Cody Johnson Watching My Old Flame Cover
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‘Watching My Old Flame’ by Cody Johnson - Lyrics & Meaning

October 25, 2023 3:08 pm GMT
Last Edited December 19, 2023 10:41 am GMT

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Cody Johnson - ‘Watching My Old Flame’

Label: CoJo Music / Warner Music Nashville

Release Date: September 22nd 2023

Album: Leather

Producers: Trent Willmon

Songwriters: Clint Daniels, Wynn Varble & Kat Higgins

The Background:

Despite Cody Johnson's new album, Leather, being billed as a more ‘fun’, light-hearted project than 2021's Human, the ‘Til You Can't’ hitmaker has thankfully made room for a handful of vulnerable, broken-down ballads in addition to the more uptempo barn-stormers.

‘Watching My Old Flame’ is the perfect example of CoJo showcasing his tender side, with the song's protagonist staring forlornly into hazy bar-room crowd to see his ex moving on with another man.

Released in September as a surprise song alongside ‘Work Boots’ ahead of the new album, Leather, ‘Watching My Old Flame’ followed in the stripped-back footsteps of the intricate lead single, ‘The Painter’, which arrived on streaming platforms the previous month.

The double drop of ‘Watching My Old Flame’ and the comparatively playful ‘Work Boots’ ensured listeners’ expectations remained sky-high as Cody Johnson's Leather roll-out picked up pace, heading into the keenly awaited November 3 release date.

The Sound:

When you have lyrics as affecting and sinuous as those for ‘Watching My Old Flame’, it's safe to say the composition doesn't need to be coated in excessive production or glossy flourishes.

Cody Johnson and his producer, Trent Willmon, make a point of shining the spotlight on ‘Watching My Old Flame’s spellbinding lyrics, with Cody singing the majority of the ballad alongside a peacefully melancholic acoustic and steel guitar blend.

As well as highlighting the track's lyrical depth and wittiness, this sparse instrumentation gives room for Cody Johnson to lace as much emotional weight into his charismatic baritone as possible, with the listener hanging on every word of the despondent song.

The cry of the steel guitar is amplified throughout the final two choruses, with Cody Johnson mirroring this crescendo by accentuating the emotional intensity of his vocal delivery, as the song's protagonist drops his guard and shares the full scale of his heartbreak.

The Meaning:

“She’s slipping on that black dress

That’s showing every curve

Letting out her long hair

So beautiful it hurts”

The introspective track pivots around a clever piece of wordplay, with Cody Johnson bemoaning the fact that he has to watch “his old flame go out” on the town.

This carries a veiled meaning, with the lyric also conveying the protagonist's realisation that the flame of passion that once flickered for him has now been well and truly extinguished.

‘Watching My Old Flame’ opens with a sensual, longing description of an ex-lover, with the songwriting trio of Clint Daniels, Wynn Varble and Kat Higgins making it clear throughout this first verse that the song's protagonist has lingering feelings for her.

“She’s off to paint the town

Like those lips she painted red

Nothing I can say to stop her

That I ain’t already said”

Via another deftly composed piece of wordplay, the protagonist uses the colour of her lipstick as a metaphor for the manner in which she's about to go out and ‘paint the town red’.

He admits that he's already tried desperately to win her back and stop her from moving on, but Cody Johnson underlines how this is a lost cause. She's off to have a good time, and any fire she once harboured for our protagonist is now nothing more than dying embers.

“It’s been over for a while and we both know it

I keep praying maybe she might turn around

If there’s a least bit of a spark left she don’t show it

Yeah she’s moving on from me there ain’t no doubt

It’s the hardest thing

Watching my old flame

Go out”

Heartbreakingly, the idea for this song originated from Clint Daniels’ divorce, where the two partners were still living together, yet his ex-wife was already seeing someone new.

The hook captures the rawness of the wound, which is further aggravated by the fact that the protagonist still sees the previous lover on a daily basis. He feels as though he's being forced to watch her move on from behind a glass screen, without any power or means of changing the agonising story unfolding before his eyes.

“The minute she walks in somewhere

Heads are gonna turn

The whiskey ain’t the only thing in me that’s gonna burn

I know she’s out there looking for a brand new fire to light

And the way the wind’s been blowing

She won’t be home tonight”

Due to the beauty that our protagonist sees so vividly in his ex-partner, he has no doubt that there will be a sea of men lining up to try and gain her attention when she strides into the bar.

Through the titular metaphor, Cody Johnson brings to life the powerful juxtaposition between the scorching burn of his lonesome whiskey-drinking - exacerbating the pain of his heartbreak - and the fire his old flame is seeking to light during her night on the town.

What has Cody Johnson said about ‘Watching My Old Flame’?

During a conversation with Billboard ahead of the Leather release, Cody Johnson delved into why he chose to record ‘Watching My Old Flame’ for the new project, “It’s a great play on words. Usually when I hear a song, I don’t want to know who the writers are on it, because a lot of times you get surprised”.

CoJo went on to explain, “But here, I know Clint personally and he pitched me the song and it was very personal for him because it was about his divorce. He explained, ‘We knew we were going to divorce but we were still living together while we sorted it out and she was seeing somebody else’. I went, ‘Wow.’ He was literally watching his old flame go out”.

For the full lyrics to Cody Johnson's ‘Watching My Old Flame’, see below:

“She’s slipping on that black dress

That’s showing every curve

Letting out her long hair

So beautiful it hurts

She’s off to paint the town

Like those lips she painted red

Nothing I can say to stop her

That I ain’t already said

It’s been over for a while and we both know it

I keep praying maybe she might turn around

If there’s a least bit of a spark left she don’t show it

Yeah she’s moving on from me there ain’t no doubt

It’s the hardest thing

Watching my old flame

Go out

The minute she walks in somewhere

Heads are gonna turn

The whiskey ain’t the only thing in me that’s gonna burn

I know she’s out there looking for a brand new fire to light

And the way the wind’s been blowing

She won’t be home tonight

It’s been over for a while and we both know it

I keep praying maybe she might turn around

If there’s a least bit of a spark left she don’t show it

Yeah she’s moving on from me there ain’t no doubt

It’s the hardest thing

Watching my old flame

Go out

Just go out

It’s been over for while and we both know it

And there ain’t a chance in hell she’ll turn around..

If there’s a least bit of a spark left she don’t show it

Yeah she’s moving on from me there ain’t no doubt

It’s the hardest thing watching’ my old flame

Go out

Go out”

For more on Cody Johnson, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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