Lonestar Reflects on Importance of Hit 'I'm Already There' to Military Families: 'It Just Connected' (Exclusive)

"Hopefully, these are tears of joy, not tears of sadness," band member Dean Sams tells PEOPLE as they prepare to release forthcoming album 'TEN to 1'

<p>Taylor Ballantyne</p> Lonestar

Taylor Ballantyne


American Idol has had its share of emotional moments through the years, but there was one this past season in particular that got the attention of multi-award-winning country group Lonestar.

"My phone just blew up as soon as it aired," remarks Lonestar founding member and keyboardist Dean Sams during an interview with PEOPLE. "Seeing that girl sing, 'I'm Already There' and put her own stamp on it was so neat. I loved seeing how our music could be a connecting point for this young girl and her dad who served our country."

The moment was indeed a special one, as American Idol contestant Kaylin Hedges not only auditioned by singing the blockbuster hit that Lonestar took to No. 1 on the country charts back in 2001, but was also shocked when her father, Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Hedges, showed up after being stationed overseas in the Army.

"It was just very emotional to see," adds Sams. "That's the great thing about music. It can make people feel a certain way."

Certainly, "I'm Already There" has long pulled on the heartstrings. In fact, when creating the invigorating re-recording of their forthcoming album, TEN to 1, members of Lonestar knew that it had to be included on the overall project.

"We just wanted to add a different emotional context of the song," explains Sams. "We've just gotten better at putting our hearts out there all the way instead of 'playing this just right or whatever.' It's more of a feeling and an emotion as opposed to just playing the part."

But they were quite careful to not change "I'm Already There" too much.

"It's so identifiable when it comes on the radio that you don't want to just completely reimagine it, because it would really tick a lot of people off," remarks Lonestar drummer Keech Rainwater. "That's always been my take on it. Once it gets to be that big of a song, it doesn't belong to you anymore. People want to hear it like they're used to hearing it. Even though it's a new version of it, I still think that they want the same kind of feeling that they got when they first heard it."

<p>Taylor Ballantyne</p> Lonestar

Taylor Ballantyne


As the story goes, the song was originally written as the band found themselves on the road, missing their families while they went and made their professional dreams come true. But then, Sept. 11th happened, and the meaning of the song evolved dramatically. Following the release of the music video — which featured actual footage of military families — in 2003, "I'm Already There" became an unofficial anthem of the U.S. military.

"All these people were being deployed overseas for yearlong deployments, which was kind of unheard of before that," says Lonestar's guitar virtuoso Michael Britt, who is currently out with his Lonestar bandmates on their national headlining Ten to 1 tour, which will include a few dates at military bases around the country.

"It just connected them and we couldn't be happier about it, because we'd always tried to do things with the troops. Any kind of benefit that we could do, we always did. It was a perfect fit for us to just move into playing shows for our troops."

Related: Celebrity Veterans: Stars Who Served in the Military

And it's these troops that continue to raise "I'm Already There" up as the tears continue to fall.

"To see some of the strongest, most brave, tough-as-they-come people just have tears streaming down their face and holding their fists up in the air and singing every word, there's something magical and bonding about it," says Sams. "You don't really know what their story is exactly, but there’s a warm feeling because you know you've touched them in a way, but there's also a sad feeling because you don’t want to see anyone hurting. Hopefully, these are tears of joy, not tears of sadness."

<p>Taylor Ballantyne</p> Lonestar

Taylor Ballantyne


And while the "Amazed" hitmakers say they will never tire of hearing this pivotal song sung back to them during their live shows, the band that finds themselves celebrating their 30th anniversary do know that there will come a day that they will no longer be here to deliver it.

"To think that what we've created together with this band and with this music will touch people for years to come long after we're gone — there is no greater feeling than that," says lead vocalist Drew Womack. "There's no award that we can win or number of records we could sell that will ever come close to touching the feeling of knowing we have a song or songs that will live forever."


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