“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” is Keith Urban’s fastest-selling single in nearly a decade. Given that the decade started with a multiplatinum album—Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing (2006)—and then went on to include nine no.1 U.S. country singles and three more successful albums, that’s no small feat. Now, in a clip debuting exclusively on EW, he takes viewers into the studio to show them how it came to be.
Urban has built a career as a vocalist who matches catchy songs with impressive guitar skills and fans were probably surprised to find that this song’s all about the bass. In the clip streaming below you’ll see him throw the usual acoustic vibe out the window for something that sounds and feels different and, as a result, caused him to “sing a little bit different.”
A genre-jumping ditty that marries country and pop, the track name checks Urban’s influences, including those in the title as well as Kris Kristofferson, John Wayne and Tom Petty. But watching him laugh through the lyrics’ almost-insane pace, change the bassline and teach it to the crew is an endearing peek behind the curtains.
Urban debuted “John Cougar…” at the 2015 CMT Music Awards and has since watched it gain steam from the road. It’s currently at no. 13 and climbing on Billboard’s Country Chart.
“It’s always a roll of the dice playing a new song for a crowd that’s never heard it, but this one, even with its fast-flowing lyricism, had an immediate response,” he said. “That’s why we decided to go into the studio, record it and release it as a single—and I gotta say, watching everyone not only grooving to it but now nailing all the lyrics is mighty impressive!”
As for the upcoming album that will house the single, Urban is tight-lipped but tells EW he’s blended his recent FUSE approach with a few blasts from the past. “I loved the creative process of FUSE—writing and recording those songs with so many people that I’d never worked with before. It really felt like our audience, old and new, were willing to be part of that journey so I’m building on that; I’ve started tinkering and experimenting with some uber-creative new people, as well as some from FUSE….we’ll see where this album wants to go. It’s still a bit early to be more specific.”
The seven-minute video, including lyrics lessons and bloopers, is streaming below.