More often than not, great country songs are inspired by real relationships. Whether it’s about a failed marriage or meeting the love of your life, some of country’s most beloved songs have been penned about real life romantic encounters. Here are some of country’s best known love stories and the real people who have inspired popular country songs.
Thomas Rhett’s Wife, Lauren
In a world of country songs about weekend romances set in jacked-up pickup trucks, Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man” is a rare jewel of a modern country song about long term commitment and a real life love story. The song was inspired by Rhett’s relationship with his wife, Lauren. The song, written by Rhett, Sean Douglas and Joe Spargur, the song remained on the top of the charts for 17 weeks in 2015 and caused Rhett’s career to skyrocket.
The high school sweethearts married in 2012. Earlier this year, the couple welcomed their adopted daughter Willa Gray Akins. Lauren gave birth to their second daughter Ada James Akins over the summer.
Lauren Akins even appears in the video for “Die a Happy Man” with Rhett.
Chris Janson’s Wife, Kelly
Chris Janson has been vocal about how meeting his wife Kelly changed his life. Being a songwriter, Janson put the feeling down in words in the 2016 single “Holdin’ Her.” Written with James Otto, “Holdin’ Her” follows the trajectory of Janson’s life as a lost, single man to a husband and father.
Janson and Kelly married in 2010. The couple has four children, two from Kelly’s first marriage.
Sam Hunt’s Wife, Hannah Lee Fowler
Perhaps no recent country music love story is more storied than that of Sam Hunt and his wife, Hannah Lee Fowler. Fowler inspired Hunt’s R&B-influenced breakout 2014 album Montevallo. In fact, the album is named after Fowler’s hometown of Montevallo, Ala. The couple dated off and on for nearly 10 years before rekindling their romance in 2016.
Hunt’s song “Drinkin’ Too Much” even addresses the unwanted attention the album brought to Fowler.
Guy Clark was one of the most prolific songwriters in country music and, for that, we should be thankful to his wife, Susanna Clark. Clark, an incredibly talented songwriter and painter, was a muse to both Guy and Townes Van Zandt. “L.A. Freeway,” a staple of the Outlaw Country movement mentions her by name (“Oh Susanna, don’t you cry, babe/ love’s a gift that’s surely handmade”), while “Stuff That Works” and “My Favorite Picture of You” take inspiration from their decades-long love story.
Alan Jackson’s Wife, Denise
Sometimes country songs are most powerful when they come from someone looking back on a life of triumphs and struggles. Alan Jackson wrote “Remember When” about his life with his wife, Denise. The couple, who were high school sweethearts, married in 1979. They have three daughters.
The best known couple in the Outlaw Country movement and one of the most enduring country loves stories ever, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter are proof that people can stick together even during the toughest times. The first song Jennings wrote after he and Colter started dating was “This Time,” a song about compromises in relationships. But the best known song written about Colter is the Waylon and Willie classic “Good Hearted Woman.” The song, about a woman who sticks by a rambling man’s side through thick and thin, symbolized Jennings’ relationship with Colter, who helped him overcome his personal struggles.
Colter, an immensely talented singer and songwriter in her own right, returned the favor. Colter wrote “Storms Never Last” about her relationship with Jennings. The couple married in 1969 and stayed together until Jennings’ death in 2002. They had one son together, country singer-songwriter Shooter Jennings. An Outlaw and a Lady, a memoir about Waylon and Jessi’s life together, was published earlier this year.