It was a long and somewhat disheartening journey before Randy Houser’s “Boots On” saw radio success. Co-writer Brandon Kinney tells Sounds Like Nashville that several other artists almost recorded “Boots On” for themselves before Houser released it to radio in 2009. When the song eventually climbed to No. 2 on the country charts, the achievement surprised Kinney.
“Randy recorded it when he was with Universal and before that Montgomery Gentry wanted to cut it,” Kinney recalls. “They went in the studio with it and they ended up not doing it at the last minute. Chris Young had it on hold and Randy was like, ‘I’m going to record this song again,’ because he had a new deal. He said, ‘If it’s all right with you, we’ll not put that on hold for anybody else.’ So we pulled it from Chris and it became a big hit.”
Kinney says it was about four years from the day they wrote “Boots On” to the time it was released to radio. Houser recorded the song three times himself, for each of the labels he was on as well as his debut record, Anything Goes.
As Kinney explains, he and Houser wrote the song for their fathers. Kinney remembers having the idea for the title, either “These Old Boots” or “Boots On.”
“I just can’t remember, it was that long ago. It was something like ‘These Boots’ because I remember having that in my title. Sometimes we alter it as soon as we read it and I may throw out a different title,” Kinney explains. “Randy said, ‘I got this guitar lick that I came up with last night.'”
Liking Houser’s guitar part, the two began writing what would become “Boots On.” Kinney’s cowboy hat was sitting in the room as they were writing and proved to be inspiration for the song. On the chorus, Houser sings of going out “in my dirty ‘ole hat.” It was something Kinney could relate to himself. “I’m not one to dress up so going out to the bar dirty is my thing,” Kinney admits with a laugh.
Life often imitates art when it comes to songwriting and the line “with my crooked little grin,” was a nod to Kinney’s father.
“We were writing it about our dads. My dad had a crooked little grin,” Kinney recalls with a smile. “I was like, I gotta get that in the song, because it was important to me. He just had this weird-ass, crooked grin. I think [Randy’s] dad had just passed. We wrote that for his dad and my dad.”
Both their dads would be proud as the song became Houser’s first Top 10 hit and was named the No. 3 country song of the year in Billboard’s Year-End Hot Country Songs chart.