Rodney Crowell said he wrote "Making Memories of Us" for his wife, singer Claudia Church, after his daughter phoned him one day to remind him that it was Valentine's Day. "Claudia's a great woman," Crowell recalled thinking. "She deserves more than Hallmark quality."
Photo Credit: Marilu White
The song went on, of course, to become one of Keith Urban's biggest hits. ASCAP, the performance rights organization, toasted this achievement Monday (July 11) with a party that filled its capacious Music Row reception hall. Crowell and Urban met with reporters just before the party started to reflect on what the song means to each of them. Church accompanied her husband to both events.
After Crowell wrote the first version of "Making Memories," Tracy Byrd recorded it on his 2003 album, The Truth About Men. Then Crowell revised the song and cut it himself on The Notorious Cherry Bombs album a year later. Finally, Urban took his turn. "I think Keith's version is gorgeous," Crowell said. "I think he added a certain amount of romantic come-hither."
In response to a question about the song's distinctive guitar lick, Crowell gave the credit to Chris Leuzinger, who played on the original demo.
Crowell also talked about his own upcoming album, The Outsider, which he explained will be "the third in a series of records" that includes The Houston Kid (2001) and Fate's Right Hand (2003). Downplaying the success of his most commercial album, Diamonds & Dirt (1988), which yielded him five No. 1 singles and a gold record, Crowell asserted, "The remaining records I make in my career are going to be records I want as my legacy."
Remarking that he has never heard Urban's version of his song on the radio, Crowell said he's listening these days to records by Led Zeppelin, John Prine, John Hiatt, Gillian Welch and Radiohead. "Strangely enough," he added, "I've become a Metallica fan."
Turning to questions about Urban's achievements compared to his own, Crowell said, "I see Keith as being smarter than me. ... I could match his work ethic now, but I wasn't as focused in the '80s." He characterized his current point-of-view as a songwriter as "slightly spiritual, slightly political. ... But let's face it, a love song is what people want."
At this point, Urban came into the conference room where the press briefing was taking place. Asked first what he liked about Crowell as a songwriter, Urban responded, "Rodney says what I'd like to say. ... I also gravitate toward his humility."
Acknowledging the "simplicity" in his recording of "Making Memories," Urban added, "I can't believe how complex achieving the simplicity was." He said it took "multiple recordings" to get the exact take he wanted on the song.
Urban explained that he had chosen newcomer Miranda Lambert to open his impending tour dates because "I just like the rootsiness of her."
Several notables showed up for the party, among them Sex in the City's John Corbett, who had dropped by to sign with ASCAP in preparation for recording his own album; singer Hal Ketchum; songwriter and producer Bobby Braddock; Country Music Association executive director Ed Benson; and Country Radio Broadcasters executive director Ed Salamon.
ASCAP's Connie Bradley introduced Crowell and Urban to the crowd, along with Urban's producer, Dann Huff, and representatives from the song's publisher, Sony/ATV Music Publishing. She also singled out for praise Lisa Malone, the independent songplugger and reflexologist who took the song from Crowell and brought it to Capitol Records, Urban's label.
"This is my first big success," Malone told CMT.com later. "I was over at Rodney's house, doing reflexology on him, working on his feet and talking about pitching songs. He told me about this song that he had. I told him I would pitch it for him and asked if he had a copy of it. He said he was still working on it, rewriting it and had to demo it. I kind of stayed on him for a while. Then he called me from the studio one day and said, 'I got that song finished, Lisa.' ... He wanted me to pitch it to Alan Jackson, which I did. They passed on it. But I thought it was much more of a Keith Urban song. ... So I took it over to Capitol."
Bradley pointed out that "Making Memories of Us" had stayed at No. 1 in Billboard for five weeks and on the Radio & Records chart for four weeks. She also noted that this was Crowell's sixth No. 1 party. "There's a movie in his life story," she said, "or at least a miniseries."
Salamon used the occasion to introduce a new "appreciation award" from Country Radio Broadcasters for "those who are instrumental in growing the country audience." Crowell and Urban were the first recipients.
As Urban struggled to hold onto his armful of awards, Bradley quipped, "Where's your road manager?"
Fletcher Foster, Capitol's senior vice president of marketing, used the occasion for a bit of politicking by noting that the label has nominated "Making Memories" for both the CMA's song and single of the year.
"I know how much work Keith and Dann put into this," Crowell told the crowd. "You're truly an artist when you put that kind of vision into it." Added Huff, "I've never seen such a commitment and preoccupation to getting a song right."
After all the awards were handed out, remarks made and pictures taken, Crowell and Urban wrapped up the party by performing the song.
Marilu White contributed to this story.