Turnpike Troubadours ‘Pay No Rent’: Lyrics & Story Behind the Song

by Clayton Edwards
turnpike-troubadours-pay-no-rent-lyrics-story-behind-song

The Turnpike Troubadours gathered a huge fanbase before going on a 2-year hiatus back in May of 2019. Since then, fans and streaming algorithms have introduced the Oklahoma-based band to even more listeners. Now that the band is back together, touring, and working on new music, their fanbase is growing again while those already in the fold become more passionate about the band. With a world of possibilities on the horizon, many listeners find themselves diving into the band’s five-album discography.  No deep dive into Turnpike Troubadours is complete without spinning “Pay No Rent” a handful of times.

Turnpike Troubadours included “Pay No Rent” on their 2017 album A Long Way from Your Heart. Like their other releases, the album contained a collection of songs that resemble short stories set to Red Dirt country music. Nestled among those stories is this deeply personal tune.

“Pay No Rent” by Turnpike Troubadours

  • Best Lines: It takes a lot of blood and tears just to really love someone / But when it comes back around / That’s heaven on Earth.”; “I traveled ‘round and I ain’t found nobody quite like you.”; “I hope you get some rest. / I hope you found everything that you wanted / In the place you loved the best.”
  • Release Date: October 20, 2017
  • Written By: Evan Felker, John Fullbright
  • Produced By: Ryan Hewitt

During Turnpike Troubadours’ performance at Paste Studios in 2017, Evan Felker revealed the story behind “Pay No Rent.” It started with a discussion about his hometown Okemah, Oklahoma and why he moved back there in 2012.  

The Story Behind “Pay No Rent”

Then, Evan talked about reuniting with his aunt. “I got back there and I got to be pals with my aunt, who I’d known forever… A lady named Lou Johnson who owns the Rocky Road Tavern. Owned. RIP,” he explained somewhat haltingly. “Anyway, we got to be big buddies,” Felker said. With a laugh, he added, “She was one of the only people in town who you could drink tequila with at 10 in the morning on a Tuesday which was one of the things that brought us together.”

The Turnpike Troubadours frontman went on to recount the conversation that led to co-writing “Pay No Rent” with John Fullbright. “It got down the road and she’d been sick for a while and was kind of on her way out. We’d been visiting and she said ‘Hey, you’ve got to play Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain by Willie Nelson at my funeral. You have to do that.’ And, solemn oath, yeah, I’m going to do that.”

However, Felker later found out that Johnson had that conversation with multiple people. “It comes time for the funeral and it turns out that everybody is playing ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’ because she’s gotten drunk and told everybody that.”

“So anyway,” he continued, “me and my buddy John Fullbright – who is a really great Oklahoma songwriter and an old pal of mine… – sat down and wrote it the night before and played it at her funeral. It’s a very dear song to me.”

Turnpike Troubadours “Pay No Rent” Lyrics

 [Verse]

I hear the clicking of the dominoes
You shaking up a game
And if we lose a hand
I bet I’ll know just who’s to blame
But if we hit twenty-one
If we make that call
I bet I sit here in my chair
Just feeling ten feet tall


[Verse]

And we’re caught up in the riff-raff
Circling ’round the sun
It takes a whole lot of blood and tears
Just to really love someone
But when it comes back around

That’s heaven on earth
You never know ’til the end, my friend
What your love is really worth


[Chorus]

Are you cracking jokes with the common folks?
Are you serving to the well-to-do?
I’ve traveled ’round
And I ain’t found nobody quite like you
And is all this living meant to be or a happy accident?
In my heart, you pay no rent
Well in my heart you pay no rent


[Verse]

I hear the crackle of a campfire
You’re howlin’ at the moon
We all know that you gotta go
But does it have to be so soon?
Bet somebody’ yelling last call
I hope you get some rest
Hope you found everything that you wanted
In the place you loved the best


[Chorus]

Are you cracking jokes with the common folks?
Are you serving to the well-to-do?
Well I’ve traveled ’round
And I ain’t found nobody quite like you
And is all this living meant to be or a happy accident?
Well in my heart you pay no rent

Well in my heart you pay no rent

[Verse]

Now we’re shakin’ up the dominoes
Beneath the neon lights
Knowin’ anybody else out there
 couldn’t put up a better fight
But the fightin’ time’s over and It’s all gone
You Pick up the pieces and we try to carry on

[Outro]

Are you cracking jokes with the common folks?
Are you serving to the well-to-do?
Well I’ve traveled ’round
And I ain’t found nobody quite like you
And is all this living meant to be or a happy accident?
Well in my heart you pay no rent
Don’t cost you nothing, not a single cent
Time together was time well spent
In my heart, you pay no rent
In my heart, you pay no rent

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