Story Behind the Song: Way Down the River

I wrote the song Way Down the River with my Producer, Billy Smiley, while my husband and I were living in Nevada. My husband was a cowboy on a fairly remote, large cattle ranch there. My producer came to the ranch so we could do some writing for my new album “Canyons and Cathedrals” because it was a difficult time for me to be traveling to Nashville . . . my youngest daughter was 2 months old and the other was 2 years old. A trip to town for groceries consisted of a 6 hour drive round trip, not including stops in town (or nursing sessions for the baby!). I had no one nearby to help with the kids and was feeling overwhelmed with the day to day chores AND trying to prepare for recording my first album later that summer. We still had most of the songs to write and I never felt like I had enough time to dedicate to the project.

So, just before Billy was to come so we could get to work, there was a break in the water lines at the ranch and we were without water for several days. Both my girls were in cloth diapers (because between a cowboy’s salary and our distance from town, there was no way we could swing disposables). That being said, I got waaaay behind on the mountains of laundry I had to do, let alone the need for running water for the necessities of the day! I felt like I was failing because I too distracted by life to even think about the upcoming cowriting session. My husband was getting ready for branding season which meant long days in the saddle, away from home . . . and I felt like I was drowning. Of course, I was pretty sleep deprived with a new baby in the house too! Yet I felt strongly that the Lord was paving the way before me to complete this project.


So often I try to do the Lord’s bidding in my own strength, from taking care of my family to songwriting and worship leading. He is always there, beckoning me to let go and let Him carry me. To rest in His unfailing arms and to forego the frazzled frenzy that I am so capable of working myself into.

 But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him]

shall change and renew their strength and power;

they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun];

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.

Isaiah 40:31 AMP

He is calling us to fix our eyes on Him through every moment. To bow in worship at the very thought of who He is, and with each glimpse of His incredible strength and majesty, to lift up His name in praise above all else. He will not fail us when we put all our trust in Him. In fact, that is the only way we will learn to soar. He is ever calling us “way down the river” – to that place where we can find our completeness in Him alone through all the ups and downs of life. He is ever ready to carry us to that place.

 You will guard him andkeep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind
[both its inclination and its character]
is stayed on You,
because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.
So trust in the Lord
(commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever;
for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].
Isaiah 26:3-4 AMP