LoCash Single Has a Thomas Rhett 'Ring' to It
The country duo taps a fellow artist for their follow-up to "I Know Somebody."
When LoCash’s first top 10 single, “I Love This Life,” stalled at No. 2 on the Country Airplay chart dated Jan. 30, the only thing that stood in the way was a multiweek No. 1, Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man.” LoCash made it to the top on Oct. 29 with follow-up “I Know Somebody,” written, ironically, by Rhett’s father, Rhett Akins (“Dirt on My Boots,” “Mind Reader”).
“It’s becoming a big family thing now,” says LoCash member Preston Brust.
The duo takes those connections a step further with the third single from the album The Fighters, “Ring on Every Finger.” Released by Reviver to radio through PlayMPE on Oct. 25, the song was written by Rhett in April 2015 — three months after he penned “Die a Happy Man” — and it celebrates one of the initial steps in the traditional model of building a family: an engagement.
There’s nothing traditional, though, in the man’s style in the song. The guy doesn’t get down on one knee to pop the question — he gets down on two. He doesn’t slip a piece of jewelry onto his fiancée’s left ring finger — he puts one on all 10 digits. And one walk down the aisle isn’t enough, either — “If I could, baby, I would marry you a million times,” lead singer Chris Lucas oozes in the chorus. It’s not just an engagement — it’s an engagement on steroids.
“The title was mine, but it wasn’t inspired by an event,” says songwriter Josh Kear (“Drunk on a Plane,” “Need You Now”). “It was just a basic concept: If one ring says I’ll love you forever, what would a ring on every finger mean?”
Kear introduced the idea during a writing session at the office of songwriter Jesse Frasure (“Fix,” “I Like the Sound of That”), who was signed at the time to Major Bob Music. It got matched to an instrumental track Frasure had whipped up with a distinct Latin pulse and a horn section concocted from programmed sounds. It was as if the “Bailamos”-era Enrique Iglesias had enlisted Earth, Wind & Fire’s horn section and augmented it with Motown baritone saxophonist Mike Terry.
The retro-soul sound “was kind of all over pop music at the time and it wasn’t really being done in country, so we were playing with that idea,” says Frasure.
Rhett went to town on both the Latin flavor and the uber-engagement ideas during the co-write. He threaded syncopated salsa phrasing into a stop-time opening in the second verse and tossed out a clever “flip that miss to missus” line that gets repeated during the bridge.
“He’s so good at that stuff,” says Frasure. “He literally will just spill stuff like that out — obviously, you hear it all over his own records. But that’s his true gift, being able to state — kind of in an arrogant, cocky, confident way — the sweetest things.”
If there’s any doubt about the groom’s enthusiasm in “Ring,” verse two puts it to rest. One of the classic wedding-planning scenarios has the bride doing all the work while her future husband drags his feet through the process. But in “Ring on Every Finger,” the guy voices his anticipation of her wedding dress, the church and the limo ride.
“Since the singer is trying to talk the girl into saying yes to a marriage proposal, tossing in images of a storybook kind of wedding probably is attempting to help her see her dreams coming true,” says Kear. “Most guys want to give their dream girl the wedding of their dreams, so I think men care about making women happy on their wedding day. Maybe less about the specifics and more about giving their bride the day they deserve.”
Before the writing session was over, Rhett laid down a lead vocal for the track, and a demo was complete. It could have easily fit Rhett’s sound (“Crash and Burn,” the song that first took him down an R&B lane, was sent to radio on April 7, 2015, the same calendar month that they wrote “Ring”), but it didn’t get picked for Tangled Up. Instead, it got pitched to LoCash, which was putting the finishing touches on The Fighters. The duo had plenty of songs of its own, but was open to anything that might knock one of the pair’s own off the project. So LoCash met with Crazy Eights, a group of eight independent publishers who hold informal pitch meetings en masse, in a private room at The Palm in Nashville. Kear’s publisher, Big Yellow Dog owner/GM Carla Wallace, played the demo for LoCash that day.
“It’s Thomas Rhett singing it, and we both looked at each other like, ‘We’re done, that’s it — ding, ding, ding, ring the bell,’ ” recalls Lucas.
LoCash was touring heavily at the time, so the band left it up to producer Lindsay Rimes to convert the synthetic Latin flavor into something that would fly with mainstream country radio.
“It was mainly getting in and cutting with a band,” says Rimes. “The demo was programmed, so it was about bringing a human element to the demo.”
Rimes played a number of guitar and keyboard parts to build the foundation, then brought in drummer Jerry Roe, bassist Steve Mackey, electric guitarist James Mitchell, acoustic guitarist Pat McGrath and steel guitarist Mike Johnson to overdub the rest of the instruments. The Spanish flair remained, though it was masked a bit by Roe’s tougher rhythms and Johnson’s twang element.
“This was probably one of the more challenging tracks to get to come together, because it was such a programmed-sounding demo,” says Rimes. “I didn’t want it to sound like a straight-up pop song — I wanted it to sound like LoCash.”
“It’s still out there; it’s still got that pop feel,” adds Lucas. “But he put a banjo in it and there’s steel in it for ear candy that will bring the country listener. The lyrics are very country, but I think with that beat, he really brought it to where it needs to be for country music radio.”
They made one additional concession to programmers’ needs. The original bridge had another clever twist — “dropping F-bombs like forever,” the “F” referring in this case to “forever” rather than a four-letter word — but they expected some programmers would feel queasy about phone calls from listeners who missed the joke. So a second version was cut for the single employing the L-word — “dropping love bombs like forever.”
“We don’t want anything to get in the way of our success at radio,” says Brust. “So far, so good. Everybody’s loving the original way.”
And the writers are loving LoCash’s big-picture revision.
“They made it their own,” says Kear. “That’s really what you want an artist to do: take the song, stay true to it and also stay true to themselves. Listening to it now, it’s definitely theirs.”
“Ring on Every Finger” is wedded to No. 42 in its fifth week on Country Airplay, though LoCash hopes that its eventual peak position will enhance another engaging piece of the band’s career puzzle: its ties to the Akins family.
“We ran into Rhett and T.R. at the BMI Awards, and they’re both so fired up about this,” says Brust. “If this song climbs the charts like ‘I Know Somebody’ did, it could be a cool, fun storyline about a father-and-son songwriting team.”