emerick suggested the two record it together, Nelson agreed, much to Currington’s shock.
“I’ve been dreaming of recording with Willie for so many years, told a hundred million people that I wanted to. I guess it came to me. Dream come true,” Currington said.
An avid surfer, while spending time in Hawaii Currington kept hearing about a singer named Jack Johnson. He bought all his music and quickly became a fan and decided to cover his track “Banana Pancakes” on We Are Tonight.
“‘Banana Pancakes’ stood out to me. I thought it was a great, simple song that I always could hear a steel guitar being wrapped around it,” Currington said. “It’s one of my favorite tracks. There’s a rap on the end, that ain’t me. That’s Shy Carter who produced the last song ‘Hallelujah.’ He walked up to the microphone and just spit all that out. That wasn’t planned or written or redone or 10 takes. That’s what he said and that’s what we recorded.”
While “Hey Girl” is currently sitting at No. 5 on the Country Mediabase chart, Currington is fighting for his favorite song on the album, title track “We Are Tonight,” to be his next single.
“It’s got something special. It has that arena rock thing, that anthem. It’s going to be great for the live shows,” he said. “That song takes me back to the old Levi’s commercials. Young summer. Even though as time goes by we get older, I have yet to lose that feeling of young love and all the great things that you do when you’re young and everything that song ‘We Are Tonight’ describes. That’s why I named the whole album We Are Tonight. It just sums up everything that album has to offer.”
– Annie Reuter, Radio.com