The title of Keith Urban's new album, "Fuse," says a lot about what and who is on it. The New Zealand-born country singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and "American Idol" judge has collaborated with a slew of musicians and producers he'd never worked with previously as his way of keeping things fresh for himself and for his fans.
Case in point: Urban co-wrote and co-produced two songs -- "Good Thing" and "Red Camaro" -- with Mike Elizondo, who is known for his creative partnerships with hip-hop world luminaries such as Eminem, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and 50 Cent.
"In some ways, he was really the starting point for this record," Urban, 45, said recently during an interview for a full profile that will appear soon in Calendar. "He was the first non-country guy I reached out to" among a group of new musical collaborators, including the Norwegian R&B-pop production team Stargate and Americana/indie rock producer-songwriter Butch Walker.
Elizondo "has a great rhythmic gift as a bass player, is an incredible drum programmer and multi-instrumentalist," said Urban, whose Light the Fuse tour brings him to the Hollywood Bowl on Sept. 27. "My music is very, very rhythmic-based, which comes from being a guitar player. I wanted to explore a much stronger presence of rhythmic elements in my music. It's something that's been there, but often has been pushed to the back."
"I wanted to try something and make it all about the machinery, to see what we can create that didn't feel fake and that was bristling with a particular kind of energy," said Urban, who also collected four more Country Music Assn. Awards nominations on Tuesday.
"I love a lot of the Dr. Dre stuff [that Elizondo has] worked on over the years. I've probably gone many times to work with programmers who can program like that, so this time I thought, 'Why am I working with guys who can program like Mike?' So I liberated myself completely by going to the source and working with the original."
Here's the video for "Little Bit of Everything," the first single from "Fuse":