When Carrie Underwood released “Before He Cheats” in 2006 as a single off her post-American Idol debut album, Some Hearts, it quickly solidified itself as one of her signature hits. The song was destined for success, as it was penned by two of Nashville’s top songwriters who have a history of writing chart-topping songs. Below, meet the writers of “Before He Cheats,” Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins.
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Kear’s name is behind many of the hit country songs to come out of Nashville since the mid-2000s, with “Before He Meets” being one of the first. Among his other successful cuts is Lady A’s record-breaking “Need You Now,” with both songs winning Country Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards—”Cheats” winning at the 2008 ceremony, and “Need You Now” in 2011. Among Kear’s other notable songwriting credits are “Neon Light” by Blake Shelton, “Buy My Own Drinks” by Runaway June, Tim McGraw’s collaboration with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, “Highway Don’t Care,” Luke Bryan’s “Most People Are Good” and many more.
A native of Alabama, Tompkins moved to Nashville around 2002 and soon landed a publishing deal, scoring his first hit with Rachel Proctor’s “Me and Emily” in 2004. He’s also had cuts with Florida Georgia Line on “Get Your Shine On” and “Anything Goes,” Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ it Down,” “One of Those Nights” by McGraw, and others.
Over the years, Kear and Tompkins have proven to be a dynamic songwriting duo, co-writing several hits in addition to “Before He Cheats.” They found success with Underwood again in 2012 with her smash hit, “Blown Away,” which won Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance at the 2013 Grammy Awards. “Drunk on You” by Bryan, “Drunk on a Plane” by Dierks Bentley, “Helluva Life” by Frankie Ballard, Tyler Farr’s “Redneck Crazy” and most recently, Blake Shelton’s single “No Body,” are among the many other songs the pair have written together.
“I’d have to say Chris Tompkins is the most naturally gifted songwriter I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years. Besides being a wonderful collaborator, he’s also a very close and old friend,” Kear raved to Songwriter Universe. “I wrote a lot more songs by myself early in my career, and then I realized how much I could learn from all these talented people. I work hard at both lyrics and music, but I’m fortunate to be able to hang out and work with people whose particular strengths complement my own.”
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With “Before He Cheats,” Underwood proved she had the stamina to stand on her own after being crowned victor on season four of Idol. The song launched to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart where it sat at No. 1 for five weeks, in addition to making it into the top 10 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, remaining on the latter chart for 64 consecutive weeks, making it one of the longest-running singles in the chart’s history. She also won the Grammy Award for Best Country Solo Performance, and it was named Single of the Year at the 2007 CMA Awards.
I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive
Carved my name into his leather seats
I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights
I slashed a hole in all four tires
Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats
“I’ve been cheated on a time or two,” Underwood told Rolling Stone in an archived interview. “I wouldn’t recommend doing any property damage, though. I’m a ‘let it go, move on’ kind of person.”
Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for CMT