New Music

Keith-Urban-Ripcord

KEITH URBAN’S BREAKTHROUGH SONG

Keith Urban’s new album “Ripcord” took a long time to make.  In fact, he started work on it about 18 months ago.  During that time, he was also doing two seasons of American Idol, and a number of concert dates and appearances.  So when we sat down to speak with Keith about the album, he was obviously happy to be finished.  “That’s my feeling exactly, and my family’s.”  Keith co-hosted the Countdown twice while making the album, and both times, he told Lon Helton that he really didn’t know what the album was going to be, or if there was a theme to what he was doing.

So was there a breakthough moment?  “I don’t know if I think of it like that.  I think writing Wasted Time was the last piece of the puzzle I needed.  We wrote that at the end of January.  Given that I started recording in January of the previous year, it was crazy to think the song that would become the 3rd single was written so late in the piece. But I think by having John Cougar John Deere John 3:15 out, and then Break On Me, and then Wasted Time, those three songs gave me a clear picture of what Ripcord should be.  I recorded 25 songs, and I was finding it an impossible task to narrow it down.  Recording Wasted Time helped me solidify everything.”

Is there a theme to this record?  “Because I’ve been playing live for so long, I approach making a record like a live set, so when I’m sequencing a record like I’d sequence a live show.  I still love the art of sequencing, even though people are going to cherry-pick songs, and put their own playlist together.”

So that explains why “Gone Tomorrow” is the first song on the album: “That’s right, and that’s absolutely going to be the first song of the tour.  It’s also the first song I’ve written that I knew immediately I wanted to be the first song on the record.  I also wanted it to be the first song on the record, because it is it’s own genre.  If this is the first song, we can probably go wherever we want.  Sort of planting the flag, so to speak.”

Speaking of that song, it struck me that the last third of that song, the way it builds, sounds like something Seal might do.  “Oh wow, that’s interesting.  What’s fascinating about that is that when I wrote the song, my vision was like a Trevor Horn production, and Trevor produced the Seal records.  That’s how I saw the production.  Fascinating that you picked up on that.  There’s sort of an other-worldly celestial aspect to that.”

So how do these songs fit the title of Ripcord? “I always struggle with the titles of albums, because I never want to name it after one song.  I think it’s unfair to the other songs if the whole album is named after only one.  So I’ve never done that.  Ripcord, I loved the sound of that, and the title does make me think or I don’t know what the music would be on that record, so it lets the music speak for itself.”
You worked with a lot of new writers and producers, including a guy named busbee.  Where did he come from?  I recorded a song he wrote many years ago, but we’d never worked together before, and he came through Maren Morris.  I heard these songs, and saw that busbee produced it, so I thought maybe I should work with busbee.”

Last time you co-hosted the Countdown, you mentioned that you’d worked with Rick Ruben, but he’s not included on this album. What happened? “We spent a week at his studio, just jamming.  I thought we’d get some songs from those sessions.  Every time I tried to do that, they didn’t seem to fit.  This should be a whole record unto themselves.  So I talked to Rick a couple weeks ago, and told him I’m dying to finish these songs, and we should do an album just us.  But that’s all pending, and that’s another thing again.”

The song that sort of sticks out as different from all the others on the album is “Boy Gets A Truck:” “That was a song that was love at first listen.  They got so much into one chorus. The funny part was, as we were trying to squeeze songs into this album, ‘Boy Gets a Truck’ was getting pushed off to the edges.  At one point I didn’t think it fit on this record.  And that little song just wanted to be born.  That song kept chipping away at me, and I said we have to put that song on the record.  So we re-sequenced the record at the last minute to include that song because it just had to go on the record, and I’m so happy now that it turned out that way.”

As we walked out of the studio, Keith was saying the making of an album isn’t always pretty.  “It’s kind of like making a big dinner.  You make a big mess in the kitchen, but the resulting food is delicious.”  He says that’s what making Ripcord was like.

Keith Urban’s long-awaited new album is called Ripcord, and it’s available everywhere now.  Keith will return to co-host Country Countdown USA next month

Martina-McBride-Reckless-Cover

 

Martina McBride Gets “Reckless”

Fans of Martina McBride have something to celebrate this week.  She releases her first album of new material in five years with “Reckless.”

