top of page
  • Writer's pictureHugh at ZephyrHillMusic

Behind the Lyrics: Lori McKenna - The Town In Your Heart

In this series of ‘Behind the lyrics’ I take a closer look at what makes certain songs have the ability to take us deeper. I look at a wide range of country artists, from Billboard toppers to the undiscovered and unsigned. I like to uncover the story between the lines and highlight where the lyrics are special, unique or generally make me say “I wish I’d written that!”.

Lori McKenna is a powerhouse songwriter with over 240 songs written with a list of names from Country Music royalty and beyond. She wrote “Always Remember you this way” with Lady Gaga, she has written with Tim McGraw, Little Big Town, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood.

She is an established solo artist herself and one third of the band Love Junkies. The song I’ve chosen this month is from her new solo album ‘1988’, and to be honest any one of the songs could be this month’s focus.

She is proof that you don’t need to be permanently living in Nashville to make it in Country music and be a sought after writer. Most often you could find her writing three or four days a week over a Zoom call from her home just south of Boston.

This made me think about the country music scene in the UK. We can’t all move to Nashville, and I wonder where the spiritual home of country is in the UK. Does it even have one? Let me know where you think it is and why!

Reading one of her interviews it is interesting to hear how country writers approach new songs in Nashville, and I’ve heard this from other sources too. It’s always about writing a better song than the last time, rather than thinking about what might be more commercial. I think that’s a positive thing to hear.

She also talks about different kinds of lines in songs (this is a paraphrase):

“You can have a gritty line, a poetic line, a domestic line, a matter of fact line, or maybe an imagination line. Letting these things collide in a verse is what makes the magic happen.”

I love how chords from a single acoustic guitar, intro the song before it builds fully. Verse 1 emphasises each line with a direct repetition of the last few words. It’s a powerful method, but has to be used sparingly for best effect.

I’ve identified a Pre-Chorus section because it seems a different style to the other lyrics and is the most visual, keying into specific things found in the home town.

The Chorus of this song is so poetic, rather than just saying things directly - “I miss you and I want the memory of you to live on” it’s so uniquely expressed as “I hope I live on a road in the town in your heart”.

She says herself that:

“I wrote this song about losing someone, about keeping them in a different way, and about hoping they keep us too.”

Verse 2 does another clever thing and directly compares the person as if they are actually tail lights of a car. It allows a person to take on characteristics that they wouldn’t normally have and it’s a very cool trick.

Pre-Chorus 2 now brings in visuals of home life and growing up. Specific details make a song personal and although we don’t all share the same memories they often trigger our own strong sense memories, which bonds us to the story.

The Bridge is a gritty set of lyrics expressing the emotions of loss and of acceptance, but recognising that the memories can feel as real as the person was when they were around.

After an extended Chorus, the music continues to play for a good half minute, allowing us to continue to feel and absorb all the emotions.

One of the other things Lori says and I really like it:

“I’m always writing the same song, but finding different ways of writing it”

As songwriters we often find ourselves writing about the same topics, and this viewpoint gives me hope from a really good songwriter that that is okay. It’s about refinement and moving towards being able to express yourself more and more without any restriction of creativity.

Until next time.

Written by: Hugh Webber


Hugh has over 20 years experience as a songwriter and creative collaborator; personally mentored by Kinks frontman Ray Davies, a year at the London Songwriting Academy, and with songs placed in film and TV. Find out more here.

Written by:

Dustin Christensen / Jessie Jo Dillon / Lori Mckenna

Verse 1

I wasn't ready to say goodbye, goodbye

I wasn't ready to let go, when you let go

You don't have to keep me in your mind, in your mind

Just keep me in your blood and in your bones


Where there's an old white church and a Dairy Freeze

A borrowed car and a field of dreams


Go on and take me with you wherever you are

I hope I live on a road in the town in your heart

I hope I live on a road in the town in your heart

Verse 2

You were tail lights on the highway, flying

Searching for something nobody ever, ever finds

And I'd go back if I had my way, and I'd make

Those demons that were haunting you wish they had never tried


Just put me on the front porch swing smelling Sunday supper

You know that old A-frame with the pale blue shutters



You're in my heart now, no matter what

You're in the dark now and I can't touch you

You're in my heart now, the deepest part now

The deepest part, no matter what

Extended Chorus

So go on and take me with you wherever you are

I hope I live on a road in the town in your heart

I hope I live on a road in the town in your heart

I hope I live on a road in the town in your heart

I hope I live on a road in the town in your heart


bottom of page