Jeffrey Steele Reveals the Story Behind "What Hurts the Most"

(recorded by Rascal Flatts)

"The Hitmen of Music Row"'s Jeffrey Steele.

Written by Jeffrey Steele and Steve Robson

"After I'd written "These Days" with Steve Robson from Newcastle, England, I was sent back to London to write with him for two weeks. We wrote a bunch of songs but there was one track we never finished. Six months went by and Steve came back to the states and played this unfinished track in hopes of finishing it.

So I listened to it just one time through and my eyes were just emotional with this music. Like I've mentioned before, I've never just written lyrics to somebody's music. Normally I've always been a part of the musical process where I'm playing piano and guitar, so it was definitely a new experience to just write lyrics to an already existing track.

Anyways, after hearing the track a few times, I just started thinking about things. The song was originally inspired by losing my father and I just wanted to express something about it — but I ended up changing the meaning and I made it more of a love song, to be more universal. When I first heard the music it was just so sad, so this is what I started singing.

That's just what kinda fell out after listening to it a few times. I remember singing the track and Steve wanted to put it in a higher key so it would sound more emotional. I remember screaming it and losing my voice so many times, trying to get it right.

So after finishing it, he asked what I was thinking. I still said, 'No one's ever going to be able to sing it because it's too high. Lo and behold, Gary LeVox from Rascal Flatts heard it and loved it. Their producer, Dan Huff, loved it and ended up making a really great record.

The coolest part about the story was, the song was originally cut back in 2002 by Mark Wills but never released. I was a little bit sad because I was really close to the song and loved it. About a year and half later, Faith Hill cut it, so we really had our fingers crossed when she made her current album, which is out now.

However, near the end of the recording they ended up dropping the song off the record. Again, I was just really upset about it because I really loved the song and felt like it got away from us. So when I heard Rascal Flatts was going to cut it I was so excited. It's a song I'm really proud of and happy to have written with Steve — and that's my story!