Songs of Summer Barbecues, Sponsored by Jack Daniel’s
American Songwriter has partnered up with Jack Daniel’s across Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama to identify some favorite Songs of Summer Barbecues. During the series, American Songwriter will be taking a deeper dive into songs that have become as essential to barbecues as grills, good food, and friends. If you’re 21 and older, be sure to make Jack Daniel’s part of your next summer barbecue, and please remember to always drink responsibly!
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There are a few songs that have teleporting powers. “Toes” by Zac Brown Band is one such song.
From the opening chords, we’re immediately reminded of what it feels like to be on the beach with our toes in the water and ass in the sand. Zac Brown’s account of a beach vacation and his band’s supporting instrumentation classifies “Toes” as a staple summer song. Or a staple we-wish-it-was-summer-again song.
Getting into specifics of this beachy tune, Zac Brown wrote the song with bass guitarist John Driskell Hopkins and songwriters Shawn Mullins and Wyatt Durrette also helped pen the track. “Toes” was eventually released in 2009 as a single from the band’s album The Foundation.
So, in the spirit of being surrounded by water, let’s dive into the story behind the song lyrics.
The meaning behind the song lyrics
While it’s not difficult to discern the overall meaning of “Toes”—it’s a song about getting away to the sandy shores—there are a few clever nuances that have elevated the lyricism in this song.
The first instance of the songwriter’s quick wit is the line is Concrete and cars are their own prison bars like this life I’m living in. This line contrasts the bustling routines of city life with the slowed-down pace of a beach town where people live on island time. This juxtaposition emphasizes that going to the beach can alleviate some of the stress of day-to-day life.
Secondly, the two lines Adiós and Vaya con Dios/ Yeah I’m leaving GA, add another dimension to this escapist tune. The Spanish line Adiós and Vaya con Dios translates to Goodbye and go with God. Here, Brown is essentially saying, “Peace out and God bless.” Additionally, the “GA” refers to the state of Georgia, Brown’s home state. So, altogether, Brown has artfully ditched his “normal” and is getting the hell out of dodge.
Where the inspiration for “Toes” came from
“Toes” first came about when Durrette was struck with inspiration while actually at the beach.
“I went to the Keys with four of my friends for four days,” Durrette said in 2015. “On the morning of the third day, I turned to my friends and said, ‘I’ve got my toes in the water, ass in the sand, not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand. Life is good today, life is good today.’ I said that whole line. So I called Zac to tell him that we needed to start working on this song.”
Brown added: “I had played a show in Atlanta and had gotten out at two or three in the morning. I’d driven back to my house, which was an hour-and-a-half drive. It was 5:30 in the morning, and my house phone rang. It was Wyatt. He was at the beach, as he often is. He loves to be at the ocean.
“That was the beginning of it all. I don’t know how long after that it was when we actually finished it. I remember [working on the song] in a hotel room somewhere, at the bonfire at my farm, and out on the road. It all kind of runs together.”
So, take it from Zac Brown and crew, teamwork makes the dream work, folks.
Photo by Danny Clinch