Alan Jackson Sites Justin Timberlake as New Song’s Inspiration

"SexyBack" led to a fun track on 'Where Have You Gone.'

Alan Jackson Sites Justin Timberlake as New Song’s Inspiration
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - APRIL 18: In this image released on April 18, Alan Jackson performs onstage at the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards at the Ryman Auditorium on April 18, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ACM)

Country icon Alan Jackson released his 16th studio album today (May 14), giving fans another dose of his classic-country style with Where Have You Gone. But some of the old-school set features a decidedly new-age backstory.

Chatting about the project for Today’s Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen on Apple Music Country, Jackson said his new track “Back” was inspired by none other than pop superstar Justin Timberlake. Specifically, the former NSYNC frontman’s “SexyBack” megahit.

“Well, it started as a joke, really, I don’t know, several years ago,” Jackson told his host. “I don’t know about the other music so much, but my kids were talking about that Justin Timberlake had this ‘Bringing Sexy Back’ song and they were just laughing and talking about it. And I hadn’t even heard it and they were just laughing, and I said, ‘Well, I think I’m going to write one about I’m going to bring country back.’ And I was just teasing you know.

“Anyway, they kept asking me about it every now and then so I ended up writing it,” he went on. “But I didn’t write it from a position that I’m going to bring country back. I think it was just more of a fun song and I ended up taking all these memories, visual memories of things that I remember growing up in the South in a small town, which is so relatable to country music.”

The two songs may not have a whole lot in common, but the connection shows how open minded Jackson is — even as one of traditional country’s proudest champions. Both things can be true at the same time. He went on to say that a lot has changed since his last album release six years ago, and that he wrote the 15 of 21 songs on Where Have You Been with the help of his smart phone. Jackson had been recording song ideas as voice memos (often in his underwear, he joked), and so the new tunes found him sifting through hundreds of partial hooks and lyrics.

“It took me forever to get them off the telephone,” the living legend said.

Meanwhile, Alan Jackson says he knows this new music probably won’t get much attention from mainstream radio. It’s likely “too country.” But at 62 years old, Jackson doesn’t much care. He’s been there and done that.

“I’m not bitter about it. I don’t care,” he explained. “But it just takes pressure off of you. Don’t have to worry about, do I need to try to record something for radio? Try to get on radio or singles. I’ve won every award multiple times, most of them. And I’m proud of that, but I don’t care if I get nominated for anything. I don’t care if it’s on the radio. And it’s not sounding mean, it’s just the truth. I just wanted to make the kind of music I love and I know most of my fans love.”