On Sept. 16, radio stations across the nation gave fans their first listen of “Forever Country” — a collaborative tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Association Awards.
The video for the song, which features 40 of country music’s biggest voices on a medley of hits, including John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” and Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” debuted on the evening of Sept. 20 following a sneak peek video promo during “Dancing with the Stars.”
With stars like Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton (just to name a few) contributing their parts on the project, we wondered just how one could handle taking on such a large process. Producer and award-winning songwriter Shane McAnally, who was at the helm of the all-star single, recently opened up about the song that’s been on everybody’s minds! And, he even admitted that he was a bit “scared” at first.
In an interview with People, Shane confessed that he almost nixed the proposal for the track saying, “I didn’t think it would work in our genre. I said, ‘Maybe in pop music you can just take a piece of a song, but we tell stories. And we can’t just cut into them and take a piece.'”
Once Shane began to brainstorm with his colleagues, he saw “Forever Country” start to unfold. But, there was one song in particular that he was very sensitive about. And that, he says, was Dolly’s “I Will Always Love You.”
“I was having a hard time with the story – it’s such a personal song,” said Shane. “It’s to one person. But when you play that song over, ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’, they somehow take on a life together and it feels almost like you’re speaking more to the music, and to country music specifically, when you say, ‘I will always love you.’ It feels meant to be.”
Shane explained that he worried about Dolly’s initial reaction to her song being included into the mix but was relieved when he learned that she liked it.
“She just listened and said, ‘Wow. That really works!’” Said Shane, “It was really hard not to cry in front of her. I’ve cried a lot since then!”
As far as the entire medley Shane says, “The responsibility of this feels greater than anything I’ve done. I hope this is a great timepiece for the legacy of country music.”
Shane, we know it is!