When Eric Church released his single "Stick That in Your Country Song" in June of 2020, the song's mentions of war, underpaid teachers and protests in American cities felt incredibly of-the-moment. In reality, it's a prime example of that cliche about things changing yet staying the same: Davis Naish and Jeffrey Steele co-wrote the track five years prior, in 2015.

At the time, Naish tells The Boot, he and Steele knew it would take an artist like Church to deliver the message. But as the country superstar had just finished a new album, they figured the song's resonance would fade and their work would wind up on a figurative dusty shelf, never to see the recording studio. Besides, until 2020, Church had only recorded one song he didn't write or co-write.

It was Steele who was finally able to give the song its day -- and once he put it in front of Church, it became a favorite. Below, Naish shares the story behind "Stick That in Your Country Song," in his own words.

We wrote that in 2015. I mean, it was written in a time not too dissimilar from where we are now, just with a lot of unrest that was crawling across the country ...

Jeff and I used to have these conversations, later at night, where we would just kind of talk about what's going on in the world ... and kind of keeping a pulse on what is really happening and what's really going on, and be able to tell those stories and tell the truth of what's happening in the country with our people. That's kind of our job as songwriters ...

The Detroit [lines]: They'd filed for bankruptcy as a city a couple of years before then. And I had taken a trip up there at some point ... and I just couldn't believe that some of these outskirts of the city, and definitely places inside the city, were just kind of being forgotten. And it was the first time I'd seen that, so I think I probably carried some of that with me when we started talking about these little vignettes ...

The [lines about] soldiers ... We were talking about how difficult of a time that these men and women feel when they get back ... We grow up being, like, "Wow, war's kind of scary" ... and you know how brave you must be to go and serve our country, and then we often forget about the reacclimation of coming back ... that, actually, the scary part is trying to get back into normal life. We're trying to try to just feel for that type of American that's done so much for those of us that haven't served and enjoy all the freedoms without ever risking our lives ... That felt important to us ...

I was a teacher when I first graduated college, and I had it pretty easy: I was at a private school. But one of my friends was teaching at an inner-city school downtown ... I had kind of written that [verse about teachers] for her ... I've always had a soft spot for teachers and their level of compensation versus their effect on lives ...

We would never be able to capture all of America in a song. There's not enough time; I mean, it would be a podcast. And so, we wound up writing a bunch of verses to all this stuff and tried to pick the ones that we felt most connected to, or ones that felt like they weren't trying to create a narrative.

It was more just ... trying to take in the facts, because we just wanted to be able to present this as stopping into these little moments of time and just saying, like, "Hey, this is going on." All the song's really about is: This is going on. Let's take three minutes and 30 seconds and just appreciate that life is being lived around us, and that we should honor that a little bit more ...

I remember [Jeff] coming in that day, and we were talking about all this stuff and kind of getting fired up: like, "Come on, I want to say this stuff. Let's just write something for it." He was the one to have the title of that thing, and we just lit up ... I think we had done about half of it and then came back the next morning ...

When we wrote it, I think we knew we had something really special, but something that would almost need to kind of fit through the eye of a needle. When we finished writing it, we knew that Eric was the one to kind of carry the torch and kind of grab the megaphone and do it. But, I think, at that time, he had just finished up [2015's Mr. Misunderstood], and you know how things work in our world: Once they button that stuff up, it's like, well, we'll hear from you in a couple years.

Honestly, a song like that, with as much truth as there was to it, it felt like it was just that moment and it got away. It might sit on a hard drive for forever; it might just always be in the back catalog. But then, Jeffrey wound up communicating on a couple different songs with Eric -- [songs] that he was wanting to send Eric's way to see if Eric would dig it at all -- and got invited up to write with the band and everything for this new record.

And through just the classic, like, music industry telephone game, he wound up just kind of getting up the courage to send the song to Eric and just see what he thought of it. And I remember Jeffrey telling me that Eric basically spent an hour where he couldn't get past the first verse: He just kept rewinding it and kept playing it.

Once I got the phone call in January [of 2020], when all that happened, at that point, we were just kind of like, "Wow, I can't believe that Eric digs this." I mean, Eric's a writer on all of his songs and an absolutely phenomenal songwriter -- he's fantastic ...

We just kept hearing back from Eric, and then he asked to cut the song ... Jeff just kept getting a lot of love from the band, and it got us really excited and got us really hopeful that, you know, maybe the song can get heard. And, you know, who knows ... maybe it'll just go on the album and it'll be a nice little feather in the cap, to have an outside song with an artist as great as Eric ...

Months went by and nobody heard anything, and then I actually woke up to a barrage of text messages [saying that the song was going to be a single]. I had no information; this was kept so quiet within the camp ...

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