By Courtney E. Smith
One of the most affecting singles from Luke Bryan’s Crash My Party is “Drink A Beer.” The track, written by Jim Beavers and Chris Stapleton, tells the story of a man missing someone who is gone–a universal story that Luke Bryan makes incredibly personal in his vocal interpretation.
“Somebody emailed it to me, I listened to it and it just tore me to pieces,” Bryan says of the first time he heard the song. “I knew that it was going to really be an amazing thing for me. I walked up onto my tour bus that same night and played it for my bus driver and the band. I think it floored them too. We were blessed to get our hands on that one.”
Stapleton isn’t just the co-writer of the song; his distinctive vocals can be heard on Bryan’s recording of the track, for which he sang background. Stapleton says he and Beavers were trying to find an interesting angle for a song called “Drink A Beer” that wasn’t a party song. The two options they came up with were either in celebration of some life event or in remembrance of someone who’d passed.
“I wrote the song with Jim Beavers and he walked into the session with the entire chorus already written. He didn’t necessarily know what the verses should be about,” Chris Stapleton recalls. “Me being me, and slightly morbid sometimes, I thought maybe it should be about somebody that passed away.”
Stapleton says the song came from a writing session between himself and Beavers, who came armed with the chorus already written and Stapleton repeatedly insists he was “just trying not to mess it up.” It was a perfect match for Bryan.
“The beautiful thing about Luke Bryan recording this song is that it was written from a fictitious place,” Stapleton says. “When Luke took it on as a song that he wanted to perform, that’s when it got legs and got life, because of some of his family history and some losses he’s had…I have to credit Luke, it was a good pairing of an artist and a song. Sometimes that’s when the magic happens: when the right song gets with the right artist. That was one of those times.”
Bryan’s special connection to the song was evident in his CMT performance, which later became the music video. In it he pays tribute to his two deceased siblings, Chris and Kelly. Chris died in a car accident in 1996 and Kelly passed unexpectedly in 2007 after collapsing in her home.
Bryan only began publicly talking about these tragedies in late 2013, around the time “Drink A Beer” was released as a single.
Watch this year’s ACM Awards airing April 19 at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.