“Well I didn’t realize it’d been five years to be honest, because I’ve been busy supporting the Everlasting record, and out there touring, and having so much fun, and really didn’t stop to think how long it’s been.  Somebody mentioned it to me, and realized it’d been five years. So it’s time, and I was really excited to get back in the studio and make a country record.  So we took our time with it.”

The album title comes from a song, but what does it say about the music on the album? “It was the title I thought of at the time.  I’m terrible at naming records! We were in a crunch to name the record, and I don’t think the album comes from a reckless place, but reckless can mean many things.  I do feel like this record isn’t formulaic, it’s true to me, we didn’t try to fit into a particular box, we made a record we loved, so I guess that’s reckless in a way.

Talk about the song Reckless: It has a real vulnerable lyric that has meaning.  I was worried that the production would overshadow the lyric, but it’s not doing that.  I’m hearing people are identifying with the lyric.  We were trying to make it with a reckless feeling, with abandon.”

The video has surprised some people: “With the haircut? The video’s about stripping away layers, and when you’re in that emotional state of feeling reckless, that was one thought, you might do something crazy like you might take scissors to your hair.  I wanted to get a haircut anyway.”

You have some guests on this record: “Yes we have Keith Urban on the record.  It’s the second time he sang with me on a record.  It was so last minute.  I was listening to a song, and it just needed a great vocalist who’s recognizable, and my producer suggested Keith. I loved the idea, so I texted him, and he was so busy with American Idol and his own record, and he said ‘I have one hour this morning in LA.’  And he sent me that vocal and it was perfect for the song.”

What will you be doing around the album release? “We’ll be on the west coast.  I’ll perform on the ACC Awards on May 1st.  I’m also doing a Grammy tribute to Linda Ronstadt.  They asked me to sing Blue Bayou, and I was like, yes I’m in, I don’t care what it is, I’ll be there.”

Carrie StorytellerCARRIE UNDERWOOD RELEASES STORYTELLER

Carrie Underwood’s accomplishments as a singer have been well documented.  She’s also had incredible success as a songwriter.  With her fifth album, Carrie becomes a storyteller. She talked about making the album with Country Countdown USA:

Explain the album title Storyteller: I was having a hard time finding a thread that went through the entire album, what were the common themes? So I noticed things were either MY story, or we were literally telling stories with made-up characters.  When I said Storyteller out loud, everyone said, that’s it, so that’s how we named the album.

Talk about Heartbeart: It’s never been a conscious effort to exclude love songs, I just find them like static. I hear something, it doesn’t seem genuine to me.  But writing Heartbeat, I feel like was the last person to be into it while we were writing it.  But there was something that seemed real and conversational and real life about it.  It’s not this over-romanticized fairy tale thing, it’s like a real conversation I feel I could have with Mike.  So there’s something tangible that made them OK for me to sing.

Two other very personal songs, one for your father, and the other for Isaiah: “The Girl You Think I Am” was one of the first I wrote for this album. It was my lead.  I had a realization of how my father sees me, which is so much better than I really am.  A dad and daughter, we all brought our own stories into that one.  My dad hasn’t heard it yet, that should be interesting.  My mom heard it, she was bawlin.’  What I Never Knew I Always Wanted was very personal for me. When I announced I was pregnant, that’s where writers wanted to go with me, and I had to lead on that, so I came in with things I didn’t know I wanted.  That’s the only way it would get on the album.

The song covers your marriage and Isaiah, and then?  “What’s next, I don’t know what’s next, and I’m sure everyone can relate to that.  We’ll see, maybe I can write extra verses later on in life…to be continued.”=

Working with Jay Joyce: I had written with Jay before we worked as producer/artist, but it was a different thing, in a different studio, more unpredictable, and I’m not good with unpredictability, so it was something I needed to do. He’s so creative, and I needed that to get out of my routine.  When you get too comfortable, you get in a rut  He’s an interesting guy who comes up with things other people can’t come up with.

This album seems stripped back to basics: When you start an album, I have too many possibilities, so we started writing, I didn’t know what direction. I heard Chaktaw County Fair.  It was so simple, but swampy and laid back and cool.  That was the door opener.  I was super into it.  So this was our direction, then it was easier to find things and write things.  It ended up being more traditional, more laid back, but still had a rock edge to it, and it all works together.  The look came after the sound.  I ended up being happy with how it turned oDirty Laundry: The overall tone was really cool. It’s country music, so there needs to be a cheatin’ song.  The Ajax line in the beginning bothered me, maybe I can change it, but it had to be in there, it was perfect, it stood out, but in a good way.  It’s different, and I appreciate the different-ness in this album.ut.

