Editor’s Note: CMT Hot 20 Countdown takes a look back on 10 years of incredible music with Decade, a weekly segment that features a modern country classic that made its greatest impact between 2010 and 2019. This week, Keith Urban talks about his 2016 single, “Blue Ain’t Your Color.” CMT Hot 20 Countdown airs at 9/8c Saturday and Sunday mornings.
CMT: Tell me about your reaction when you first heard the demo of “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”
Urban: Yeah, Steven Lee Olsen was one of the writers on the song [with Hillary Lindsey and Clint Lagerberg] and he was singing the demo. He’s a great singer as well. It’s just one of those songs. I loved the melody, the imagery I thought was really strong, and it got under my skin right away.
When you released it, did you know it would do well? Did you have a feeling about it?
Not to the extent that it became. It’s a funny thing with songs, it can go all ways. You can record something and it not achieve what you feel like it’s going to. And then vice versa, and it’s certainly the case with “Blue Ain’t Your Color.” I loved the song. We all did. But it wasn’t the first single or second single or third single off the album. So it was a great surprise when it connected the way it did.
When did you start feeling that connection it was having with fans?
Almost right away. When we would play the song live I saw people responding to it right away. Also because it’s a waltz and it’s got an old school vibe to it and a classic chorus — I mean it’s one of those songs I wish I’d written.
Let’s talk about that retro vibe. Did it feel comfortable for you to kind of get into that groove?
Yeah, one of the things that I was actually trying to do was take away some of the inherent waltz structure if I could. Because it just felt — retro is one thing but sort of like “heard it before” is another thing. I’m always trying to find a way to bring something else into it. So it’s like a combination of old and new. … I think the most amount of work we spent on the song in the studio was trying to get the track where it melded retro and modern into what you ultimately hear now.
Let’s talk about the vibe of the video.
Yeah, the video was really fun to do. Amber Valletta is the girl in the video. Carter Smith shot the video. He’s much more known as a photographer. He doesn’t do a lot of videos but my wife suggested him because stylistically he would capture that black-and-white style really, really well. He cast Amber in the role and found this great old retro bar in California where we shot it. It was like a hundred degrees in there. But it was such a fun video to make.
It has a little bit of a twist or reveal at the end that you’ve talked about really liking.
Yeah, we did a few different edits on the video. It’s interesting because the way you edit a video can change the story so much. The original video had her spinning around and we were onstage playing and it fades out. And one of the takes that we did, there was footage of her spinning around when the band had left the stage. We suddenly realized that was an interesting way to end it, with her spinning around and then you see there’s no one on stage and maybe the whole thing was just a dream and the band was never there.
Sometimes over the course of a song’s history, it evolves. Has that song evolved at all do you think over the last three years?
Maybe three years is too soon for a song to evolve live. At the same time, it’s one of those songs that’s so classic in its nature that it’s just right. And I love playing it. I love playing it every night.
What is the reaction to folks whenever you’re playing it live? What does it feel like?
It’s immediate. People all seem to know it. People across genres too. It’s crazy to go to other countries like we did over in Europe, and we went to Germany and Scotland and Ireland, and people are all singing it there too. It’s fantastic.