Q&A: Keith Urban Talks About His New Album ‘Fuse,’ Songwriting & Playing Live
Keith Urban sure knows how to celebrate the release of a new album. With his album Fuse only days away from its official release, the “Little Bit of Everything” singer took the stage at three Nashville honky tonks this past Friday (Sept. 6) for brief but rowdy sets highlighting songs from his brand-new release. He played to fans who’d been waiting for hours at the Stage, Legends Corner, and the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge; during his set at latter he was even joined by Aerosmith‘s Steven Tyler, who sang a bluesy take on “Walk This Way” to an extremely packed house. Earlier that evening, Fuse guest artist Eric Church had also joined Urban during a 45-minute set at Nashville’s Cumberland Park.
Radio.com recently talked with Urban about Fuse (which hit stores today, Sept. 10). The album features 16 songs and includes collaborations with not only Church but also Miranda Lambert. “I’m really really looking forward for people getting to hear the whole album,” said Urban.
Radio.com: Why did you decide to make “Little Bit of Everything” the lead single off your new album?
Keith Urban: I just got the feel of it. Everybody that had heard the song loved it. Sometimes it’s just as simple as that. It just feels good. It sounded good and everybody felt like that was a good song to go with. For me, ’cause I’m working on the whole album, it’s almost like, “You guys pick whatever song you want. I’m so happy with this whole record, let’s just pick a song that makes sense and get it out, and let’s get touring.”
Your previous albums have had themes of love or personal pain. Did you go in with a specific theme for Fuse?
Not really. I don’t really ever go in with a theme for an album, one usually comes from all the songs I start gravitating towards. I always let the album drive everything. I go in and I take songs that I’ve written, songs that I’ve found. In this case with Fuse, we recorded well over 20 songs, which I’ve never done before. It was just a prolific time and I found a lot of great songs. Slowly but surely what I thought constituted this particular record started to come together. To me, it’s really 16 songs, so I’ve pieced together these 16 songs and there’s a 13-song version of the album as well. For me, the flow of the record really is about those 16.
Is there a song on the album you feel defines where you are as an artist right now?
They all do in their own way, that’s how a record comes together. There’s something about each track that is very much a part of who I am. Even if it’s a song I haven’t written like “Little Bit of Everything” I make a connection with the song and hope others do, too.
Is there a certain criteria for you to select a song someone else has written? Do you have to relate to it or feel a certain emotion?
Oh God, yes. Absolutely. People send me a lot of songs, and I hear a lot of songs, but it’s the ones that I have an immediate reaction to. Certainly a song like “Come Back To Me.” I just love the lyric, and I know those people in the song–both the guy and the girl.
Do you feel a song comes out better if you went through it firsthand yourself?
I think having an emotional reaction to something can be just as strong watching someone else go through something. There are so many ways to write and create art. But there is a power in having gone through something firsthand, certainly in the case of a song like “Stupid Boy.” That’s a song I could relate to, that guy. I didn’t write that song, but that’s a guy I knew very well.
“Come Back To Me” is almost like the guy from “Stupid Boy” who has finally figured out how to do things right. That’s why I love that song so much. I think anybody who hears it will know why that song affected me the way it did.
You have a beautiful duet with Miranda Lambert, “We Were Us.” How did you come to work with her?
I just love Miranda’s voice. I love her artistry. We did some shows together many years ago. She got up and did a song with me each night, and I loved our voices together. So, in the back of my mind I’ve always hoped I could find a song that we could do. The song “We Were Us” came along, and it’s not the kind of song Miranda would normally do, but her voice is the first one I heard in my head. I called her up and sent her the song, and she loved it and came to the studio. Blake [Shelton] came along as well and hung out for the day. I’m just so happy at the way it turned out.
Eric Church also guests on “Raise ‘Em Up.”
It’s a really cinematic song. I’ve known Eric for a couple years and I wanted to find something for us to do as well. This song came, and I just knew it just needed Eric on it. I sent him the song and he loved it, came in, sang the song. The way it turned out, good Lord, I can’t wait for people to hear these songs.
The album is very diverse. You have the emotional tracks and the fun ones, too.
I think in a lot of ways I put records together a little bit like concerts, what people see live. This one [Fuse], probably more so than any of the albums we’ve ever done, feels like a concert experience. The 16 songs, they really cover a lot of ground. There are barnburner rockers on there, and ballads of course. It’s a real big mix of songs, [and] hopefully people get a chance to hear that and they come out and see us live, and it all makes sense.
Is there a song that means more to you now than when you first wrote it?
Every song for me takes on new meaning every tour. I think that’s why I love doing these songs every year. The songs are almost like books that you love, and you may read that book a few years later and it’s a very different book. None of the words have changed, the story hasn’t changed, but how I relate to it and why it connects to me continues to evolve. I love that about songs.