You seem to prefer telling other people’s stories. Is that true? It’s hard to put yourself out there.  I feel I do it in spurts, in glimpses, I’m hard to get to know.  I have more fun telling other people’s stories.  There are songs that are special, like Forever Changed, that was so deep, I can’t do it live, because it’s so special to me.  It’s more fun to tell other people’s stories and not make it so much about me.

CARRIE UNDERWOOD RELEASES STORYTELLER

Carrie Underwood’s accomplishments as a singer have been well documented.  She’s also had incredible success as a songwriter.  With her fifth album, Carrie becomes a storyteller. She talked about making the album with Country Countdown USA:

Explain the album title Storyteller: I was having a hard time finding a thread that went through the entire album, what were the common themes? So I noticed things were either MY story, or we were literally telling stories with made-up characters.  When I said Storyteller out loud, everyone said, that’s it, so that’s how we named the album.

Talk about Heartbeart: It’s never been a conscious effort to exclude love songs, I just find them like static. I hear something, it doesn’t seem genuine to me.  But writing Heartbeat, I feel like was the last person to be into it while we were writing it.  But there was something that seemed real and conversational and real life about it.  It’s not this over-romanticized fairy tale thing, it’s like a real conversation I feel I could have with Mike.  So there’s something tangible that made them OK for me to sing.

Two other very personal songs, one for your father, and the other for Isaiah: “The Girl You Think I Am” was one of the first I wrote for this album. It was my lead.  I had a realization of how my father sees me, which is so much better than I really am.  A dad and daughter, we all brought our own stories into that one.  My dad hasn’t heard it yet, that should be interesting.  My mom heard it, she was bawlin.’  What I Never Knew I Always Wanted was very personal for me. When I announced I was pregnant, that’s where writers wanted to go with me, and I had to lead on that, so I came in with things I didn’t know I wanted.  That’s the only way it would get on the album.

The song covers your marriage and Isaiah, and then?  “What’s next, I don’t know what’s next, and I’m sure everyone can relate to that.  We’ll see, maybe I can write extra verses later on in life…to be continued.”=

Working with Jay Joyce: I had written with Jay before we worked as producer/artist, but it was a different thing, in a different studio, more unpredictable, and I’m not good with unpredictability, so it was something I needed to do. He’s so creative, and I needed that to get out of my routine.  When you get too comfortable, you get in a rut  He’s an interesting guy who comes up with things other people can’t come up with.

This album seems stripped back to basics: When you start an album, I have too many possibilities, so we started writing, I didn’t know what direction. I heard Chaktaw County Fair.  It was so simple, but swampy and laid back and cool.  That was the door opener.  I was super into it.  So this was our direction, then it was easier to find things and write things.  It ended up being more traditional, more laid back, but still had a rock edge to it, and it all works together.  The look came after the sound.  I ended up being happy with how it turned oDirty Laundry: The overall tone was really cool. It’s country music, so there needs to be a cheatin’ song.  The Ajax line in the beginning bothered me, maybe I can change it, but it had to be in there, it was perfect, it stood out, but in a good way.  It’s different, and I appreciate the different-ness in this album.ut.

You seem to prefer telling other people’s stories. Is that true? It’s hard to put yourself out there.  I feel I do it in spurts, in glimpses, I’m hard to get to know.  I have more fun telling other people’s stories.  There are songs that are special, like Forever Changed, that was so deep, I can’t do it live, because it’s so special to me.  It’s more fun to tell other people’s stories and not make it so much about me.

Chris Stapleton

In a town known for singers, Chris Stapleton is often called the best voice in Nashville.  He’s written hits for George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, and Luke Bryan.  He has sung background vocals on numerous hits.  This week, Chris Stapleton steps into the spotlight, with the release of his debut album Traveller. He’s also opening concerts for Eric Church.  Country Countdown USA spoke with Chris about his new album.

Chris wrote Luke Bryan’s hit “Drink A Beer” after the death of his father.  That same event inspired this album’s title song “Traveller.” “I wrote that song driving through the desert in a head clearing move, and thinking about life and how we’re all just passing through it. That’s where that song came from.”

