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Lil Nas X on the origins of "Old Town Road": "The line just comes to me"

This piece originally aired October 1, 2019. 

Lil Nas X, a 20-year-old from Atlanta who was sleeping on his sister's floor just last year, vaulted to stardom when his song "Old Town Road" became the longest-running number one single in Billboard's history. It's a story of overnight success for the rapper, who dropped out of college to pursue music just a year ago. 

In an interview with "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King, Lil Nas X talked the origins of his hit song, his return to his hometown, and his decision to open up about his sexuality. 

On the beginnings of "Old Town Road": "The line just comes to me" 

Lil Nas X told King that got the idea for the lyrics while listening to the beat – which he later leased for just $30.

"I'm just following the melody of the beginning, and then the line just comes to me," he said. "Yeah, I'm gonna take my horse to Old Town Road."

"Did you even know how to ride a horse?" King asked.

"Not much," he said. "I do now." 

When the rapper – whose real name is Montero Lamar Hill -- first heard the beat, he said, he thought "I hope nobody gets this beat before me."

"It sounded like an anthem to me," he added. "I don't hear those that often, where you just know, like, this one is special."

He pulled $30 together to lease the beat, he said, then had to wait another month to go to the studio for a $20 Tuesday deal.

He added that he knew from the start that the song would have a country twist, even though he wasn't a country music fan. "I wanted to paint a picture of, like, a depressed kind of cowboy going to a better life," he said. "I wanted it to be, like, a sad-leaning song in the beginning -- but then just kinda turn into a banger, you know?"

"The day the song came out, I knew I was on to something," he added. "I knew if I pushed this as hard as I could to keep this momentum going, I'm gonna have something."

On "Old Town Road" being removed from Billboard's Hot Country chart: "I'm not really caring too much"  

"So the song hits the radio. It's climbing up the Billboard country charts. And then you get the news that they've decided it's not country enough," King said. "What do you think when you hear that?"

"I'm at a moment of my life where everything's, like, you know, going good," said Lil Nas X. "So I'm just counting my blessings […] and then, you know, I guess I take a peek at some of the other songs on the chart, on the country chart, and obviously [they] have hip-hop influence in them."  

"I'm very impressed with you that you weren't hurt by it or upset by it," King said.

"I could see how anybody else would be upset," the rapper said. "But it's, like, you're talkin' to somebody who's been sleeping on floors for the past couple of months trying to get some kind of song to move […]  this is the least of my worries, pretty much." 

Lil Nas X on returning to his hometown: "I definitely felt like some kind of hero" 06:55

On his newfound fame: "I definitely felt like some kind of hero" 

"CBS This Morning" joined the rapper as he made a surprise visit to his Atlanta-area high school, where he was a student just two years ago. Students cheered and posed for pictures, and some even cried.

Lil Nas X said that during the visit, he "definitely felt like some kind of hero in a way, I guess, 'cause everybody was just goin' crazy."

"I was dreaming that last year, around this time, I would make a huge footprint in music, and I would get up there as quick as I could," he said. "And I wouldn't have to wait as long as other people would. That honestly, like, was my goal."

"I'm curious about how you're handling fame," King said. "Are you scared of it? Are you enjoying it?"

"I mean, I feel like once I get to my home, to my apartment, it just all feels like I'm in the same place," Lil Nas X said. "Once you go out, everybody's like, 'Oh, proud of you. Congratulations. I love you, I love your music, I love your song' […] But then you get to a quiet space, and it's just, like, everything's kinda the same."

"Last year, I can't get over, you were at your sister's house sleeping on the floor, in addition to having the highest played song ever, ever, ever on Billboard" King said. "When they tell you that, what does that mean to you?"

"It honestly means, like, anything for anybody," he said. "And this is, like, a cliché thing to say, but, like, it really is, like, it can happen for you. There's gonna be a song one day that passes this. It could be a song that's released tomorrow. It could be a song that came out five months ago. But it's just like, anything and everything is possible."

On opening up about his sexuality: "We still have a long way to go" 

Lil Nas X's road to fame wasn't easy – this summer, he revealed he was gay in the song "c7osure."

Growing up, he said, he was told that "if you did, like, anything, like, slightly feminine, it was, like, you know, 'Don't do that gay s***,' you know […] So, you know, just, like, growin' up, you see it-- it's not okay."

But even when he was little, he said, he "definitely" knew he was gay. "You know, I would just, like, you know, pray, pray, and pray […] that it was, like, a phase."

When he was 16 or 17, he said, he came to terms with his sexuality. At the time, he didn't want to tell anyone – but he said his newfound fame made it easier.  

"Me bein' in this position, like, it's easy for me," he said. "But, like, some little boy ten miles from here [...] it's not gonna be good for him."

"But don't you think you coming out could probably help others who are struggling, the way you were struggling with it?" King asked.

"I think it's gonna always help, you know," he said. "We still have a long way to go."

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