Putting a modern spin on old-school country influences like Don Williams, Keith Urban mixes melody, minimalism and machinery on “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” one of the slower songs from this year’s Ripcord.
“The song just hit me. Lyrically [and] melodically, it was not like anything I’d cut before,” he says in this behind-the-scenes clip, which takes a brief look at the track’s creation in Nashville’s Starstruck Studios. Mixing sit-down interviews with footage of vocal recording sessions and guitar overdubs, the video finds Urban and co-producer Dan Huff dismantling the song and building it up as something unexpected. The whole thing takes off once drummer Matt Chamberlain creates a simple drum loop, which helps add a left-field spin to the song’s doo-wop-worthy waltz.
“By having that programmed machinery underneath that kind of song, it just yinged the yang enough for it to feel inspiring for me,” says Urban, who credits Don Williams’ classic records as an influence on the song’s simple — but striking — punch.
“If you listen to those records [Williams] did with Garth Fundis,” he told Rolling Stone Country during a sit-down interview earlier this month, “they’re master classes in minimalism. I’ve talked to Garth and Don about those records, and they’ve said, ‘They were hard records to make,’ because minimalism is really hard. It’s easy to layer things in, but to keep things really stripped down — and still make them intriguing, sonically — is a challenge. The blueprint that I was raised on, with those records, shows up on a song like ‘Blue Ain’t Your Color.'”
Of course, Don Williams never worked with drum machines. By pitching its tent halfway between the worlds of analog country and digital pop/rock, “Blue Ain’t Your Color” — which was co-written by Steven Lee Olsen, Hillary Lindsey and Clint Lagerberg — echoes the album-wide push-and-pull that runs beneath Ripcord. The album is Urban’s most modern project to date, but it doesn’t abandon his roots; it just plants them in different soil.