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Wright Thompson’s ‘Gainesville’ puts him in the songwriting game with Drew Kennedy

Wright Thompson captures the Florida Gators atmosphere. (Scott Clarke/ESPN Images)
Wright Thompson’s songwriting debut carries the title, “Gainesville,” a familiar spot for fans of College GameDay. (Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)
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Gainesville

Drew Kennedy / Wright Thompson


Gainesville on a Friday night
Corner table, closing time
Counting tips a waitress sighs
In Gainesville on a Friday night

If everything runs clean and smooth
I know the tricks, I know the moves
A poet does what poets do
If everything runs clean and smooth

If this is the last call for alcohol
Make it strong, Makers neat, if you please
And let the buzzards pull this buzz from me

New York City subway train
Detroit taxi, Cleveland rain
In Baton Rouge or Coeur d’Alene
Everywhere feels the same

If this is the last call for alcohol
Make it strong, Makers neat, if you please
And let the buzzards pull this buzz from me

We can talk tomorrow night
I’ve got to go, if that’s all right
The doors are closed we’re clear to fly
To Gainesville on a Friday night
To Gainesville on a Friday night

And if this is the last call for alcohol
Make it strong, Makers neat, if you please
And let the buzzards pull this buzz from me
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At his website, singer/songwriter Drew Kennedy explains that “words, in case you were wondering, mean a great deal to me.”

Those words are music to the ears of Wright Thompson, senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. Known for his elegant prose and keen eye for detail, Thompson dabbles in poetry and lyric writing.

Wright Thompson
Wright Thompson

“But I’ve never done anything with them,” he said.

Until now. With Monday’s release of Wide Listener, Kennedy’s sixth album, Thompson can now lay claim to the title of “lyricist.” The album’s eighth cut, “Gainesville” was co-written by him. Thompson said he wrote it at a time he “was feeling pretty burned out.

“The song is about something almost everyone who works at ESPN – or anyone who travels a lot – can relate to: getting on a plane to fly into some place, ending up alone in hotel bars watching the world go by, moving from city to city, airport to [rental car] counter to [hotel] and back again,” Thompson said, who when he’s not writing for ESPN.com and The Mag also makes films and does voiceovers.

Kennedy, who lives in New Braunfels, Texas, and Thompson share a mutual love of sports and songs.

“I’m a fan of Drew’s songwriting, and he’s a sports fan, so he and I struck up a friendship,” Thompson said. “I just love his records and find his songwriting literary and smart.

“This time, I decided to send what I’d written to Drew to see if he thought it might be worth making into a song,” he said. “Drew could also relate to the theme of being on the road, since he’s constantly traveling around, playing shows, making a living.”

Thompson sent Kennedy some lyrics and the chorus.

“He liked the idea, and took a couple of lines from my chorus and added some of his own and built something actually musical around it,” Thompson said. “He wrote all the music and he and I wrote the lyrics together. It was the first song I’d ever completed and sent to someone, so when he told me a few months ago it would be on his album, I sort of floated around my house.” (He also humblebragged a bit on Twitter:)

As for the song’s title, Thompson, who lives in SEC country in Oxford, Miss., said it has no special meaning beyond “Gainesville” being a mellifluous word.

“I’m not sure why I chose Gainesville,” he said. “I liked the way the word sounded. Same for Detroit, and Coeur d’Alene and Baton Rouge.”

-Carrie Kreiswirth contributed to this post

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