This Ain’t The 90’s: Miranda Lambert and “The House That Built Me”


Brent is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ray Stevens, and more.  He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.

First of all, “The House That Built Me” is one of the strongest hooks I’ve heard in forever.  Strong.  But, of course, a great title is only part of a commercial hit.  A big piece of the puzzle is writing that hook in a way that fits the commercial marketplace, and this is where I want to focus today.

In the 1990’s, the winning way to write “The House That Built Me” would’ve been to make it a 3-act play:

1st verse: I was a kid, put my handprints in the wet cement, etc.

Chorus: That’s the house that built me.

2nd verse: I was stuck in my bedroom after getting grounded, and that’s when I started playing guitar.

Chorus: That’s the house that built me.

Bridge: I came home to find myself again.

Chorus: That’s the house that built me.

Makes sense, right?  That would be the country 101 way to write it.  But today, most everything is “in the moment.”  Look at how the writers, Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, still get in a bunch of snapshots of the singer’s past, but frame them in the present.  Those handprints in the front steps ARE mine.  My favorite dog IS buried in the yard. Great work.  The 1990’s were awesome, but this ain’t the 1990’s anymore.

God Bless,



Anything you’d like to add or ask?  Leave a comment!  Are there any topics  you’d like to see addressed in a future MvR post?  Thanks!


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12 thoughts on “This Ain’t The 90’s: Miranda Lambert and “The House That Built Me””

  1. More lessons from this song:

    I’ve heard Tom Douglas say it took he and Allen Shamblin YEARS of rewriting to get to the final version of the song that Miranda cut! (Songwriters reread that previous sentence  again!)

    They even pitched an early version(s) of it to Woody Bomar who was underwhelmed and the rejection challenged them to improve it. How easy would it have been for (arguably) two of the best writers in the business just rail against the industry and give up on the song before it was truly finished?

    Ultimately the song wasn’t even pitched to Miranda Lambert but instead to her husband Blake Shelton. Makes you wonder if the song would have ever made it to her? Fortunately it did and became her fastest rising single when it was released.

  2. Hey Brent, I like following your posts. I learn a lot…and I hope you become the next songwriter star…(part of that wish is because I’m the word guy too).

  3. The first time I heard that song I immediately flashed back to my childhood home even tho my memories where totally different from that which the song itself sang of. That “connecting” feeling that struck a chord in us all was heard and noted when this “connect-the-dot” message made us all relate to something that we all at some point have felt, but up until that time (for whatever reason) no one had ever verbalized. “The House Remembers When” is a great song … so moving that I immediately learned to play & sing it, because it’s one of those “touch you” songs that allowed you to verbalize something that we all have felt but for whatever reason, as a people, no one had yet brought to the surface! A new song for its time with a new sense of discovery. Refreshingly written.
    Just my comments.
    Linda Mckenzie

  4. I’m going to take a bit of an exception to this. If you have a great hook and strong vivid compelling lyrics it doesn’t matter if you’re in the past, present or future. It’s what best delivers the story you’re telling. Grab the listeners attention ASAP, get to the hook and stay tight to the hook.

    1. Jeff,
      Thanks for the comment. I agree with you if you’re just talking about writing a great song. However, I was commenting on what is actually getting cut (for the most part) these days I mainstream commercial country. I’m not saying one way is better than another- I’m just doing the math. It could all start shifting tomorrow, but it is what it is right now. Again, thanks for giving me the chance to clarify. God bless.

  5. That song is great, but to me, thinking about ‘old house’ songs, it’s not as rich as Wisteria by Richard Shindell. And Wisteria WAS written in the ’90s…just wasn’t on the radio. Maybe ahead of his time…

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