The deep, abiding love men have for their trucks is the subject of the latest single from the platinum-selling James Barker Band, “New Old Trucks.” It’s also what makes huge numbers of country music fans relate to the song, according to singer/guitarist James Barker, who wrote it, along with Jordan Minton, Hunter Phelps, and Casey Brown, at Brown’s house in Nashville.
When the songwriters gathered to share ideas, they discovered that both Minton and Phelps had the song title in their notes. “We all knew what it was going to be about,” Barker says. “It instantly clicked when we heard that phrase. And the fact that two of us already had it – we were, like, ‘It’s a sign.’ It was really quick to write. Casey is such a good producer, and he was building up the track as we were doing it, and it just kind of came together.”
Things are also coming together for the James Barker Band, who toured the U.S. and Canada in 2021, and have a popular multi-channel livestream series, with 200 million global streams. In the past few years, the band has amassed six gold-certified and two platinum-certified singles, which include “There’s A Drink For That,” “Just Sayin’,” “It’s Working,” “Lawn Chair Lazy,” “Good Together,” “Summertime,” “Chills” (platinum) and “Keep It Simple” (platinum), and a gold-certified EP (Game On). Barker also recently landed his first publishing deal, with Keith Urban’s Kobalt-administered BOOM, and the band has signed a U.S. record deal with Sony Music Nashville and Villa 40.
“New Old Trucks” is a nostalgic ode to beloved trucks, especially a specific one. “Off-white 350 Farmer Four / Gotta pump the throttle, gotta slam the door,” it begins, continuing with lines about the “dent from a fencepost I didn’t see coming,” and a chorus that goes, “Daddy had it for the first hundred K / I drove the rest, wouldn’t sell or trade / That many miles of memories for a million bucks / ‘Cause they ain’t making new old trucks.”
“Dierks said, ‘This song is about my truck!’”
“People relate to it because it’s real,” says Barker, who grew up in rural Ontario, along with bandmates Taylor Abram, Connor Stephen and Bobby Martin. “I never had a truck that I inherited from my dad, but my best friend in high school did. And another buddy cranked a fencepost in a field, and had to drive his truck around with a dented door for four years. Every time I hear that, I laugh.
“Shared experiences are such a key part of songwriting. It’s kind of the magic of it – finding a way to pull those same memories out of the listener, but not being so specific that they can’t relate to it. And that’s what we shot for with this song: making listeners think of their own first truck, or the one they still drive.”
That’s what made country star Dierks Bentley (with 17 of his own Billboard U.S. No. 1 Country singles) want to contribute a vocal to the track, after the band’s AR representative played him the demo while they were – of course! – driving in a truck. “Dierks has this old truck that he inherited from his dad, and it’s a white Chevy with a 350 in it,” Barker explains. “So he said, ‘This song is about my truck!’ It sounds contrived, but we didn’t know that when we wrote it. He was, like, ‘I want to sing on this song,’ and he did. It was wild.”
Those shared experiences also led to a smooth songwriting session. “It’s a back-and-forth process,” Barker explains. “We’ll get the pulse of everyone in the room – who’s more of a lyricist and who’s more melodically inclined – but everybody contributes and molds things. Somebody has to be the first to play something, and somebody else will say, ‘That’s cool, but what if this chord changed here instead of here,’ or something. And that’s how that song went. That’s how it always goes. It’s never one person having the whole thing figured out; it’s always all the writers.
“Writing should feel intuitive,” he adds. “Everybody has biases from what they’ve listened to, and you kind of need everybody’s collective melodic memory to make sure you’re doing something that’s going to be intuitive for other people. I feel like that’s what happened with ‘New Old Trucks.’”