Hang through the first chorus of Chris Bandi's new song "Would Have Loved Her" to get to the soul of a song that will absolutely rip your heart out. The lyrics — as seen in this new lyric video, premiering exclusively on Taste of Country — front as a conversation between a boy and his father. But then, everything changes.

Talking to Taste of Country, Bandi explains how the story of the lyrics dovetails with his own personal narrative and how key differences allow the song to remain accessible to fans. “It’s funny because we’ve had people say, ‘Hey, can you write a version where it’s mom? Or can you write a version where it’s brother?'" he says, smiling during a Zoom conversation.

Zach Kale wrote "Would Have Loved Her" with Bandi after the singer had taken the concept into several writing rooms, but failed to draw interest. The emotions behind his idea were fragile, but trusting Kale ("I Hope") wasn't difficult, as he had the death of his father to refer to. They gelled quickly and spent much of the first day just sharing stories before coming out of the room with a verse and chorus.

Listen to the song and absorb the lyrics before you read further:

The idea was inspired by the passing of his grandfather, Grandpa Bill, a Marine and the son of a Tennessee moonshiner until the tax man evicted them to Illinois. They were very close through childhood and into Bandi's early singing career. When he'd score gigs at a local bar, the Missouri native could count on a familiar face in the front row.

“We would play from 10 to 1 o’clock and he would be there all night long, into the wee hours of the morning and Grandma would be hitting him in the shoulder saying, ‘Hey, we gotta go’ and he wouldn’t leave," Bandi shares with a big smile. Bill died about five years ago — six months before Bandi met his girlfriend, Aimee.

"She's from a small town just like you / She's got a smile that could light up the room /
She's pretty as a hallelujah / But don't let it fool ya / 'Cause she'll dance when she drinks / And she'll just say what she thinks / She makes me a better man like you did / I miss you and wish you could just meet each other / 'Cause I bet you would have loved her," he sings at the chorus.

Kale has a similar story. In fact, the "Pops" in "Would Have Loved Her" is a reference to his dad, who also died before the songwriter met his wife and had a child. Bandi doesn't have kids yet, but by adding some space, he makes it possible to perform the song live (a stripped-down live version of the song has more than two million Spotify streams) and keep his composure. It's hard to imagine it being as easy for Kale, and it's certainly not easy to listen to. Recalling playing it for a record label representative, Bandi admits he smiled as the tears started pouring when he got to this part:

"Hey Pops, that girl I told ya 'bout / Yeah we, we've been married couple months now / And we saved you a spot next to momma on that front church pew / Yeah, I bet you would've loved our wedding band / I bet you would've slid in and stole a dance."

It's not until that "saved you a spot" lyric that listeners realize what's happening — it's a man having a tragic one-way conversation with his father.

"We wanted it to kind of hit you in the gut once you find out," Bandi says, and does it ever. He grew up on story songs and '90s country, so building a song that asks for your full attention came second nature. It didn't come together quickly, but word by word, note by note, everything found a place. It's the kind of tenacity you can only learn from a parent or grandparent.

"He was a very, very hard-working man," Bandi says. "His work ethic, I think, is one of those things that was instilled in me. That never quit and keep going."

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