The Story Behind the Song: Rascal Flatts, “Banjo”

Written by: Tony Martin, Wendell Mobley, Neil Thrasher
Recorded by: Rascal Flatts
Peak Chart Position: No. 1 Billboard Country

When and where did you write “Banjo”?

Wendell Mobley: I remember I was driving up my street on my way home and Neil and I were on the phone talking about an upcoming write we had with Gary LeVox at Gary’s ranch to write the song “Changed” which is the title track of the new album.

I’d written there a few times but it’s so far out and so backwoods that every time I go I have to get new directions. I mean you’re literally counting telephone poles, bridges, creeks, donkeys … all kinds of country-ass landmarks.

The last few roads do not have names, not kidding! Neil hunts out there and actually has property connected to Gary’s so he can do the drive blind folded. For some reason during this particular refresher course he ended the long drawn out directions with “and you go and you go and you go … till you hear a banjo” and we both just broke out laughing and said, “let’s write that!” We were with Tony Martin the next day as I recall and just knocked it all out that day in my studio.

(Wendell Mobley)

How much did you edit it? Were there any phrases or words you recall that were especially tough to make a final decision on?

Not much editing. It was a fairly painless process, and I’m thankful because that’s not always the case!

What do you most enjoy about writing songs? What do you most like about writing Thrasher and Martin?

It takes a while to find the guys that you’d be hanging with whether you were writing or not, but Neil and Tony are both good friends and great hangs. It makes for good chemistry!

Step outside of the song for a moment. How would you describe “Banjo” as a music fan?

Fun, light and easy! Just a good kick ass summer song!

How did the song reach Rascal Flatts and get chosen for a single?

When Neil and I showed up at the farm to write “Changed” with Gary, I had just gotten the mix of the demo back and the second we sat down at the kitchen table I played it
and asked Gary if he wanted to hear directions to the farm. He flipped over it and wanted to hear it again and said, “We’re cutting that! Make sure it’s locked down!”

Walk us through a typical day in the life of Wendell Mobley.

First thing I do when I wake up is go for at least a 4 or 5 mile run, and even farther some days. I have to get a good dose of endorphins to get my brain firing on all cylinders. I figure if I’m not good to myself then I’m definitely not gonna be good to anyone else. So after that it’s figure out what we’re gonna write that day and then do a short lunch somewhere or order in. I hate long lunches! I’m pretty sure the only people that love long lunches are the same people that hate their jobs. So anyway the quicker we’re back from lunch the quicker we’re back at it and hopefully get done at a decent hour and disperse before traffic gets too heavy. Perks!

Any words of wisdom or advice for aspiring and newly professional songwriters, regarding both the craft and business?

Do what you do, and be yourself.

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