Keith Urban Says Seeing Johnny Cash in His First Concert Helped Him Write ‘Wild Hearts’

by Quentin Blount

It turns out that one music legend can inspire another one. When Keith Urban was just five years old, he looked up to the one and only Johnny Cash.

It’s not all that surprising, really. Johnny Cash and his one-of-a-kind style likely inspired a lot of different artists. But for Keith Urban, he says that it was seeing Cash in concert as a young boy that helped inspire him to write the track “Wild Hearts.” He initially passed up on the song when it was first offered to him, saying that the lyrics didn’t resonate with him. So, he had writers send him the track again with no vocals the next time around.

“I had them send me the track with no vocals and just let me sit with the track for a second,” Urban explained in an interview with Billboard. “I sat down at the kitchen table and made a very strong cup of coffee, and I was thinking, ‘Well, where would I begin?'”

And that’s exactly when that memory of Urban’s first-ever concert as a little boy came flooding back.

“And literally the first thing that came to me [was] when my dad took my family to see Johnny Cash and I was five. The truth of my past [made] it so easy to write, because there’s no doubt that was the beginning of my journey, that concert.”

Keith Urban Made ‘Wild Hearts’ Personal to Him

There are plenty of artists who write songs that they are emotionally invested in. And for Keith Urban and “Wild Hearts,” that was the case as well. He wrote about the spotlight and seeing his dad stare at Johnny Cash on stage.

“I realized it was the thing that set me on the path into country music, into playing guitar on stage, singing and doing this thing probably to get my dad’s attention from the very beginning. That’s why there’s that line, ‘Saw my daddy stare.’ When you’re five years old and you see your father mesmerized by something — in a way that I don’t think I had seen that gaze come to me — I’m like, ‘I’m going to do that.'”

Unfortunately, Urban’s father passed away back in 2015. But he says that in the end, he knows his dad gave him that gaze that he sang about. He was proud of him. And that’s all he ever wanted.

“Yeah, I’m sure I did. But it’s that sort of desire for his approval, and for him to be proud of me. I think that fire has burned in me forever, and probably still does. I think I got my dad’s approval long before I thought I had it but it’s a strong driving force for me to impress my dad. Still, to this day.”