Mat Kearney performs in New York City on October 22, 2011 (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. - Mat Kearney will be the first to tell you writing a hit song isn't easy. But sometimes there are moments when a song just writes itself.
A spring concert at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University was one of those moments.
"As we're driving away...I pulled out a pad and paper and just started writing down all the different places and people I'd seen and all of sudden the song 'Bennie and Johnnie' came around," he said.
"Bennie and Johnnie," a song about two people leaving home for college and finding each other on campus, was Kearney's thank you to St Ben's and St John's after playing a set for the schools' annual 12 Pines celebration.
"This college, they captured my heart," he said.
He said he was inspired by stories about the Chapel Walk. He was told many Bennie and Johnnie couples who walk the path eventually get married. He wrote and recorded the song in one day then uploaded it online. It got 10,000 hits in one afternoon. It's still the talk of campus.
"I was on our Facebook and Twitter the whole day just watching people re-posting it, tweeting about it. It was very exciting," Ally Bauer, a St Ben's student who helped plan the 12 Pines event said.
"I can always kind of look back at that and that will always remind me of my time here," Andrew Spear, a fellow student said.
For real-life Bennies and Johnnies this song is their story.
"Coming here I never thought I was going to meet some Johnnie. I was here for St. Ben's. But someone said to me that's going to have to be your wedding song if you guys get married," Faith Damman, a St. Ben's alumna and assistant of director of student activities said.
More than 3,000 St. Ben's and St. John's alumni are married to each other, according to school data. Many of them of them are falling in love all over again after Kearney's song.
"I started reading the comments and it would be like, as a Bennie who married a Johnnie 65 years ago this song really touched us," Kearney said.
The song has been played more than 20,000 times online since it was posted earlier this month.
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