Keith Urban was in Nashville this week to celebrate his latest #1: “Raise ‘Em Up,” It was a song he didn’t write, so the party, held at Nashville club The Sutler, was also for the writers: Tom Douglas, Jaron Johnston, and Jeffrey Steele. Keith’s duet partner Eric Church was not able to attend. Before the party, Keith and the writers took a few questions.
Was this written as a duet? (Jaren) I didn’t know it was a duet until I followed Keith to the studio. I heard he was in the studio, and he randomly texted me and said, ‘Hey dude, come by the studio,’ I got in the studio, and he told me it was a duet, and Eric was coming in, so we were blown away, we never thought that would happen at all.” Keith added, “I got sent the song from a publisher at Sony, and loved it immediately, and I played it for my producer, and at the same time I’d been looking for a song to do with Eric, but it’s hard to find a song for two guys. Then my producer suggested this might make a good duet. Thankfully Eric loved the song too”
This was your 18th #1 song, Grammy nominated, now CMA nominated, so talk about the impact it’s had: (Keith) “Statistics are amazing. For me, it’s about resonating with a song. It’s really as simple as that. I hear so many songs, and there’s some that hit me. This one was immediate, and I love it more and more, particularly playing it live. People forget these are new songs for us too. We only do them a few times before we record them, so you go out on the road and wrap yourself around the song. This is just such a beautifully written lyric and melody, and every night when we play it, we’ve been ending our show with, it’s the perfect song to end the evening, and everyone, no matter their age, really relate to it.
What do you remember about recording this song with Eric? The main thing I remember, they had just had a baby, and Eric wasn’t getting much sleep, and he was thrilled to do the video, because it meant he could have his bus by the shoot, and he would sneak off into the bunk in between takes and be out like a light. There’s a moment in the song when I say ‘Then babies come,’ and I look over at Eric at just crack up, because he was so exhausted, life imitating art at that moment.
How’s the next album coming? Are you making a turn, changing your sound? I always think of it as a photograph. For me, every album is a snapshot of where I’m at. Some of them are similar to the previous record, because that’s where I was, and the next one might be in a different because I’m in a different place. I thought making this record would be easy, because Fuse was so hard, finding new people, and I got in making music in January, and I didn’t feel the way about it as I hoped I would, and in that moment, that I thought it’s not going to be easy. Here we are 9 months later, we were back in the studio, and still going at it, so it’s a process, it is what it is, but it’s about capturing the truth. I think we’re a long way into it now, because of the learning curve of this record. Sometimes you go full circle. You have to journey and discover, and if it’s only to come back where you started, it’s a journey well taken.
Talk about the feel of John Cougar John Deere John 3:16: In some way, these songs have a thing about them that are family, communal, the spirit is what I connect to. It’s great to perform it, get out and do it live.
Talk about the three of you writers, you’re all superstars, how did it come about? (Jeffrey) This particular song, Jaron called me up, and I got there a half hour late, so that’s typical Steele. (Jaron) I just wanted to get these two guys together, me stroking my own ego. I had that title in my phone, and I knew I wanted it to be more about life, the things you do in life, where you go, rather than a jacked up pick up truck. Writing with these two guys, you know your strengths. These two guys, it’s like 3 ninjas in a room. It was a fun day. (Jeffrey) I’m grateful to Jason for calling me in because I’ve been a fan of Tom’s for a long time, it was the first one we wrote, so it was pretty sweet. (Tom) You would think we don’t have a lot in common, but when you get writers in a room, it’s 16 year olds with their old man’s car. It’s fun kicking ideas around. I don’t know anyone with more tattoos than these guys, so it enables me to not get a tattoo. But the day is young, there’s still time.
Talk about the CMA Musical Event nomination, you’re up against Willie & Merle: (Yeah, I’m thanking everyone on behalf of Eric, I was thrilled he wanted to do the song. Then that it turned out the way it did, and to make it to that nomination is pretty incredible. (Jaron) You’ll probably lose to Willie & Merle. (Keith) That’s OK, I’ll gladly lose to them.
Once you got this song done, did you know it was special? (Producer) Halfway through it, I knew it was one of the best songs I ever produced. With such an incredible artist. Beyond grateful to work on a song of this caliber with Keith. Before we recorded it, I knew we were on a great journey. That’s probably why Keith called Jaron, because of the high you get from such a song. (Keith) I had that feeling too. As soon as Eric started singing on the song, I was in the control room, and man, that sounds good. I called the President of the label. It was fun to do too. That song was so fluid. We played everything on it, built the track fast, and called Eric up, on a Saturday, he happened to be around, he sang it, I got on the mic, and it was done.