Think back to the first time you heard Tracy Lawrence‘s iconic hit “Paint Me a Birmingham.”
Be honest: You thought it was talking about a city in Alabama, right?
Well it turns out you’d be wrong.
On an episode of The Justin Moore Podcast, Tracy explained the real meaning to Justin and his tour manager JR:
“Birmingham is a style of lake house… it’s got the porch going all the way around, man. If you’ve listened to it since then, it makes more sense.”
I listened to that song for nearly 20 years and always assumed it was about the city in Alabama, about wanting to be back with somebody you had lost – somebody who, apparently, lived in Birmingham.
But no, apparently a “Birmingham” is a lake house. Who knew?
Well it turns out that when he recorded the song, even Tracy didn’t know what it was really about.
In an interview with Whiskey Riff recently, we asked him about the song and whether he realized at the time that it wasn’t about the city in Alabama:
“I don’t think I really knew that full side of it. I kinda learned as I went through the process, but I wasn’t familiar with what a “Birmingham” was either.”
Regardless of its meaning though, he knew he had a hit on his hands:
“But I knew that was a big record. I knew that that lyric was really stout.”
And at the end of the day, Tracy says that’s part of the beauty of the song: It can mean anything you want it to mean:
“That’s the great thing about that song: Being able to write a lyric that can have multiple meanings, that just opens the interpretation up to your audience.
It can mean anything they want it to mean. Or they can argue about what it means. If one person disagrees, that song can mean anything you want it to mean.
It can be about living in Birmingham and wanting to get back there, it can be about that house and that situation that you left, it can mean anything you want it to.”
Surprisingly, “Paint Me a Birmingham” was never one of Tracy’s eight #1 hits. But he says that doesn’t matter, because it’s still one of the biggest songs of his career, and the one that gets the biggest reaction from crowds even now, 19 years after it was released:
“Of all the #1s that I had, “Paint Me a Birmingham” was probably the biggest impact record I ever had. That song by itself was massive.
And it was just top 5. It died at #4, it never got up there.
But it doesn’t matter. We close with that song every night, and the intensity from the crowd, it’s like what they wait for. It’s my closer and will be ’til I die.”
@whiskeyriff 😳 @tracy_lawrence ♬ Paint Me A Birmingham – Tracy Lawrence