‘Just to See You Smile’ by Tim McGraw: Story Behind Early Mega-Hit by Country Legend

by Chris Haney

Country star Tim McGraw released one of his biggest hits “Just to See You Smile” back in 1997, but many fans likely may not know the full story behind one of his most popular songs.

Country musician Mark Nesler and famed country songwriter Tony Martin penned “Just to See You Smile.” Nesler had been working on elements of the song already when Martin overheard him playing it. Martin loved the work-in-progress so much that the pair threw out the song they had been working on. The two songwriters decided to put all their focus into “Just to See You Smile,” and not long after, McGraw took it to the top of the Billboard charts.

“I walked into the room and Mark was sitting there singing the chorus. He was singing ‘Just to See You Smile,’ and had nothing else. ‘Na na na na na.’ He said, ‘Is that too sing-songy?’ I said, ‘About a million dollars’ worth,'” Martin told Bart Herbison, executive director of Nashville Songwriters Association International.

The two were on a roll after writing the first and last chorus fairly quickly that day. Next, they began working on the second and third chorus. Before they knew it, the sun had gone down.

“Pretty soon, Mark’s producer, Jerry Crutchfield, cracks the door open. The light shows on us, and we look like mole rats,” Martin joked. “We’re like, ‘Don’t turn the light on! Don’t break the spell.’ So he closes the door and locked up, and we were just sitting in this dark building until we got it all done.”

Tim McGraw Was Not Necessarily Intended to Sing Their Song

After working all day and night, Martin and Nesler had completed the core of the hit song. The next day they went back to the studio to present the song. However, the people they were meeting with expected a totally different song. The songwriting duo told them to forget that other song.

“The next day, we showed up at the studio, and they go, ‘OK, where’s the song?’ Martin explained. “We said, ‘Forget that song.’ So they threw their charts out, and we played ‘Just to See You Smile.’

Many fans might think “Just to See You Smile” was written with McGraw in mind. However, that is not the case, according to Martin. In fact, they had no one in mind for their song. Additionally, the songwriter said that the one time they did try to write a song for McGraw, it ended up with country star Keith Urban.

“The majority of the time we don’t think of anybody. In fact the one time we tried to write a song for Tim McGraw was ‘You Look Good in My Shirt,’ and it ended up with Keith Urban. I don’t think I ever get it for the person I think I’m writing it for — so most of the time, we just write for us,” Martin said.

“Just to See You Smile” became the third single off of the country singer‘s fourth studio album Everywhere. The single went on to stay on the Billboard chart for 42 weeks. It became the longest-running single on the Billboard country chart since 1990, and was the longest chart run for any country single during the decade.

[H/T Tennessean]