Singer/songwriter J.T. Harding has co-written hits for Keith Urban (“Somewhere in My Car”), Kenny Chesney (“Somewhere With You”), Blake Shelton (“Sangria”), Jake Owen (“Alone With You”) and more.
In 2016, J.T. scored his fifth No. 1 tune as a songwriter with Dierks Bentley’s “Different for Girls.” This year, he’s got his sights set on another possible chart-topper with Kenny Chesney’s “Bar at the End of the World,” which is currently No. 12 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart after 12 weeks.
J.T. sat down with Nash Country Daily to talk about the inspiration behind “Bar at the End of the World,” a song he co-wrote with David Lee Murphy and Aimee Mayo.
“A great friend of mine growing up, Greg, he moved to the Virgin Islands after college, and I go to visit him every year, sometimes twice a year,” says J.T. “And there are these bars there that you can only get to by boat, and when you get over there, there are no hotels, there aren’t any cars. But like the lyrics in the song, there are dollar bills all over the wall, there’s a gorgeous bartender wearing a ‘Dead Man Tell No Tales’ t-shirt—all these details from the song are right from those places. I said ‘I’ve got to write a song about this place,’ but I didn’t know what I was going to call it. I didn’t want to call it ‘Beach Bar’ or anything like that.
“Fast-forward about five or six months, I was visiting my brother in Boston, and we were driving and there’s this really, really old place called Tavern at the End of the World, and when I saw the sign, I said ‘Oh man, that’s my song title for my Virgin Islands song,’ but who’s going to sing the word ‘tavern’ besides Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean? So I thought I’d call it ‘Bar at the End of the World.’
“I knew I had an appointment with David Lee Murphy on my writing calendar. So I saved it for him and I was with [songwriter] Aimee Mayo, and I told David Lee the images and the titles and then David Lee just started strumming like the great songwriter that he is, and he just came right up with that opening lyric ‘There’s a trail of smoke coming out of a bottle / If you look real close, you can see it right there,’ and we were just off and running.
“On the way to that writing appointment, I had seen that it was 20 years to the day that [David Lee’s] ‘Dust on the Bottle’ had reached No. 1 [in 1995] so I just thought that there were good vibes all the way around. We wrote the whole song right then and there, and then we recorded it in our phones and Aimme, I believe, just emailed it to Kenny.
“Kenny did something really incredibly clever. The pre-chorus that says, ‘We’ll pull the ropes off the boat / We’ll throw ’em up on the dock’—we only had that in our song one time, but it’s a very catchy part so Kenny put it in twice before each chorus, and when I heard it I thought that was very clever. He is a very smart man.
“I think the hardest cut to get is a song on a Kenny Chesney album, so it’s incredibly exciting and just having it on the album was honestly such a thrill. I was actually back in the Virgin Islands this year when Aimme texted me the artwork for ‘Bar at the End of the World.’ Although she didn’t say ‘Hey, this is gonna be a single,’ I thought if they are making the artwork, that’s a great sign, and sure enough it was.”