It’s a hallmark of Southern dialects that one-syllable words are frequently stretched into two: “there” becomes “they-er,” or “damn” – in the title of a Florida Georgia Line album cut – becomes “Dayum, Baby.”
Oklahoma-bred Corey Kent figuratively puts the accent on steroids in “Wild as Her,” holding the word “wild” out for 12 “wi-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ild” rollercoaster syllables in the back half of the chorus. And for good measure, he repeats the feat immediately, extending the run to 13 syllables.
The thing is, that passage is tough. It covers a wide melodic range, for starters, and without any separation between the notes, it can quickly devolve into non-descript mush. Create too much separation, it sounds choppy and amateurish. Kent navigates the middle ground with easy-sounding conviction.
“There’s no discounting God here,” Kent says. “I was of the mentality that muscle memory – if you can practice a free throw over and over, or if you can practice playing the piano, eventually muscle memory will make you good at that. I thought the same thing about singing, and I’m realizing that there is a certain element that is God-given ability. But then the other part is honing your craft and putting in tens of thousands of hours.”
Even among vocal pros, that 25-syllable ride limited opportunities for “Wild as Her.”
“A lot of people really liked that song, but they were worried that they wouldn’t be able to sing it just because of that part at the end,” songwriter Brett Tyler (“Cold Beer Calling My Name,” “Hell Right”) says. “It could have been a bad situation.”
Actually, they didn’t expect they would need to pitch “Wild As Her,” since Morgan Wallen co-wrote it with Tyler and Kelly Archer (“After A Few,” “Sleep Without You”) May 31, 2017, at Nashville’s Combustion Music. Wallen was the target artist for the day, and his spin on the 25 notes convinced them it was a viable melodic approach.
“He’s just such a great singer,” Archer says. “I mean, the demo of the song sounds like a record. Obviously, we have a great band in Nashville, but his vocal is just awesome. Like, there’s only a handful of my own songs I listen to while I’m driving, and it was definitely on the list.”
Archer had the “Wild As Her” title that day, a reversal of the standard gender stereotype in which the free-wheeling male finds a woman stabilizes him. It was inspired by an episode of Sex and the City in which Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie, is surprised to discover she’s the person in her relationship that needs more space. The “Wild as Her” male protagonist is supportive, rather than threatened.
They clarified the direction in the opening line, “She never wanted to be white-picket-fenced-in,” portraying the couple in the chorus on a life journey together with the windows rolled down and the wind blowing through her hair. Initially, four lines seemed enough for that stanza, though Archer felt it needed a little more. She brought up the Travis Tritt release “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive,” in which a wolf-like howl brings more character to the end of the chorus, as a template.
“I’m 99% sure I threw this out as a joke,” Tyler says, recalling the 12-note “wild” trademark. “And then Morgan did it. Morgan’s voice is about 100 times better than mine. If you’re gonna sing a song with the word ‘wild,’ you want to hear it that way.”
Wallen, who hadn’t yet scored his first hit at the time, surprised everyone when he passed on “Wild as Her,” though Combustion Music believed strongly and kept pitching it. Indie artist Colby Keeling released a version Jan. 10, 2020, and Canadian Tyler Joe Miller issued his take Feb. 11, 2022.
Meanwhile, Kent’s day-to-day manager Chris Fox heard “Wild as Her” in the Combustion vaults and thought it was a good fit for his client. And Kent agreed, sensing that the woman in the song was independent like his wife, Dana.
“If she was having a good time, she would get up on a table and dance and everybody would stare at her like she’s crazy — and she would not care because she was having so much fun,” he says. “That is like the essence of what this girl in the song is about. You’re not going to control her, you’re not going to tame her. And the best way to make her fall for you, is to embrace who she really is.”
Kent was not intimidated by Wallen’s demo performance. “One of my childhood heroes is Kobe Bryant, and he was never afraid to guard the best,” Kent says. “That kind of mentality is how I approached the song: being competitive, but in a healthy way.”
But he and producer Chris Farren (Deana Carter, Jameson Rodgers) were determined to create greater dynamics in the end version, recorded at Nashville’s Sound Stage in November 2021. “I really wanted it to sound like a band, to sound real and authentic,” Farren says. “And we wanted it to be guitars front and have some attitude. The bridge is something that we’re pretty proud of because that was something we kind of evolved. The bridge comes way down. We wanted to kind of take you on this emotional ride and then explode at the last chorus.”
Farren pulled together a small ensemble – drummer Fred Eltringham, bassist Jacob Lowery, keyboardist Gordon Mote and guitarists Rob McNelley and Ilya Toshinskiy – that set an emotional foundation for Kent’s interpretation of the song, including its challenging 12- and 13-note runs. Farren, who sang harmonies for “Wild as Her,” understood the degree of vocal difficulty, since he sings harmony on the recording.
“It’s an open note, and there’s not other consonants to help you attack the note,” Farren assesses. “Typically, when you get to reattack the note with a consonant, or another word, it’s just easier. When you hold those long notes, and then you move all around on the same vowel sound, that shows a lot of strength, a lot of control.”
The song went to streaming providers in the spring and surpassed the commercial performance of Kent’s previous work, although as “Wild As Her” gained steam, it also inspired a good chunk of the audience to go back and hear his catalog, solidifying his brand. Sony Music Nashville, recognizing the single and Kent’s catalog, signed him to a recording contract and ultimately released “Wild” to country radio via PlayMPE on July 18 the same week it moved into the top 20 on Hot Country Songs through sales and streaming consumption.
Archer was ecstatic to see “Wild as Her” get its due. “I’ve been in love with this song since the day we wrote it,” she says. “I’ve been having internal temper tantrums about it not getting cut. You know, there’s just a handful of songs that you that, for me, check so many boxes. Plus, I know it’s got what I think is the ‘it’ factor for a hit song. You just get a feeling about a song, and I had that feeling from day one.”
“Wild As Her” moves to No. 23 on the Hot Country Songs chart dated Aug. 20 and provides yet another set of challenges as Kent moves forward with his career. “I feel like I’m chasing two dreams at the same time,” he says. “I’m trying to build a family and become the kind of dad that I’ve always wanted to be and be a good husband, and also trying to be a rock star at the same time. It’s kind of this crazy, ironic thing to try to do both.”
Maybe even wi-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ild.