It turns out that Justin Timberlake’s ecstatic CMA Awards performance with the night’s big winner, Chris Stapleton was a sign of things to come.
On Tuesday, RCA Nashville officially serviced Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” — from 2013’s two-part collection, The 20/20 Experience — to country radio. The soul-drenched tune about attempting (and failing) to medicate heartbreak, made for a show-stopping duet between Timberlake and Stapleton on the live CMA broadcast. Built around a driving acoustic guitar and a hypnotic, start-stop groove, “Drink You Away” covers thematic territory similar to Merle Haggard’s “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down.” And in a smart move for country radio, the radio edit of the tune has been truncated to just over four minutes from Timberlake’s original five-and-a-half minute album version.
Interestingly, “Drink You Away” has already enjoyed a life of sorts with the country industry. Back in 2013, Timberlake gave an interview on SiriusXM’s The Highway, saying, “It’s a country song to me.” Producer/songwriter David Fanning evidently agreed with that, releasing his own overdriven version of the song as his debut country single. Country music veteran Craig Morgan also took to covering “Drink You Away” in his live shows, complete with saxophone and B3 organ.
An avowed fan of country music, Timberlake has been making overtures toward Nashville for awhile, but has stopped short of explicitly announcing his intentions for a country record. Back in July, the Memphis native dropped $4 million on property in Leiper’s Fork, just outside Nashville, but has yet to reveal his plans for the land.