Story Behind the Song: Chris Young, ‘The Man I Want to Be’

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By The Boot Staff   theboot.com

Chris Young released “The Man I Want to Be,” penned by songwriters Brett James and Tim Nichols, in November of 2009, as the third single from his album of the same name. The poignant tune became Young’s second consecutive No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in May of 2010; it also earned a spot in the Top 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 48). Below, James tells The Boot about writing “The Man I Want to Be.”

I’ve written two “prayer songs”: “Jesus, Take the Wheel” [for Carrie Underwood] and “The Man I Want to Be.”

Tim is one of my good songwriting buddies. He walked [into our writing appointment] with that song title. Ironically, it doesn’t strike me as an in-your-face title like “Jesus, Take the Wheel” or “The Truth” [a chart-topping song co-written by James and Ashley Monroe and recorded by Jason Aldean]. I thought, “The title doesn’t make you interested in knowing what the song’s about.”

Tim had a couple of lines already about wanting to be a good man and a “be like I should man.” When that came out of his mouth, we started digging into that idea. I said, “What if we make it a prayer? What if he’s talking to God about changing his life?” Make it that he’s having a conversation with God — not just a friend. That’s when we really started finding that song, when we turned it into a prayer.

We all can relate to that — wanting to be a better person and a better man. We wrote it from the heart about wanting to be better people and wanting to make changes in our own life. The second verse, we thought we had to bring in the girl and why he wants to be that better person. It’s a big part of the reason you want to change your life, to make better for people around you.