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Just South of Knowing Why

Unreleased | 2004

“Just South of Knowing Why” is one of Taylor’s numerous unreleased songs. It was co-written by her and Robert Ellis Orrall in her teen years. Robert was one of her earliest collaborators. The two also worked together for several tracks on Taylor’s eponymous debut album, Taylor Swift (2006).
Table of Contents

Background and Recording

According to Robert, he and Taylor wrote “Just South of Knowing Why” at her family‘s house in Hendersonville (Tennessee). In an interview with the “Swift Legacy Podcast”, he recalled:

«'Just South of Knowing Why' was a rare song to write at her house 'cause we usually wrote at mine. And that was the first time she showed me the swimming pool that was under the living room. In her parents house, apparently whoever put this addition of a great room on built it directly over a swimming pool that was there. So there was a trapdoor that she opened up. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. And you look down and there's a full-blown swimming pool under the floor, sunk into the ground. And it's empty and it's just sitting there. And I was like, 'Oh my God, that's freaky!'»

“Just South of Knowing Why” was registered by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

Lyrical Theme and Production

Robert Ellis Orrall confirmed the title of the song was always “Just South of Knowing Why” and not “Drive All Night,” which it is sometimes also referred to. He liked that the expression sums up the uncertainty described in the lyrics. Notably, the verses are written in third person and talk about someone running away from their small hometown and driving all night long, with no plans of returning. He said:

«I liked that title. Like, juuust south of knowing why. I think that we are in that position all the time when we do something; Why did I do that? But obviously it makes sense that people can hear 'Drive All Night' because that's the big hook. The way she sang that, it just takes off and it sounds so good. That's another song that I'd love for her to bring back.»

Robert produced the song very lightly and with pedal steel because he wanted to keep it country. At the time, the response he was getting from RCA (which Taylor was signed to at the time under her development deal) was usually that her material sounded too pop. Case in point: “I’m Only Me When I’m With You.” He wanted to avoid that with “Just South of Knowing Why.”

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
She didn’t have a reason to go
Oh, no
She didn’t have a reason to stay
Either way
She didn’t tell anyone about her first ray of sun
She looked at her keys and found a reason to run

[Pre-Chorus 1]
And time stands still when you’re nowhere bound
But I understand it somehow

[Chorus]
If I could drive all night
Would I find my peace of mind?
Would it be a million miles of cold white lies
And unfamiliar exit signs?
I just drive on by
Just south of knowing why

[Verse 2]
I didn’t really know her that well
But I could tell that her smile was only something to hide behind
She felt so out of touch
Because she just felt too much
If you don’t know what you want
Nothing’s ever enough

[Pre-Chorus 2]
And time stands still when you’re nowhere bound
That’s where I’m headed right now

[Chorus]
If I could drive all night
Would I find my peace of mind?
Would it be a million miles of cold white lies
And unfamiliar exit signs?
I just drive on by
Just south of knowing why

[Bridge]
I don’t have a plan
I don’t have a map
I don’t even know if I’m ever going back
I don’t have a when
And I don’t have a where
I don’t even know if I’ll know when I’m there

[Final Chorus]
But If I could drive all night
Would I find my peace of mind?
Would it be a million miles of cold white lies
And unfamiliar exit signs?
I just drive on by
I just drive on by

[Outro]
Drive on
Drive on
Drive all night
If I drive on
Drive on
Drive on
Drive all night
Just south of knowing why

General Information
StatusUnreleased
Leaked2004
Written2004-2005
GenreCountry
Length3:27
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Robert Ellis Orrall
Leaked Demo Audio