The Story Behind “The Climb”

The songwriter, Jessi Alexander, was “so torn down and broken” she didn’t even know she’d written a worldwide smash

By kncitom on April 28, 2020
NASHVILLE, TN – MARCH 01: Singer/Songwriter Jessi Alexander performs during The First And The Worst To Benefit Music Health Alliance featuring Garth Brooks, Lee Brice, Jessi Alexander and Bobby Bradock at City Winery Nashville on March 1, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Singer/songwriter Jessi Alexander has made quite a career for herself as one of country music’s most in-demand songwriters. Since coming to Nashville in the early 2000s, she written or co-written major hits for Blake Shelton (Mine Would Be You, Drink On It) and Lee Brice (I Drive Your Truck, which was both the CMA and ACM 2013 Song Of The Year). She also written songs for Reba, Trisha Yearwood, Eric Paslay, Patty Loveless and Morgan Wallen. 

But success didn’t come easy. In my latest podcast episode of Write You a Song, which drops Friday on all podcast platforms, Jessi explains that her first hit- which became a multi-genre, worldwide smash- came at a low point in her career. 

The song? Miley Cyrus’ The Climb.

That’s a song that came out of sheer frustration-ten years almost to the mark that I had moved to town and hadn’t had a hit and I was very, very frustrated during that time in my life“.

She said one morning she was driving to a songwriting session, thinking about quitting music altogether, when a melody popped into her head.

It was really the chorus. And I can remember thinking, ‘this sounds like a standard, could this be written?'” 

That’s a big thing for songwriters: they have to constantly be aware of subconsciously using lyrics or melodies from songs that are already out in the world. So she discussed the song, and her worries, to her songwriting partner that day, John Mabe- who she calls “another underdog”.  They didn’t end up writing anything to it that day, but once they knew the melody was original, they went to work on it at another songwriting session and found a way forward.

It’s really just me and (him), kinda, pouring our hearts out at how hard the struggle was.”

Did either of them have any idea they’d written something special? Jessi says at that point in her career..? No.

I was so torn down and broken as an artist, as a songwriter, that I didn’t even know. I just thought it was another song that no one would ever hear.

That’s a pretty harsh thing to think to yourself, which is why, Jessi says, it was so rewarding when the song did what it did.

It was so bizarre… to have a song that I poured my heart out, to then be the song to be rewarded by, you know…to have a 15 week number one and to, you know, to go do way beyond my wildest dreams.…”

The funniest part of the whole thing is: Jessi’s been a fan of mostly just country music all her life, and didn’t really pay attention to artists from other formats. She said she had no idea who Miley Cyrus was, and for the song to become such a huge hit in other formats…?

It was just surreal“.

Hear Jessi talk about writing The Climb below, and hear our full conversation when Write You a Song drops this Friday. To find out more about my podcast, which features 18 monthly episodes talking to hit songwriters like Josh Osborne, Shane McAnally, Brandi Clark, Kelly Lovelace and Jeffrey Steele, click here 





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