Country Throwback: Story Behind Carrie Underwood’s ‘Jesus Take the Wheel’

by Quentin Blount
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Not everyone knows the story behind the the famous Carrie Underwood hit “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

According to co-writer Brett James, he didn’t have much faith in the song “Jesus, Take The Wheel,” which he wrote with Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson in 2005. He says the song barely made the cut when he chose five songs to record as demos. 

The song tells the story of a young mother hitting a patch of black ice on the road, and recommitting herself to Christ when she comes to a safe stop.

James said that day started out as just another day of writing music at Lindsey’s house.

“We were trying to think of ideas, and Gordie walked in and said, “I have this title, and I don’t know what to do with it: ‘When Jesus Takes the Wheel.'”

James and Hillary both laughed.

“I thought it was kind of silly, to be honest with you,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘What in the world does that mean?'”

After discussing five or six other song titles to write about, the group went back to Gordie’s idea. Sure enough, they started writing it about a girl driving on Christmas Eve with a baby in the backseat of her car. It evolved into “Jesus, Take the Wheel” soon after that.

Meanwhile, James says his wife had a similar experience to the girl in the song.

“My wife had a car crash when we were dating. She nearly died. Her car spun around several times and went under an 18-wheeler. She said she saw angels come help her. She walked away with no injuries. I thought it was interesting that she had that same situation happen to her like the girl in the song.”

James believes it became such a great song because it relates to people.

“Those songs are really special.”

Fate was meant to be as the song came along at the perfect time for Carrie Underwood. After winning “American Idol,” “Jesus Take the Wheel” became the first single on her debut album, and a staple of her concerts ever since. James said that after Carrie recorded it, he knew that they had the right artist and the right song.

“That will always be one of the most special songs to me.”

The song spent six consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. It also earned a Top 10 spot on the Christian Songs chart (No. 4), and a Top 20 spot on the Hot 100 (No. 20). Further, it landed a Top 30 spot on the Adult Contemporary chart (No. 23).

“Jesus, Take the Wheel” has been certified multi-platinum and was nominated for numerous awards. It won Single of the Year at the ACM Awards and two Grammys, for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song.

Outsider.com