The Story Behind “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”
Warner Bros. Records recently released Original Songwriter Demos Vols. I and II, featuring 20 of country music’s recent greatest hits as the singers originally heard them. One of the demos is Jim “Moose” Brown’s version of “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” later recorded by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett. Brown, who wrote the song with Don Rollins, talked with The 9513 about how the song came about.
When Jim “Moose” Brown came to Nashville in 1982, he had the goal of becoming a studio musician. He’s not only accomplished that goal, but he’s also served as a touring musician, a Grammy-nominated producer and a chart-topping songwriter.
Brown has been nominated twice for Piano/Keyboard Player of the Year by the Academy of Country Music, and he’s appeared on albums by Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton, Trace Adkins, Ricky Skaggs and countless others. He’s also gone on tour as a member of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, playing guitar and keyboards on Seger’s 2006-2007 tour.
More recently, Brown earned several award nominations for his work as one of the Kent Hardly Playboys, the group of musicians who played on and co-produced Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song and The Guitar Song albums.
“My role, as I see it, was to basically stay out of the way of Jamey’s brilliance,” Brown says. “He’s one of those kind of guys who comes through Nashville every 20 or 30 years. He’s really got something to say.”
The recording for Johnson’s albums were quite different than the standard recording procedures in Nashville.
“A lot of producers like to slow the process way down,” Brown explains. “We’ll maybe get one or two songs per a three-hour session, and then they’ll do the overdubs and vocals later. Whereas with Jamey, we just rolled.”
Brown noted that Johnson was recording without a record deal, so instead of approaching the sessions like making a record, they just had fun and played the kind of music they wanted to make.
“We might not really count the song off, as you heard on the record. We’d just fall into a groove, and usually they was the track that we kept. As lot of times, we even kept [Johnson’s] vocal and guitar from that track.”
Brown notes that the musicians were able to cut 10 or 15 songs in a day, because there was so little rework involved. The songs from That Lonesome Song and about half the songs for The Guitar Song were recorded in a matter of days.
“I think maybe we miss the boat sometimes when we go back and polish and tighten things up,” Brown says. “Technically, they might be better, but there’s a lot of the feel that’s left behind.”
One of Brown’s current projects is co-producing, along with Johnson, singer/songwriter Erin Enderlin, who’s penned “Monday Morning Church” for Alan Jackson and “Last Call” for Lee Ann Womack. He says that the record is being done in the same vibe as Johnson’s albums – “very sparse and earthy, very un-Nashville. We’re just about to finish that up and go label shopping with that.”
While Brown has had steady work as a musician since his arrival in Nashville, his development as a songwriter is relatively more recent. He says that he didn’t start writing songs until the late 1990s.
“I started doing sessions full time and made a lot of friendships with songwriters,” he says. “I started writing with a few of them, and it kind of steamrolled.”
His songs have been recorded by Darryl Worley (the Top 10 hit “If Something Should Happen”), Josh Turner, Terri Clark, Martina McBride, James Otto and others, but his first song released as a single ended up spending eight weeks at the top of the charts.
“It’s Five O’clock Somewhere”
Brown had six or seven songs cut previously, but they either didn’t make the final album or the singer lost the record deal. The first of his songs that was actually released came about as the result of a writing session with Don Rollins.
Rollins was formerly a band teacher in Texas and one of his fellow teachers would typically say at 3:30, “Let’s go grab a beer, it’s five o’clock somewhere.”
“Don just tucked it away for years, and thank goodness he saved it for our writing appointment,” Brown says, laughing. He adds that he had heard the phrase so often before that he was sure that it had already been written, but after they couldn’t think of another song that used it, they banged the song out in about an hour and a half.
The timing on the song was so perfect, that the time from when it was written to when it was released to radio was about three months, a rarity in the industry. Brown recorded the demo, which was initially pitched to Kenny Chesney, but his team passed.
“I think they wanted to not do so much beachy stuff anymore,” he says. “If we had gotten it to him three years earlier, he probably would have jumped on it, but the timing wasn’t right.”
Fortunately, Alan Jackson was looking for a song that he could cut with his friend Jimmy Buffett, and Gary Overton, then the head of EMI Publishing Nashville, turned him on to “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.”
The song was released in June, 2003, and was an immediate hit, debuting at #31 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It eventually spent a total of eight weeks at #1 and made it to #17 on the pop charts. It also won the Country Music Association Vocal Event of the Year award in 2003. Not bad for Brown’s first ever single.
“Tony Lane, who’s a great songwriter in town, said ‘Man, I hate to tell you this, but it’s all downhill from this one,’” Brown recalls.
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