Story Behind the Song: Keith Urban, ‘Wild Hearts’
Keith Urban's "Wild Hearts" is an ode to everyone who dares to do things their own way. He co-wrote the song with Eric Paslay, Old Dominion's Brad Tursi and Jennifer Wayne from Runaway June, and co-produced it with Mitch Furr.
Actually, Urban has a co-writing credit on "Wild Hearts" for what he did after Paslay, Tursi and Wayne did their part. Their original chorus pairs with verses that Urban re-wrote after hearing the song — and, at first, passing on recording it.
The first verse, in particular, derives from an early childhood memory of Urban's: attending a Johnny Cash concert with his father. Below, the country star shares the full story behind "Wild Hearts" in his own words, as told to Taste of Country Nights.
Yeah [the songwriting process was emotional], but it's a good emotional. That concert has, for whatever reasons — I guess everybody's first concert always stays with you through your life, you know? ...
That was a profound first concert for anybody, let alone a 5-year-old, going to see Johnny Cash. That's the loudest, drunkest group of people I had ever been around, and it was exciting, you know?
I remember little bits and pieces of that concert: I remember, just, people — lots and lots of tall people. You know, you're five years old and just packed in this arena. I was so mesmerized by how loud everybody was. Where I was raised was a very working-class city — very rural, very working-class people, so party hard, work hard, drink hard — everything was just full-on, and my dad was like that. And so it was a rowdy, raucous, awesome crowd.
I remember this big spotlight going across. 'Cause when you're a kid, you're like, "Wow, that thing's amazing!" ... And I remember the screaming of the crowd, and then I remember, at one point, my dad's expression — like, staring at this guy onstage in a way I'd never seen him stare at somebody — like, transfixed. I'm sure a child psychologist would probably say it was my wish he'd stared at me like that, you know? Like, "I've never gotten that stare. What's that guy doing out there to get my dad's attention like that?"
So, when I got sent this song, the song was already written, but I didn't really like the verses of the song, so I asked the writers if I could write my own verses and eliminate the ones that they'd written and just keep the chorus of the song. And so I sat down to write the verses, and that was the first thing that came out: "Saw the Man in Black / Spotlight in the air / Heard a thousand screams / Saw my dad stare" ... And then we were off and running to the song.
[The original lyrics] were a very different scene. And I'm not saying it's bad — these are great songwriters, so it wasn't bad, [but] it didn't speak to me. As a matter of fact, I got sent the song, and I listened to it and I liked it, but it didn't stick, and so I passed on the song [laughs], and about a week later, I woke up very early one morning singing the chorus of this song. It was like, "This is a really good chorus!"
So I listened to the song a few more times and I realized it was the verses that was not grabbing me — just me, personally — and if I'm going to record a song, it's got to speak to me; that's all it's got to do. And I think the chorus already had so much of my musical truth in there, that I related to, that I just thought, "Gosh, these verses are just ready to be more me," and so I got to the second verse, and I just thought about all the people that had told me I wouldn't amount to anything or wasn't gonna make it, so I just wrote [about that] ...
WATCH: Keith Urban Gets Personal While Discussing "Wild Hearts"