Elle King Sends Tyler Childers-Penned “Jersey Giant” to Radio

It’s still inexplicable how Chris Stapleton’s version of “Tennessee Whiskey” was never released as a radio single. It’s the biggest song in country music in the last 10 years and is Certified 14-times Platinum. But since doing anything in the country radio business is as arduous as turning a battleship around, his label couldn’t adjust on the fly and get the song to the radio format after he performed it on the 2015 CMA Awards.

Say whatever you want about Morgan Wallen or Jason Isbell. But if Morgan Wallen’s version of “Cover Me Up” had been released to radio, it would have been a #1 for Wallen, and a #1 for Isbell as a songwriter, and probably considered for the CMA Song of the Year. This was another missed opportunity for a quality song to get mainstream radio attention. Wallen’s version still went #15 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, and 4-times Platinum.

Right now, the Luke Combs version of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” is one of the hottest songs in all of music. It’s #11 on Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100, and #2 on the Hot Country Songs chart. But his radio single is currently “Love You Anyway.” In this instance, radio is saying “screw it,” and playing “Fast Car” anyway. As “Love You Anyway” sits at #15 on country radio and climbing, “Fast Car” sits at #21 right now, up from #28 last week. “Fast Car” had the most increased radio audience for any song last week.

Sometimes songs can create their own momentum, and no matter what Music Row focus groups are telling labels, the labels should listen to the fans themselves, and jump on board instead of getting in the way. Luckily that is what is happening with Elle King’s version of “Jersey Giant,” originally written and performed by Tyler Childers some 10 years ago, but never recorded in the studio.

“Jersey Giant” is a unique composition for Childers since it features a bridge within the verse/chorus structure. Some may see it as sacrilege that anyone but Childers recorded this song in the studio first, but apparently when Tyler’s label RCA asked who else could record the song, Childers specifically requested Elle King. She also happens to be signed with RCA, which facilitated the collaboration. The theory was since Childers will never record a studio version of the song himself, someone should. According to Tyler, he was tired of the song shortly after he wrote it.

Elle King does “Jersey Giant” justice by connecting with the Appalachia folk/bluegrass lineage native to Tyler Childers songs. Elle King first released it as a standalone single in November of 2022. Since then the song has received some 20 million global streams, and it’s getting about 500,000 streams a week. Since it was so well-received, King decided to put it on her recent album Come Get Your Wife, and now RCA has decided to send it to radio.

“I was so humbled when Tyler asked me to record the song,” says King. “And then earlier this year he surprised my fans and joined me on stage in Lexington, KY. That was a badass moment for me personally.”

There is a fly in the ointment though. As some folks were celebrating the release of “Jersey Giant” to radio last week, they failed to mention that the target for it is, “Americana, Triple A, and non-commercial radio” according to RCA, though it’s available to all formats through the Play MPE format, including mainstream country.

“Jersey Giant” is a hit. The numbers don’t lie. It could be a big opportunity for Elle King, and for a song penned by Tyler Childers if country radio picked it up. Or, like “Tennessee Whiskey,” “Cover Me Up,” and others, it could be a lost opportunity.

If country radio is going to survive in the streaming age, it needs to be light on its feet, with a wet finger in the air judging where the winds are blowing, and most importantly, lead instead of follow. Spying a single like “Jersey Giant” and serving it to listeners is exactly what radio and labels should be doing as opposed to pushing whatever then next generic single is from the next generic country dude just because it’s their turn.

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