Keith Urban Savors “Wasted Time” Success With Song’s Co-Writers

Pop Composers Greg Wells, James Abrahart Celebrate Their First Country Hit

Perhaps Keith Urban chose the skyscraping 27th floor of Nashville’s new Westin Hotel for his No. 1 party Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 15) because the Grand Canyon was insufficiently grand. If so, it wasn’t a bad choice. The view was sublime.

Partygoers gathered at the plush rooftop site — most seeing it for the first time — to celebrate the chart eminence of Urban’s recent single, “Wasted Time,” which he co-wrote with Greg Wells and James Abrahart.

Following a precedent he set long ago, Urban kicked off the party by hopping onstage and performing the song being honored and, as usual, drafting the songwriters to be his backup musicians. Always generous in sharing the spotlight, he had Abrahart sing the first verse of the song.

Many in the crowd were so into the performance that they began singing along.

It was a very international affair. Abrahart is from England, Wells from Canada and Urban, of course, from New Zealand by way of Australia. Who better than they to lyrically glorify summer nights in small-town America?

“Wasted Time” is the first No. 1 country hit for Abrahart and Wells, although as pop producers and session musicians, they have together or individually written and recorded with such titans as Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Usher, Chris Brown, Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Pink and Pharell Williams.

The party was jointly sponsored by the three performance rights organizations to which the three songwriters belong — BMI (Urban), ASCAP (Wells) and SESAC (Abrahart).

While the congratulatory speeches droned on, uniformed waiters threaded through the throng, proffering trays of hot chicken sliders, spicy fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese biscuits, shaved pork tenderloin, mini lobster rolls, sweet potato velvet soup (in shot glasses), macaroon lollipops and cinnamon churros (a fried dough pastry) with chocolate sauce.

At the back of the room, far away from the stage that looked out over West Nashville, bartenders worked themselves into a state of exhaustion.

A few of the celebrants abandoned the party altogether to slip through the glass doors and onto the open air deck, where they sat or lay absorbing the uncharacteristically warm November sun.

BMI’s Jody Williams described Urban as “focused, insanely-talented and caring.” He announced that Urban will headline Nashville’s official New Year’s Eve celebration at the Bicentennial Mall.

Williams added that through his leadership role with Vince Gill in the All for the Hall concerts to raise funds for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Urban has brought in $2.6 million.

“Wasted Time,” Williams continued, is Urban’s ninth No. 1 as a songwriter and his 21st as an artist.

Shannan Hatch from SESAC praised Urban for always seeking the best songs to record, regardless of whether he had a hand in writing them. She noted that Abrahart co-authored two songs on Bieber’s 2015 album, Purpose.

“This is unreal,” said Abrahart, addressing the crowd. He greeted his parents, who drove up from Atlanta, where the family now lives. “They’re switching from seven different cameras so they don’t miss anything.”

He thanked Urban for being “an example of what a true legendary artist is” and said it is rare to work with an artist who is eager to give rather than take credit for his musical achievements.

Wells, who’s based in Los Angeles, agreed. He said that while it was a joy working with Urban, it also has its downside.

“It wrecks you for working with other artists,” he declared.

He said that once during a break while working on the song, he and his fellow writers had adjourned to Starbucks for some caffeine and that he had ordered a caramel macchiato. From that day on, he said, every time Urban came to a writing session, he brought him a caramel macchiato.

Wells marveled that Urban would take time off from his “insanely profitable world tour … to stand on this little stage with us lowly songwriters.”

“The song is everything,” Urban said, when it came his turn to speak. He said he loves No. 1 parties because they spotlight the people behind the scenes who make his own musical successes possible.

He spoke directly to two people in the audience who, although not involved in the production of the song, suggested changes that were so on target, he incorporated them into the final mix. “This is collaboration in action,” he said.

“I love songwriters,” he said. “I love making records. I just love to be in this town.”

Looking out through the glass doors at the partygoers still sunning themselves, he joked, “If this is global warming, fire up the Hummer.” Then he added hastily, “Don’t print that.” But his witticism had already taken wing.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.