Keith Urban on Working With Nile Rodgers, Letting the Songs Lead

Country music guitarslinger teams up with Chic bandmate on new material

Keith Urban and Nile Rodgers, who are collaborating on new material for Urban's 'Fuse' follow-up, get down at the FOLD Festival in August. Credit: Mike Pont/Getty

Keith Urban's next album may very well have dueling guitars. . .or at least dueling guitar heroes. For over a year, Keith Urban was on a mission to work with one his six-string heroes, Nile Rodgers. Earlier this year, his wish was granted.

"We finally got together a few months ago and started writing in the studio," the Fuse singer tells Rolling Stone Country, adding that the unlikely duo is still hammering out new material for Urban's next album. "I've always just liked his guitar playing and it felt like we would click musically."

Rodgers is largely hailed as one of the greatest guitarists of his time, with a resume that includes collaborations with Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Diana Ross, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Daft Punk and David Bowie, among many others. In 1976, he co-founded Chic, one of the most successful groups of the disco era.

Now you can add a country album to Rodgers' list of projects. The timing of his Urban collaboration, though purely coincidental, arrives not long after music reviewers deemed Urban's 2013 album Fuse to be lighter on electric guitar than previous albums.

"It's funny because I didn't think the guitar took a back seat on the last album until everyone started sort of pointing it out," admits Urban. "Everything has guitar solos [on Fuse], so I didn't think that it was any less than any other record, so it's funny how people perceived things."

Asked if he took those perceptions positively or negatively, he says, "Probably neither; just a bit more surprisingly."

Urban and Rodgers have already hit the stage together, sharing a short set during Rodgers' FOLD Festival in August. Backed by the current members of Chic, the two stretched Urban's 2002 hit "Somebody Like You" to 15 minutes in length, trading bluesy solos throughout, and added some guitar-heavy muscle to "Long Hot Summer." Urban says the pair's work in the recording studio will be similarly fleet-fingered, although he'll continue letting the song — rather than the guitar parts — come first. 

"I love that people want to hear the guitar," he explains, "but I just think about the song. It's like saying I have to put fiddling on because it's a country record. Whatever the song seems to want, you know."