Dwight Yoakam has written some great songs over his 30+-year career, like “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” and “I Sang Dixie,” but at the same time has never been averse to covering a classic, like Buck Owens’ “Close Up the Honky Tonks” or Joe and Rose Maphis’ “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music).” And he’s also been smart enough to know a hit by another writer when he hears it, which is how he came to record “Ain’t That Lonely Yet,” the song that won him his first Grammy award.
The story of how an old lover wants to come back and make amends, “Ain’t That Lonely Yet” was written by James House and Kostas. Kostas already knew Yoakam and had had several originals cut by him when “Ain’t That Lonely Yet” was written. The song’s subject matter may not have been all that unusual, but the lyrics of
Now once there was this
Spider in my bed
I got caught up in her web
Of love and lies
She spun her chains
Around my heart and soul
Never to let go
But I survived
were pretty original. House, who is most recently a co-writer of bluesman Joe Bonamassa’s, recalled how he and Kostas came up with the song.
“We had already been working on another song idea for a couple of hours but it had gotten stale so we decided to take a break,” House said. “We started talking and Kostas asked me if I was going to get back together with my estranged girlfriend and I said, ‘I ain’t that lonely yet,’ and we looked at each other and said, ‘let’s write that’.”
“I grabbed my guitar and started singing the verse melody and Kostas was furiously writing lyrics,” House continued. “After 10 or 15 minutes he sang the first verse to the melody I was playing. The chorus fell out of him as we were jamming it out. I knew it was a special song when Kostas looked up with a smile and sang the lyric about the spider in my bed. You know you’re onto something when the lyrics are coming as fast as you can write them, I think there were four or five more verses that we didn’t use.”
While getting a cut is next to impossible for most writers, it can be easier when a writer is well-connected to a successful artist. “Kostas was writing with Dwight a couple of weeks later and played him the cassette work demo we did,” House said. “If I remember right it was recorded fairly soon and released within a couple of months.”
While House is a successful international country artist in his own right, he said he’s not sorry that Yoakam had the hit on this song. “Dwight and [producer] Pete Anderson took the song to a whole other level and made it a timeless country record, for which I will always be grateful.” BMI recently awarded House and Kostas a Three Million Radio Airplay Award for “Ain’t That Lonely Yet.”