Editors’ Notes “I guess the speed of now is always relative to each of us at any given time,” Keith Urban tells Apple Music. “That's what music is, too. Like a book you love, the same words tell a slightly different story each time. I hope this album can do the same.” Besides being a crowd-pleasing entertainer, Urban has always been an accomplished musician, equally interested in rhythmic possibilities and bright hooks. He’s one Nashville veteran who’s adapted eagerly and nimbly to mainstream country’s evolutions in ever more pop-influenced, beat-driven directions. “I've always had a blended style,” he tells Apple Music. “Growing up absorbing equal parts Top 40 radio, contemporary country, and playing any and all kinds of covers in the clubs in my hometown formed who I am today. Throw in a drumming father and piano-playing grandfather, and you've got the rhythmic and melodic force that drives my curiosity engine.” For THE SPEED OF NOW Part 1, Urban’s 11th studio album, he traveled even further across genre and geographical boundaries in search of song sources, co-producers, and studio players who could help him bring ingenuity to the grooves, and drew on his upbringing to find the resolve to complete the process during quarantine. “I grew up in a very working-class family—little to no money, so we always had to be creative and make the most out of what we had,” he says. “That's a great way to have been raised when something like this hits.”

Urban turned to distinct Nashville craftsmen for the earthy, evocative detail of “We Were” (co-written by Eric Church), “Forever” (co-written by Brent Cobb), and “Tumbleweed” (shaped during both writing and recording phases by Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston). He ventured into the London workspace of Adele collaborator Eg White for the desperate self-examination of “Better Than I Am,” whose incisive guitar figures Urban played on the only electric available, rusty-stringed as it was. He brought together the members of the LA-based trio Captain Cuts and the Nashville songwriting legend Craig Wiseman to come up with “Superman,” a hooky, propulsive remembrance of carefree romance. After enlisting the writing and production services of Scandinavian pop specialists PhD and Cutfather, Urban sent “One Too Many,” whose lyrics depict scenes of acting out and making up, to P!nk so that she could add her vocals to the duet. “She's simply one of the greats,” he says. “That's not hyperbole—her career is testament to that fact. She's a singer’s singer. She knows a great song and can tell that story with so much humanity.”

But no track better reflects the way Urban channeled his creative energy into the album than its exuberant, electronically enhanced opener “Out the Cage,” which features both Nile Rodgers and BRELAND, the latter of whom pitched in on the songwriting, along with Sam Sumser and Sean Small. “He had a free-flowing, liberated way of creating that was right in sync with mine,” Urban says. “I invited him to my studio, we called up Sam and Sean, and within minutes we were off and running. 'Out the Cage' began with this idea I had to build upon a '90s English house breakbeat rhythm; I've always loved Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, those kinds of rhythmic energies that make me wanna break something. The chorus melody was taken from a quick banjo riff I kept playing. BRELAND said we should sing over that riff, and so this frenetic song about breaking out from whatever confinement and oppression that was imprisoning us took off.”

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