Chris’s father was a Kentucky coal miner.  When he died, he left behind his wife, and Chris’s mother.  We wondered what Chris’s mother thought of when she heard the song.  Chris said, “You know, my mother is a woman of few words. I’ve never actually a gotten a verbal reaction to the record from her. She watches what I do, but we’ve never discussed it.  Maybe I should discuss the record with her.  We’ll see what she thinks of it.  Maybe she’ll speak up and render an opinion.  She was married to my dad for 43 years, and misses him very much every day, and she’s working on finding a new routine for life.”

We noticed the title song is spelled with two “l”s, rather than the conventional “traveler.”  The dictionary says both are acceptable, but we asked Chris why he chose to spell “Traveller” this way: “That’s the old English spelling, and I just liked it better.  I think it looks better with two Ls.  When there are two spellings, I like the older one.  It’s like why would we change the spelling?  It seemed like the way this particular traveler should be spelled.”

Chris wrote 12 of the 14 songs on the album.  One of the songs is a cover of the George Jones classic “Tennessee Whiskey,” done in a blues style.  I asked Chris how that came about: “If you’re going to do a Jones song, you’re not going to out-Jones Jones.  So if you’re going to cover something, and can’t take it to a new place, you shouldn’t do it at all.  That was a happy accident.  We were playing a show in Charlottesville VA, and the band was vamping on that groove, and I wanted to sing something on top of that groove.  So I started singing that song.  We played it that night, and every night ever since, and wasn’t planned to be on the album, but it found it’s way in there.  The writer Dean Dillon gave his thumbs up on it, so I think we did OK.  I feel better about it, I have a fun time singing it, it’s one of my favorite songs, and something I hold in high regard.”

You recorded this record in an historic studio RCA Studio A.  How’d that happen?  “It was another happy accident.  My producer and I usually record in the Sound Emporium (built by the legendary Cowboy Jack Clement), but it was booked.  So we were looking around, and RCA Studio was mentioned.  At the time, it was slated for demolition.  So I said we should go there.  I’d never set foot in it.  He said ‘It has a sound.’  I said I don’t care, we should do it.  That should be our room, because it’s the last one left, and it’s not going to be here anymore.  It was the best accident that ever happened to me.  There’s something in the walls, it’s a magical place.  If you haven’t recorded there, it needs to be on your musical bucket list.  It’s a magical place, and I’m glad we’re saving it.

You also co-wrote Gary Allan’s current single, “Hangover Tonight.”  Talk about that one: “As a songwriter, one of your goals is to have your songs played on the radio.  I was writing with a guy named Jesse Frasure, and we wrote ‘Crash & Burn.’  Gary wanted to record it, but it wasn’t available.  So instead he got to write songs with Jesse and me, and we wrote three songs with him at his house, and he recorded all of them, and one of them turned out to be the single.  The background parts that are on the record I sang in his house that day.  We didn’t re-record them.”

Reba_LoveSomebodyReba is back with her first new album in five years called “Love Somebody.”  Country Countdown USA’s Lon Helton asked if she approached this one with a different process: “Not really.  It’s the same formula I’ve always used, just try to find the best songs possible, the ones that touch my heart.  If they touch my heart, hopefully they’ll touch your heart, and if they do, then I’ve done my job.  The only difference is that there are some new songwriters.”

Is there a difference with writers today vs. writers 20 years ago? “Well yeah, things are on the more pop-ish side than they were, and more aggressive on the instrumentation.”

Are the lyrics different than they were? “I think that the song ‘Enough’ reminds me of ‘Does He Love You,’ that I sang in 1994.  It’s the same subject matter.  I wouldn’t say it’s more racy.  Some of it’s more clever.  Like ‘Until They Don’t Love You’ is very cleverly written.  But it’s another version of songs I’ve done before.  Just a little different twist, different instrumentation makes them more modern.  But how many things can you write about?”

