5 Country Lake Songs Sure To Keep You Afloat

With meteorologists declaring the summer of 2024 among the sweltering on record, the lower 48 states are hotter than a firecracker. There’s not much country music fans love more than the idea of an icy beverage, a fishing pole, and an uninterrupted day on the lake. Whether you’re hopping in a boat at the nearest lake, fishing from the bank, or just dreaming about it, set the mood with five of country music’s most festive lake songs.

Videos by American Songwriter

Chris Janson, “Buy Me a Boat”

Chris Janson couldn’t afford a boat before he penned this summertime lake staple with Chris DuBois. Janson was an independent artist in the spring of 2015 when he released “Buy Me a Boat.” He wasn’t looking for a record deal, but he did want to tour. He released “Buy Me a Boat” to iTunes so his fans would have new music to listen to—and he’d have a new song to sing on the road.

He and his wife – now manager – Kelly Lynn Janson worried they didn’t have enough money to pay the musicians on the song. And there was absolutely no budget for a photographer. Kelly took the picture for the single art on her daughter’s iPhone.

The family went on vacation, and when they got back home, Janson sent the song to a few of his friends at country radio. The next morning, Bobby Bones started playing the song, and by the time Janson heard about it, “Buy Me a Boat” was already No. 1 on the country iTunes chart.
“Buy Me a Boat” launched Janson’s career. He just celebrated his fifth No. 1 hit, “All I Need Is You.”

Little Big Town, “Pontoon”

Little Big Town’s career needed some levity and a shot in the arm. “Pontoon,” a laidback ode to sunshine and relaxation, gave country music’s beloved vocal group just that. Little Big Town won a Grammy Award for their performance of the lake song.

Particularly timely this summer, lyrics include: 5 mile an hour with aluminum side| Wood paneling with a water slide| Can’t beat the heat, so let’s take a ride.

The song’s success meant the group’s value went up and songwriters started pitching them better songs to record.

Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman told The Tennessean that they had “never been afforded so many good songs” as they were after “Pontoon.”

“We used to have to write everything or search high and low for great songs,” she said. “But we were afforded a lot of amazing songs, and it’s all about the song.”

“Pontoon” was even front and center when Reba McEntire invited Little Big Town to join The Grand Ole Opry. The Country Music Hall of Famer jumped in, singing the lyrics on the Opry stage. The group’s Karen Fairchild called it “the best night of my life.”

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, “Fishin’ In The Dark”

This classic isn’t really about fishing, but this sing-along favorite is among the most adored songs in country music. Wendy Waldman and Jim Photoglo wrote the ditty, which is a euphemism for having sex.

Lyrics include: You and me go fishin’ in the dark| Lyin’ on our backs and countin’ the stars| Where the cool grass grows| Down by the river in the full moonlight| We’ll be fallin’ in love in the middle of the night| Just movin’ slow

Photoglo told NSAI’s Bart Herbison that he had written a bouncy melody that he loved but didn’t want the song to be about fishing. Waldman insisted it was “Fishin’ In The Dark.” Photoglo said they “wrote it for fun.”

“Fishin’ In The Dark” was more than a No. 1 song for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – it became a country culture phenomenon. Garth Brooks recorded and released the song multiple times, and Kenny Chesney has been known to cover it.

Twenty-seven years after the song’s release, Billboard reported that it still received so much radio airplay that if it were a current single, it would be No. 57.

Jake Owen, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”

Dylan Altman, Terry Sawchuk, and Eric Paslay wrote “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which Owen introduced to the country music media by taking them for a ride in a boat on the lake. The Undeniable feel-good summer tune became his first No. 1, and Owen called it the “biggest song I’ve ever had.”

“I think it’s because people understand and see me as that guy,” he told The Tennessean. “I was born and raised in Florida. It’s kind of what I do, and it’s how I live my life.”

Since then, Owen has released other water-centric songs, including “Beachin'” and, most recently, “On The Boat Again.”

Brad Paisley, “I’m Gonna Miss Her”

Brad Paisley may have this 2002 lake song to thank for his 21-year marriage to actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Paisley had fallen for his wife when he saw her star in “Father of the Bride.” He made it his mission to meet her and started the conversation by asking if she’d appear in one of his music videos. She agreed, and fans can watch the actress scale her skills to the small screen in Paisley’s humorous “I’m Gonna Miss Her (the Fishin’ Song).”

Lyrics include: Well I love her| But I love to fish| I spend all day out on this lake| And hell is all I catch| But today she met me at the door| Said I would have to choose| If I hit that fishing hole today| She’d be packing all her things| And she’d be gone by noon
The song became Paisley’s third No. 1 hit.

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