Keith Urban tiptoed through hallowed ground when he decided to record and release, “Coming Home,” a tune that features a riff from one of country music’s most sacred songs, Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried.” Even though Keith reached out to Merle’s widow, Theresa Haggard, and son, Ben, to secure their blessings, he was still nervous about releasing the tune.
“I was very much [nervous] . . . I didn’t want to just shove [the riff] into a song,” says Keith to Kix Brooks of American Country Countdown. “A lot of times when you hear a sample [from another song], it’s just kind of shoved into the middle of a song as it is, and I wanted something a little bit more artistic with it. J.R. Rotem, who co-wrote ‘Coming Home’ and co-produced it, he took the sample from the original recording of ‘Mama Tried,’ and then manipulated it a bit and wrote these chords around it. When he had done that and I sat in the studio and listened to the music, I just . . . I wrote that chorus out, almost stream of conscious. But, it was really that lick from Merle that made me miss home, think about home, growing up in Australia—all of it just came flooding back and it was that riff that triggered it, so it was a really important part of the song for me.”
“Coming Home,” which was co-penned by Keith, J.R. Rotem, Julia Michaels, Nicolle Galyon and Merle Haggard, is currently No. 14 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart after 8 weeks. Julia Michaels also provides vocals.
photo by Jason Simanek