Songwriter Discusses Keith Urban's 'We Were Us'
Robbins wrote "We Were Us" with two of his regular writing partners, Jon Nite and Nicolle Galyon, and last November the song became Urban's 16th No. 1 hit. Now it's also been nominated for Vocal Event of the Year at the 49th annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which take place April 6 in Las Vegas. "It almost didn't happen," Robbins said of the song in a phone interview Monday (March 17) with Radio.com. As he recalled, he'd been in a session at his home studio with Nite, and the song idea they had wasn't going in the right direction, so they put it aside. Then "that afternoon, our friend Nicole was coming over. We pulled that idea out, and she loved it."
The chorus was their starting point. "Back when that song was a song I could sing along without thinkin' 'bout you every time it came on," Urban and Lambert sing. "The front half of the chorus we were just singing, and the words phonetically sounded like something," he explained. "A lot of times when you write a song, you have a hook or a title, and you write from there. This was one of those times where we didn't have anything. We didn't know what the hook was until we got there."
Robbins credits Galyon with coming up with what he calls the "disconnected images" that mark the verses of the song. "I remember Nicole got really into it," Robbins said. "She's from a small town in Kansas, and so I think we were really channeling her home town in this song."
"Rearview crosses/Railroad ties/Oh, Hail Marys/Friday nights/Heartbeat baby/Low-beam lights/God, I miss when you were mine." — "We Were Us"
"It's easy to listen to and kinda hard to write, to tell a story without really telling a story," Robbins said. One thing he loves, though, about the result is that it's not a literal narrative. "It leaves it up to the individual to piece [the story] together and make it their own."
One of the striking characteristics of "We Were Us" that it's an upbeat duet. "There are a lot of duets out there," Robbins said, "but there aren't a lot that are uptempo with a feel like that. They tend to be super ballads."
Maybe that characteristic, then, is what helped propel the song to the top of the charts. It was the first male/female duet, in fact, to do so since Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood's "Remind Me" in 2011. more.
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