Jerrod Niemann’s latest single “Blue Bandana” hits radio today, a Southern-rock-infused ode to music festivals and the bandana-clad devotees they draw. The song is a bit of a sonic departure for Niemann, whose last three singles, “Drink To That All Night,” “Donkey,” and “Buzz Back Girl” sat on more synthetic tracks, while “Blue Bandana” has a more organic feel.
“‘Blue Bandana’ has a very earthy tone like the first album,” Niemann tells Billboard. We just stripped it down. I told Jimmie Lee Sloas, who produced the record, that I wanted to get rid of all the effects and compression. We turned it all off and really deadened the sound like they did in the classic rock and Southern rock days. I feel that it really allows the record to breathe a little bit.”
For writers Ben Goldsmith, CJ Solar, and Andrew Scott Wills, Southern rock was a strong influence. “There’s a lot of what I think what the three of us grew up listening to, a lot of Southern rock in there,” Goldsmith says. “A lot of Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers.”
Though the three have known each other for a while, the songwriting session in February of last year that spawned “Blue Bandana” was the first time the three of them had ever written together.
“We wrote it at night in the BMG building on 16th ‘cuz that’s where Ben worked during the day,” Wills says. “I was sitting in the parking lot – I was about 10 minutes early – and I was just trying to come up with some ideas. I don’t know how but I came up with this image in my head of a girl wearing a blue bandana. I didn’t have anything more than that. But I was like, ‘I think it’d be cool to have a song about a blue bandana, and just about a girl – kind of hippyish in a way.'”
“We started writing another song I don’t think we were really crazy about,” Solar says. “And then we started talking about music festivals and Andy was like, ‘Well, I’ve got this title ‘Blue Bandana’,’ and we just figured let’s write a song about music festivals and we’ll somehow put a blue bandana in.”
“We started talking like what kind of girl is that, like what are her likes, and we’re like, ‘Oh, she likes music,’ and that’s how the whole thing kind of came together,” Wills says. “CJ is an artist himself and the sound of the song kind of hails from his style of music.”
Solar began playing the song in his live sets, though on the recorded end it was put on the back burner. At the time of the write, Solar was in talks with Sea Gayle, Solar (and Niemann)’s current publisher, and while the team found the song cool, it was set aside to focus on other songs.
“About 6 months after, I think it was about August, I had a demo session of a bunch of other songs that I had written,” Solar says. “We demo-ed five other songs and when we got to the end of the session I was like, ‘Guys, I’ve got this one last song that I’d love for us to just squeeze on here if you guys will stay for another 10 minutes, to give it one pass. I don’t think anybody will ever cut this, but it’s really cool and I like it.’ So we literally took one pass on the demo and put one guitar solo on it and I sent it in.”
The song ended up on hold for Jake Owen, and was unavailable when Niemann first heard it, but the artist clicked with the song immediately, and snapped it up as soon as the hold with Owen was released. The song is not only the first single for the three writers, it’s the first cut they’ve had with a major artist. Made particularly impressive is the fact that the song was written when none of them had a publishing deal.
“I have really enjoyed finding songs by some of the newer songwriters,” Niemann tells Billboard. “Nashville always has talent coming here, and that makes it so special, but there’s three writers on the song that have never had a cut. It’s so great to hear that fresh and untapped talent straight off of the bus.”
“Honestly, it’s just an unreal feeling, it’s so special,” Goldsmith says. “It’s also so special that it’s a song that I love so much, that I feel so strongly about. And I just love the production, I love the way Jarrod sang it, it’s pretty perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Grab “Blue Bandana” on iTunes.