Take me through the album and tell me about lyrical content: “Well there’s ‘She Got Drunk Last Night,’ about a woman getting drunk enough to make that call.  You can hear a guy doing that, but maybe not a woman.”  Lon asked which call is that?  “You know what I mean.  You mean a booty call?  But then there’s ‘Til They Don’t Love You.’  Everybody’s been there.  Or the single, ‘Going Out Like That,’ where she’s not going to sit there and have a pity party, but she’s going to go out and have a great time.  Another song is ‘That’s When I Knew I Was Over You.’  She knew she was over her other guy when  she looked in the new one’s eyes and didn’t see the previous guy.  It’s an eclectic group of songs, but the main theme is love, and that’s why we called the album ‘Love Somebody.'”

You also have a lot of strong woman songs.  Is that what you’re drawn to? “Yes, that’s what I tend to turn to.  My grandmother and my mother were strong women, so that’s what I like to hear.  Songs that are woman anthems, and give women hope and faith.”

What drives you to work so much? “What drives me is I love to work.  I can’t stand to be bored.  I love to be creative.  I love looking for songs, and getting in the studio.  I was sad when we finished this album.”

The new album comes at a milestone moment in Reba’s career.  This year marks 40 years since she became a recording artist, and she just celebrated her 60th birthday a couple weeks ago.  “I love what I’m doing, I love to get to do the residency in Las Vegas, and looking ahead, this marks the 25th anniversary of Tremors, which was my first movie, so maybe somewhere in the future, I’ll get to do an authentic Western.”  Is that a possibility? “Nothing’s on the drawing board and I haven’t seen a script, but I’ve been putting it out in the universe.”

Lee CD

In June, Lee Brice previewed songs from his forthcoming third album for a group of invited guests in Nashville.  They gathered in the historic Columbia Studio A, where Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Bob Dylan recorded in the late 60s and 70s.  Lee was interviewed by Nashville journalist Robert K. Oermann about the project.  The centerpiece of the album is the 1940 Gibson guitar in the picture, a wedding gift from Lee’s wife.  The guitar is also on the album cover.  Of course Lee’s gift to his wife is the current hit song, “I Don’t Dance.”

Lee told Country Countdown USA’s Lon Helton: “I had this idea for this song, I thought it would be perfect for the first dance at my wedding.  I don’t dance, but I’ll do anything for my wife.  I was a single man for a long time, and didn’t see myself with the family, being happy being settled down, and she changed all that.  Now I don’t believe I waited this long to be in this family life, to find this kind of true joy.  So this is for my wife, but now I think it’s for a lot of folks.”

But there’s a lot more to Lee’s new album than the title song.  In fact, there are a total of 13 songs, ten of which were written by Lee.  Lee also took charge in the studio, producing the entire project.  He told Lon, “For a long time, I heard a lot of things in my head that I didn’t know how to get out.  I was able to completely be me, and it’s the things I’ve wanted to get out of my head.  I got to play the instruments, play the lead guitar, and one song I played ALL the instruments.  I felt I wrote those parts, so I might as well play them.  That way it sounds like me.”

Let’s talk about some of the out of the box songs: One is “Girls In Bikinis.”  Thomas Rhett came on my bus one day, and just gave us the title.  He said, “This is stupid, but I gotta say this.  Watching girls in bikinis is like watching a slinky walk down the stairs, you can’t help but stare.”  I said, ‘That ain’t stupid, it’s true!”  So then we wrote it, and recorded it in a little home studio, just me and John Stone.  We had a ball, singing all the parts, playing all the instruments, just the two of us.  That’s as fun as anything on the record.  Another song is called “Always The Only One” is a letter to my wife.  Production wise, I wanted to go for the guts of me.  It’s a love song to my wife that sounds like the Foo Fighters.  Some people will say it’s way different for me, but I don’t hear it that way.  Then there’s a song called “Good Man” on this CD that I think will be a single.  It’s got some R&B influence on it, and it tells who I am.  ‘I ain’t no bad boy, I used to be, but not no more.'”

Which song should I listen to first?  “Panama City.”  It was a song I heard 12 years ago.  It was the greatest song I’d ever heard.  It wasn’t very commercial, but I thought it was great.  So when I got the freedom to do this album, I called the writer, and what I fell in love with was a piano & vocal, and that’s how we recorded it.  Sang it one time, didn’t add anything, just took the mix and put it on the record, and it’s live.  It may be the best vocal on the record.  When you hear the song, it reminds me of an Eagles or Jackson Browne song.”

The new album by Lee Brice, “I Don’t Dance,” will be released on September 9

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