Poetry in Motion
A songwriter pays tribute to the industry she grew up in
By Katie Dodd
For any country songwriter, getting the call that the legendary George Strait has recorded your tune is excitement enough. But for Nicole Witt, it had a more personal meaning. “Brothers of the Highway,” a song she co-wrote with Doug Johnson and Kim Williams, is about the industry her dad devoted his career to — trucking.
“My dad worked for Roadway Express for 32 years doing every job under the sun — except driving!” she says with a laugh. “He started out loading trucks, and for the last 10 years before he retired, he was a terminal manager in Springfield, Missouri.”
The trucking lifestyle always fascinated Witt. So when she gathered with two songwriter friends three years ago for a session, and someone suggested writing a modern trucking song, she had an idea of what she wanted to convey.
“I’ve always thought driving must have the same kind of freedom I feel as a musician and songwriter,” she says. “It’s a little bit of a gypsy feeling — the freedom of the open road.”
Johnson had the idea to start the chorus with the line, “Brothers of the highway, children of the wind,” and the trio added, “Sailin’ for that settin’ sun, freedom’s your best friend.” The truck is described as a “Detroit Diesel pirate ship,” and there’s a nod to the fact that, while their trucks run on diesel, drivers get their energy from “truckstop coffee.”
But Witt also wanted to communicate the positive effect trucking has on Americans’ day-to-day lives. “I don’t think the normal person gets that their clothes, their food, their everything is transported by truck drivers,” she says. “For me, the song was kind of a thank you to drivers, a tip of the hat to these men and women, and how much their work means to our country.”
Witt says “Brothers of the Highway” has always been a favorite of her dad’s, for obvious reasons, but when he heard it would appear on George Strait’s latest album, he “freaked out.”
While the song has yet to be released as a single, Witt says she has her fingers crossed. “I sure hope that this song has a chance of making it to radio,” she says. “Because a lot of people need to hear it!”