Keith Urban Breaks Down the Johns

Cougar, Deere and 3:16 Analyzed

The first time Keith Urban performed “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16″ back in February, he wasn’t even sure if he’d remembered all the lyrics right.

But everyone else seemed to think it was pretty memorable.

“Maybe two days later, somebody sent me a YouTube link, and that’s the first time I actually heard the crowd react to the end of the first chorus,” Urban told Billboard. “I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a good sign. It’s sort of like the punch line landed and they laughed. It connected in the way I hoped it would, so I think that’s probably what had all of us start thinking maybe that’s the first song we should get in the studio and work on.”

Earlier this month, Urban performed the song live on the 2015 CMT Music Awards.

Ross Copperman, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne wrote the song together, and McAnally explained that they all came from small-town places where they didn’t have a lot but “it seemed like we had a lot because we had all we needed.”

Especially the ups and downs of the teenage years.

“John Cougar references all the sort of sexual tension of teenage angst all of us were growing up in,” McAnally explained.

“John Deere represents the way that our parents worked and what we saw living in the country, and of course (there’s) the element of religion. And (there’s) irony in John Cougar starting the line, and John 3:16 ending the line because that was the push and pull of that teenage thing.”

Urban admits that it was Mellencamp’s music that helped make him feel familiar with America.

“His songwriting was such a huge part of my life,” Urban said. “I almost feel like between all the TV I grew up with in Australia and John Mellencamp’s music — among many others — I knew what it meant to live there and grow up there.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.
@alisonbonaguro