Story Behind the Song: Keith Urban, ‘Wasted Time’
In 2016, “Wasted Time” became Keith Urban‘s 20th No. 1 single. The song comes from Urban’s 2016 album, Ripcord, and was written by the singer himself, along with Greg Wells and James Abrahart (aka, J. Hart); it was inspired by the commonalities that the three men — who grew up in three different parts of the world — shared in terms of longing for their younger, carefree days.
At an event to celebrate the chart-topping success of “Wasted Time,” Urban, Wells and Abrahart shared the story behind the song with The Boot and other reporters.
Keith Urban: Greg, I knew of, although we hadn’t worked together before; and J., I didn’t know about. These two guys were writing, I think, one particular week, and I basically crashed their writing session, and we started working on this melody that Greg had on piano … So we started from the melody and groove, J. had the title, and then the song kind of started just taking off.
I think there’s a lot of melodic hooks in the song, which was sort of driving all of us, originally — the sense of melodic catchiness. And then the story started to unfold. Once J. suggested the title, what I was interested in was finding that we come from three very different parts — J. grew up in Canada, Greg grew up in Atlanta, and I grew up in Australia — and yet, we were talking about the high school years, and the youth years in general, and how simple they are, no matter where you grow up in the world.
It’s girls, it’s drinking, it’s cars, it’s smoking stuff sometimes, it’s swimming in water holes — there was so much shared experience of our youth, [and] we thought, “Well, this has got to be something that will resonate with people.”
Greg Wells: We actually had a very philosophical conversation; I swear I won’t bring up details, but we did. But, we were talking [about], when you’re kind of way off the radar, and a teenager, the things that you’re interested in can actually be of immense value to you later down the road. But you don’t know it; you only have the clarity of hindsight looking back. I remember saying, “I wish we all had the clarity of hindsight looking forward.”
Just that thing of — a lot of people, we’re all creative people — you tell your family or your friends or your teachers, or your whomever that you’re looking for validation from, that you want to do that professionally, [and] it’s really not that different than saying, “I want to be a Jedi, and I want to trust the force.” It’s that tangibleness, but it’s intangible.
Urban: I’ve always been drawn to that kind of really pleasing melody … We were just writing anything down to get going … We’re both in there with our phones, singing into them any melody ideas that are coming, and it was just — being around creative people is equally inspiring … It’s like you’re jamming, but you’re doing it with melody and riffing …
This is why I like collaborating so much: Because, as a creative person, you can miss the really cool things, ’cause you’re shooting for something else. It takes somebody else in the room to go, “But, wait a minute, wait a minute, there was that line there. What was that melody? Sing that.”
… Writing with people, total strangers, has really paid off in my life, where I can walk into the room, anywhere in the world, with people I don’t know, and feel comfortable about sitting down and writing a song; that’s what comes from Nashville. It’s extraordinary.
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