The ‘Lone Ranger,’ and Semi-Mythological Meaning Behind Chris Stapleton’s ‘Higher’ Hit “White Horse”

In literature and mythology, the white horse has often symbolized some form of salvation. Someone riding astride a white horse is often looked at as a savior or hero. When Chris Stapleton wrote “White Horse,” from his fifth album Higher, he debunked any mythologized images of someone, specifically a cowboy, coming to the rescue, particularly in matters of the heart.

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Stapleton’s Meaning

In “White Horse,” the protagonist is honest. He’s not the knight in shining armor (or cowboy) riding a white horse that the other person is romanticizing and he needs more time to open his heart.

This love is getting kind of dangerous
Feels like it’s a loaded gun
My-my, it’s turning like a cloud of dust
My heart always wants to run

If you want a cowboy on a white horse
Riding off into the sunset
If that’s the kind of love you wanna wait for
Hold on tight, girl, I ain’t there yet
No, I ain’t there yet
No, I ain’t there yet

Chris Stapleton 'Higher' album cover

Further in, the narrator tells the enamored one that he still has things to take care of before he can love someone.

Someday, maybe you could have your way
Right now’s just not the time
Some things a man just got to do
I wish you could change my mind

‘The Lone Ranger’

Co-written by Stapleton and Dan Wilson, “White Horse” was originally written for the 2013 film The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp but was never featured.

“I walked in the room to write with Dan at his house, and he said, ‘Hey they’re looking for songs for this ‘Lone Ranger’ movie,'” remembered Stapleton. “I said, “Cool, let’s write something. What do you know about it?” He goes, ‘Well, we don’t really know anything.’ I was like, ‘Well, let’s just make a song that might sound like that.” And so, that’s kind of where that came from, and we got to talking about how it would be cool to have a kind of rock-driven-western-themed song.”

When Stapleton finally released “White Horse” in July of 2023 it went to No. 7 on the country chart.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ACM

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