The title of Darren Hanlon’s upcoming album is actually a loaded question: Where Did You Come From? That’s because Hanlon wrote many of the songs in his native Australia, but recorded the tracks across the South — with Memphis, Muscle Shoals, Nashville and New Orleans among his destinations.
However, Hanlon cut “Chattanooga Shoot Shoot” in Clarksdale, Mississippi – but had to get permission to do it. Musically speaking, it’s got the same feel as a Johnny Cash travelogue from the 1950s with the narrative wit and rhyming schemes approaching that of Roger Miller. Where Did You Come From? drops on March 24. Listen to the CMT Edge premiere of “Chattanooga Shoot Shoot,” then read a Q&A with Hanlon below the player to find out more.
CMT Edge: How would you describe the recording studio where you recorded “Chattanooga Shoot Shoot?” What do you remember most about that particular session?
Hanlon: It’s not a functioning recording studio, more like a derelict building … but dripping with nostalgia and history. It’s where the old WROX radio station used to operate from 1945 to 1954. On my brief visits to Clarksdale I’d heard it was there so I did some research and found the name of the owner and contacted him. He graciously let us in for a day, I had a tape machine brought down from Memphis and I sourced local musicians I’d seen play in the area.
The room felt like it had been frozen in time. The DJ booth still had the decks and xylophone — for special announcements — still there. The soundproofing panels were falling off the walls, pigeons had infiltrated and there was a thick layer of dust over everything. I was told later that Elvis recorded on that very spot a few times.
What sparked the idea for writing “Chattanooga Shoot Shoot”?
The title mostly. I thought I couldn’t let that one go! I knew, though, that it was bordering on being something extremely cheesy. I had to tackle it carefully. But that was how it started anyway.
I can tell you had a lot of fun rhyming and letting the story unfold on this song. Did you know where the plot was going as you were writing it?
I knew where the plot was going because it all happened to me exactly how the song says! The hardest part was editing. I wrote a lot more verses … passenger police report, passengers threatening to sue bus company, etc. … but it was blowing out past 10 minutes! I thought it might turn into a room-clearer. So I just kept the most necessary bits.
Do you feel like there’s a classic country influence to your songwriting?
I grew up listening to a lot of Australian country music so it’s bound to come through somehow. I even did some touring with our own country legend Slim Dusty when I was young. I love the tradition of the old-fashioned show, where there’d be comedians, yodelers and such, a real variety show. There’s a beautiful brevity in a lot of the country music I like. I think that’s something I have to study more. As you can see from this song I tend to ramble on a bit.