Lyrics Uncovered: Keith Urban, ‘Break on Me’
Keith Urban’s “Break on Me” lyrics are returning the superstar to one of his great strengths, delivering a powerful ballad.
Jon Nite and Ross Copperman are two very prominent Nashville songwriters, and they wrote the song over the course of a long six-hour session together.
“I had this melody for the chorus that I played on guitar. I’d been playing it for about a month on the weekends. I would just try to figure out what it might be," Nite, who writes for ASCAP, tells Taste of Country. "And then Ross and I got canceled on. It was just the two of us, so I played him that melody, and he loved it. We put a groove down and kinda stuck the melody to that, and that became the chorus."
The "Break on Me" lyrics came from a long conversation the two friends had in which Copperman shared a story about a struggle a friend was going through, while Nite was thinking about his daughter, Ashley, who was headed off to college.
"It was right when we were about to leave to take her off to college for the first time, so I said, ‘What if we also talked about what would you say to Ashley, when she goes out there and finds out how real life kind of can suck a lot?’" he says. "We probably talked for two hours just about what [the song] felt like and what it sounded like before we really got anything going on it, and then just started talking about days like that girl was having, where she was having a breakdown and was telling Ross. So the first line kinda comes from that, and then it just felt like we were following the emotion of someone who was in a super-not-great place, emotionally, having a depressed moment."
It's funny how it all happens the way it's supposed to happen.
The "Break on Me" lyrics describe those moments concisely, and offer a shoulder to lean on: "There'll be days your heart don't wanna beat / You pray more than you breathe / And you just wanna fall to pieces / And nights, those 2 AM calls / Where dreams become walls / And you just need a break / Break on me."
Nite says the title seemed inevitable, in retrospect.
"I had actually written lyrics for [a song titled] 'Break on Me' in 2012, and just never used it," he shares. "So that was just in the back of my head, I guess. I actually think that Ross might have said [that title] in the write, but it when it's meant to be, it'll just pop out. There were two other titles I was thinking about, and neither of them were used. One was 'That's Where I'll Be,' and another was kind of what became the bridge, which was 'When You Need Somebody.'"
The song got pitched to both Rascal Flatts and Urban, but Urban responded first, according to Nite. The resulting Keith Urban recording is "significantly different" then the original demo, Nite reveals.
"It's very much a groove thing that's different," he says. "[Producer] Nathan Chapman said, 'Keith, can you just play this the way that you would normally play it, without thinking about how the demo was or anything?' And I think that is what became the record. He just sat there and played it on guitar as honestly as he could possibly play it, just playing the chords and singing the words. They told me that they got a room mic in the studio, and he just sat there and played the vast majority of it, and it was really organic. They just used that to build [the track]."
Nite admits that it took a bit to adjust to the new approach to the song, but adds that he loves it "ten times more than anything we might have thought it would be. It's funny how it all happens the way it's supposed to happen."
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