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Caleb Followill on why he didn’t want ‘Sex On Fire’ to be on ‘Only By The Night’

Kings of Leon‘s Caleb Followill has revealed why he didn’t want ‘Sex On Fire’ to be on ‘Only By The Night’.

The frontman previously decried the ‘Only By The Night’ anthem upon release, telling NME that he initially doubted the song’s quality but was persuaded by his bandmates to finish writing it.

“I just had this melody and I didn’t know what to say,” he said. “Then one day I just sang “This sex is on fire” and I laughed. I thought it was terrible, but the rest of the band were like, ‘It’s good, it’s got a hook.’ I was like, ‘Fuck off!’ but I ended up writing it.”

Now, in a new interview with NME ahead of the release of the band’s ninth album ‘Can We Please Have Fun’, Followill shared why he initially did not what ‘Sex On Fire’ on their 2008 LP.

In the chat, the band discussed the fact they there was no pressure from labels with their new album. “There was more freedom as far as knowing that this record isn’t gonna be finished and then you’re gonna have a couple guys in suits come sit down and be like, ‘That’s a single, that’s a single,’” shared Caleb’s brother and bandmate Nathan.

“Usually whatever the label likes,” Caleb added, “I’m like, ‘Oh, I hate that.’ A lot of times they’re right and it ends up being successful.”

The frontman used ‘Sex On Fire’ as an example and said: “I didn’t want it on the album. But I knew it was…I knew it had potential, but I felt like there were other songs… I knew instantly: ‘Everyone’s gonna hear this and they’re not gonna listen to the rest of [the album].”

‘Sex On Fire’ was the lead single from Kings Of Leon’s fourth album. The track earned the band their first Number One single in Australia, Finland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, charting at the top spot on digital downloads alone in the latter country, before its physical release.

On September 2009, the song became Britain’s second most-downloaded digital single ever. It landed the Number One spot on the US Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart and Number 56 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the band’s second highest-charting song there on the former chart.

The band earned their first Grammy nominations in 2008 with the track in the categories for Best Rock Song and Best Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group, with the group winning the latter. ‘Only By The Night’ was also nominated for Best Rock Album.

In a 2021 interview with NME as part of The Big Read, Caleb re-evaluated his comments on ‘Sex on Fire’, softening his stance and admitting that the track allowed the band to transform from rock outsiders to stadium mainstays.

“There comes a point when you can either be proud of what you’ve accomplished or you can still sit back and be sour over it,” he said.

He continued: “My sour side was never because of the music itself, it was because I thought we should have gotten that kind of recognition earlier on in our career.”

Reflecting on the huge success of ‘Only By The Night’, he added: “When lighting strikes, it strikes. There’s no way you can recreate it or bottle it up. Without that album, who knows if we’d still be making records today.”

Caleb also recently recalled hearing the track on the radio for the first time in an interview with USA Today‘s Ralphie Aversa.

“I remember I was at a Mexican restaurant with my wife, we were having like a tortilla soup and margaritas, and I think Andy our manager called me and said ‘Hey, there’s an interview we need you to do like right now’,” recalled Caleb.

He continued: “I picked up the phone and it was Zane Lowe and he was debuting ‘Sex On Fire’. When he introduced the song, even like hearing it over the phone, I was like ‘Oh man, this does feel different’. So we got shots to go with our margaritas.”

The band’s ninth full length album, ‘Can We Please Have Fun’ is set for release on May 10 and is available for pre-save/pre-order here. The LP follows Kings Of Leon’s previous release, 2021’s ‘When You See Yourself’.

In other news, Kings Of Leon recently announced a bonus version of their upcoming album that will include live tracks from their huge 2023 shows in Wrexham. You can find out more and buy yours here.

They are also set to embark on a run of UK/Ireland and North American tour dates later this year, including a headline performance at BST Hyde Park 2024 in London. Find any remaining tickets (UK/Ireland) here.

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