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Story Behind the Song: Keith Urban, ‘Blue Ain’t Your Color’

Keith Urban earned his 22nd No. 1 hit with “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” the fourth single — and fourth chart-topping song — from his 2016 album Ripcord. The tune, written by Hillary Lindsey, Clint Lagerberg and Steven Lee Olsen, wasn’t originally penned with Urban in mind, but the three writers all agree that he was the perfect artist to sing it.

Steven Lee Olsen: Honestly, the idea came when I was sleeping on the couch and woke up at midnight, and I remember seeing something vaguely on the TV with the word “blue” in it. I woke up and had my dog at the foot of my couch, and for whatever reason “Blue Ain’t Your Color” literally just came into my mind. I jotted it down on my phone, and then I went back to sleep.

I actually brought the idea to Clint first, and immediately, he was like, “Yes. I’m in. I’m in.” We talked about it a little bit more. Although we probably could have written it the two of us, it wouldn’t have been nearly what it was without Hillary. We knew that she needed to be a part of this song, so we brought the idea to her, and immediately she was on board as well.

Next thing you know, we were drinking wine in her writing studio, and the song was born.

Hillary Lindsey: I was just the lucky girl on the other end of the phone. [Olsen] texted me one day and said, “Hey, I’ve got this idea I want to write with you. I think it’s pretty good.” I’m like, “What is it?” I’m not going to be like, “Yeah, sure;” I wanted to make sure I thought it was good. He’s like, “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” and I said, “Get your a– over here.”

I didn’t really know exactly what it meant, but it felt so intriguing. And then the two of them came over … It was one of the ones — I know you hear this a lot — but it was one of the ones that just kind of fell out. It happened really naturally. I don’t know why [he] called me, but I’m very thankful.

We wrote the song for Steven, for his record, and then Steven decided, “I don’t want any of my songs being pitched. But if there’s one song on this record I’d want to be pitched, but the only person you can send it to is Keith Urban.”

Keith Urban: It was just immediate … Steven Lee was singing [the demo] — he’s a killer singer — and it was just an immediate reaction I had to that song. I loved the lyric, the sentiment, the melody, everything about it. It was beautiful.

It’s a feeling I have when I hear a song: I feel like meeting a relative that I didn’t know I was related to; it’s that kind of thing. It’s meeting someone new that you somehow find out down the track you’re distantly related. There’s that feeling of familiarity with the song immediately, and whether that’s — I think it encompasses everything: the key the song is in, where the melody sits, the shape, the vowel sounds used in the words, it goes really deep into something that resonates what I do, and so forth.

It doesn’t always work. I’ve taken songs in the studio that I’ve loved, and I just couldn’t make them feel authentic, much to my frustration, because I can love the song, but it doesn’t fit me. “Blue” was immediate love.

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