Sometimes pure, honest simplicity is what makes a song great. Local alt-country songstress Whitney Mann has mastered the art of artlessness with her new song, "Been Thinkin a Ways," whose unpretentious charm has mesmerized audiences at her recent gigs opening for country legends Willie Nelson and George Jones.
The song's melody is one you might expect to hear at a campfire, a small country church or a tiny town tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains. In actuality, it's a hymn to love written right here in Madison.
Mann says the song grew out of a night in the basement with Kyle Jacobson, her boyfriend, manager and bandmate.
"I started singing to him, 'I been thinking of ways, how I'm gonna spend all my days showing you how much you mean to me. I been thinking of ways, how I'm gonna spend all my days loving you,'" she recalls. "It came out of me in a very genuine, organic way. I didn't set out to write a love song. I was just messing around."
At first, the couple considered turning these two lines, which comprise the song's chorus, into a more complex tune, but they soon realized how powerful they were on their own.
"We sat on [the song] until a few days before we were to head into the recording studio. Then I picked up my guitar and said, 'Okay. Let's write this,' so we each took turns writing verses," Mann says. "Our own individual verses obviously directed to the other person. It became a very intimate, personal duet."
Jacobson describes the tune a bit differently: as a simple expression of some pretty deep feelings. Though the song came about quickly, the sentiments behind it have been growing for quite some time.
"It's a honey song," he says. "Whitney and I have been dating for almost four years now. We bought a house together this year, and those feelings, of course, happen to come out in song every once in a while."
The couple soon shared the lovey-dovey tune with their friends, one of whom captured it on a Flip camera and shared it on YouTube. Pretty soon, Mann had a viral hit on her hands, at least in Madison circles.
Though it's a home video, it seems to capture the raw beauty of the song. Plus, it inspired Mann and Jacobson to share it live, even though it hasn't been released on an album yet.
"Everyone likes a good a cappella breakdown with harmonies, and that's probably my favorite part of the song," Jacobson explains.
That said, a slicker version of the song may be hitting the Internet -- or television -- before long. Whitney's dropped hints about creating an "official" video for the song in the future, and it seems that the band's got the right connections to make it happen.
"She got a lot of compliments on this song at her shows with Willie and George," Jacobson says. "It seems to be one of those songs that people relate to." Here's how Mann performed the tune for George Jones fans earlier this month.
More music and information about Whitney Mann is available on her Facebook and MySpace pages. She will be performing songs by request, including this tune if asked, in her latest monthly show at the Alchemy on Wednesday, November 17.
MadTracks highlights songs performed by local musicians. All content is provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.