There ain’t nothin’ in the world like a good old fashioned, honky tonk heartbreaker.
And if you follow Whiskey Riff in any capacity, then you know how much all of us here absolutely love them.
Since some of my favorite artists in the genre right now have written some of my very favorite sad songs that hurt so good, I wanted to know what some of their favorite’s were that inspired them to write soul-crushing music just like George, Willie, Merle, Waylon and all the other country greats.
“My library is full of sad country songs, so it’s just whichever version of a sad song I need, but ‘The Grand Tour’ is one of my favorites.”
He also loves Keith Whitley’s “I Never Go Around Mirrors” and George’s all-time classic “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” but he says his “sad boy jam” in middle school was Keith Urban’s “Tonight I Wanna Cry”:
“Tonight I Wanna Cry’ — I used to learn how to play that lick on guitar and I’d go on the playground and sing it in 6th or 7th grade, that was my jam, sad boy me.”
Written by Norro Wilson, Carmol Taylor and George Richey, Ernest’s top pick, “The Grand Tour,” was originally released in 1974, became George’s sixth #1 hit on the country charts, and was ultimately the title track to his album which was released later that year.
It’s widely hailed as one of the saddest country songs of all time, and an all-time great vocal performance, as Mr. Jones tells the heartbreaking story of the loss of a wife and mother to a new baby.
Many listeners interpret the song as the end of a marriage, but if you really look into the lyrics, it’s much more likely that the woman sadly passed away in childbirth.
Ernest added that his love for sad songs goes far and beyond even just the country genre:
“I think it’s just the feeling. Some people like really up-tempo, happy songs, and I gravitate towards slower, emotional songs.
And that’s true for most all genres too. I like John Mayer’s sadder songs, ‘Dreaming With a Broken Heart’ is one of my favorite sad songs, and so is ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.’
The way sad songs make me feel — I’m addicted to that.”
He continued, saying he believes that we all love these kinds of songs so much because it’s almost like a safe place to go to let feelings out you’d otherwise want to hold in or hide:
“I think that a sad song is a safe place for somebody to feel sad for 3.5 minutes. Sometimes it’s just cool to sit in your car and listen to a sad ass song and cry if you need to.
You can be in a perfectly good mood and still be in the mood to hear a sad song and go there for a minute. I think it’s healthy.”
And of course, because he has a gift with the pen and is a fantastic writer, in addition to being an artist, his goal is to write the kind of music he’d want to listen to:
“I like writing songs I’d like to listen to.
Country music would not be country music without sad songs.”
Couldn’t have said it any better myself…
Gonna go turn this one up and have a good cry now:
And when it comes to my favorite sad songs of Ernest’s, I have to go with the obvious, steel-soaked country heartbreaker “Flower Shops,” his duet with friend and frequent collaborator Morgan Wallen.
Of that particular track, he says he’d been listening to a lot of Merle, Waylon and Willie at the time he wrote it, and he’s noted before that it was mostly inspired by George Jones’ “A Good Year for the Roses”:
“I think the Eagles have influenced some music, Haggard, Waylon, Alan Jackson, and Keith Urban have all influenced some songs, it’s all across the board of what I was listening to a lot in the last year specifically.
I listened to a lot of Merle Haggard and Waylon and Willie and The Highwaymen and stuff so I went there.”
“Flower Shops” was written by Ernest along with Ben Burgess and Mark Holman, and has been certified Platinum by the RIAA.