Covering a song that falls outside of a band's typical genre can be tricky for a variety of reasons, especially when a legendary artist originally recorded the tune in question. Warrant, which is best known for glam-metal hits like "Heaven" and "Down Boys," faced such a challenge when it was tasked to create a cover of country icon Merle Haggard's 1980 No. 1 hit "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink" as part of its partnership with Professional Bull Riders (PBR), a pro bull-riding organization headquartered in Pueblo, Colo.
However, longtime Warrant bassist Jerry Dixon says that devising the proper interpretation to the Hag classic was as easy as "Cherry Pie," the band's pastry-themed ode to sex that broke the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1990.
"Eerily, it was much like the song 'Cherry Pie.' Our biggest hit was actually an afterthought," recalls Dixon of how both of the songs came together. "The entire album had been done, gear torn down in the studio, and we were starting to mix the other tracks when we then recorded 'Cherry Pie.' This time, we were recording our new record, Louder Harder Faster, while chewing the fat with [PBR CEO] Sean [Gleason] about the reality of recording the Haggard track. Once again, the gear was torn down, and the album was just about in the can. We ran it by the band and producer, set the gear back up, and laid it down in few hours.
"The magic happens when you're not thinking about it," he adds. "The track felt perfect from the first note."
Given the nature of bull riding, Warrant felt that the track needed to be as high energy as possible. "Any time you cover a song, it's a fine line between clever and stupid," says Dixon. "The song was already great, but we had to make it groove in a Warrant kind of way. Once we found the groove, it provided the high energy to keep up with the riders, the bulls, and the PBR atmosphere."
Dixon is excited that Warrant's PBR partnership includes airing the band's version of "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink" at the seven PBR-themed bars in the United States (located in cities like Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Baltimore; two more will soon open) every evening at midnight. Billboard has the exclusive online premiere of the video, which was shot in Anaheim, Calif., at the Honda Center in February prior to the PBR Built Ford Tough Series. Watch it below:
Warrant's association with PBR sprung from Dixon's fascination with bull riding, which he says began in 2014 when he moved to Las Vegas and was invited to the PBR World Finals. "I didn't know much about professional bull riding but was completely blown away by the entire atmosphere," he says. "It didn't take long to realize that most of the in-house music was rock. The next day, I called my partner [Warrant guitarist] Erik [Turner] and was ranting about the bad-ass PBR championship, the amazing action on the dirt, the incredible rock music they played, and that we had to get involved somehow."
Fast forward to 2016, and Warrant was playing a veteran's benefit concert, Freedom Fest, in Littleton, Colo. (The band will repeat the gig on June 17.) Gleason happened to be at the show and liked what he saw, so he contacted Warrant's agent and booked the band for the 2016 PBR World Finals in Las Vegas, which the group will play again in November.
"When the offer came in, I remember scratching my head, wondering, 'Who wants Warrant to play a PBR event?'" says Dixon. "Even without knowing the details, I was so hyped up that we were in the sights of the PBR. The whole band couldn't wait to play the finals, and when it happened, right outside our dressing room door was a six-foot-four cowboy staring down, saying, 'Hi, I'm the reason you're here.' It was Sean. We shook hands and immediately hit it off."
Don't expect to see any Warrant members trying to ride a bull for eight seconds, though. The band is quite happy to leave that to the professionals.
"We can play shows in front of 60,000 people, write music, make records, and defy the worst odds in the music business. But you will never see us on the back of a 2,000-pound bucking bull," declares Dixon. "It's honestly the most insane thing I've ever seen and best left to the few people on God's green earth with the balls to do it night in and night out. Hats off to the PBR riders and the bull athletes who these tough, half-crazy cowboys challenge."
Warrant formed in Los Angeles in 1984. In addition to charting nine singles on the Hot 100, its albums Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich and Cherry Pie were both certified platinum, and its No. 2-peaking ballad "Heaven" was certified gold. Louder Harder Faster is due May 12 on Frontiers Music Srl, and will contain the Haggard cover.