Keith Urban picked an uptempo, progressive country bop to bury his most personal, unguarded emotions in. “Wild Hearts” cuts deep when you know the story behind his lyrics.
Brad Tursi (Old Dominion), Jennifer Wayne (Runaway June) and Eric Paslay wrote “Wild Hearts” and when Urban heard it, he didn’t connect with the verses. So, he passed on the song, until a week later, when the chorus wouldn’t leave his head. That’s when he asked to re-write the verses and when the trio agreed, a memory of his very first concert — a Johnny Cash concert with his dad — came pouring out.
“That was a profound first concert for anybody, let alone a 5-year-old,” Urban tells Taste of Country Nights.
“That’s the loudest, drunkest group of people I had ever been around and it was exciting,” he continues. “You’re five years old and just packed in this arena and I was just so mesmerized by how loud everybody was.”
From there, Urban begins to draw a connection between what he saw on stage and the first verse of his new song, a song released so quickly that he hasn’t even stopped to consider how — or if — it will be included on his next album.
“Saw the Man in Black / Spotlight in the air / Heard a thousand screams / Saw my dad’s stare / Feel like I’ve been runnin’ / Since the day that I was born / Eagle on my back / Phoenix on my arm,” he sings.
“Where I was raised, it’s a very working class city — very rural, very working class people. They party hard, work hard, drink hard, everything was just full-on, and my dad was like that,” Urban says. “And so it was just a rowdy, raucous, awesome crowd. But I remember this big spotlight going across. Because when you’re a kid you’re like, man, that thing is amazing. This big beam going across, through all the smoke — everyone is smoking cigarettes (laughs). And I remember the screaming of the crowd.”
“And then I remember at one point, my dad’s expression. Like staring at this guy on stage in a way I’d never seen him stare at somebody. Like transfixed. I’m sure a child psychologist would probably say I wish he stared at me like that. ‘I’ve never gotten that stare. What’s that guy doing out there to get my dad’s attention like that?'”
Urban’s father, Robert ,died in December 2015 after a battle with cancer. Originally, the country star shares, “Wild Hearts” said nothing of a first concert or anyone’s father. It was the chorus — specifically the lyric that goes, “All of you lost ones who aren’t really lost ones / Keep shining your light” — that spoke to him.
During the second verse, Urban again peels back layers of his raising and how doubters fueled him throughout his life and career. ToC Nights hosts Evan and Amber had to ask, who are these people and where can we find them?
“Plenty of people. Plenty of people,” the singer insists. “Those shine-blockers in our life, those people that come along and just crap on our parade. My experience has been, I’m really grateful for those people because they’ve given me infinite fire … because I wanna prove ‘em wrong.”
“Has anyone ever told you / You’ll never amount to anything? / You’re just wasting your time chasin’ / The tail of a dragon / Kinda dream / But I’m here to tell you anything can happen in this life / If you got the heart / And the passion / And a God-lit fire inside,” he sings.
“I burn a lot from that. And I still burn on the fuel of trying to get my dad’s attention, which I’m sure I got years and years before he passed away. But I still probably am driven by that.”
Country Music’s 10 Hottest Artists of 2021
The culmination of the annual Taste of Country Hot List is the 10 Hottest Country Artists list, a true measure of the songs, the tours and the intangibles, combined. Luke Combs was No. 1 in 2020, but he had trouble holding off a few artists for this year’s list.
Just six of the 10 artists featured last year make the 2021 version — a collection that gets to consider touring plans and award achievements. We’ve had four new Entertainer of the Year of the Year winners in the past eight months, and three are featured below. One misses out for taking a year off the road and the radio, but we’re confident she’ll be back soon.
This list is an effort to combine and assess an artist’s commercial success, fan appeal, touring demand and social media presence. Emphasis was placed on what’s coming, not what has happened so far.