This cinematic cut features guest vocals from Eric Church. Urban told Radio.com: "I've known Eric for a couple years and I wanted to find something for us to do as well. This song came, and I just knew it just needed Eric on it. I sent him the song and he loved it, came in, sang the song."
Urban and Church share a mutual love of musical finds. "We became friends and our families and wives would go and have dinner," Urban explained, "He would be turning me on to new music and I'd tell him, 'You gotta listen to 'Bankrupt' by Dr. Hook!' We're trying to hip each other with records we love that probably the other guy hasn't heard, so that banter started sort of started happening pretty regularly. I thought I'd really like to do something with Eric on the record if I find the right song."
"The song called 'Raise 'Em Up' came along," he continued, "and it wasn't written as a duet, but it just struck me as the perfect song. There's a particular theme, really, in the song, particularly in the second verse that I felt was just perfect for Eric. I was really happy that he came and sang on it."
Jaren Johnston already had the title and some of its imagery in mind when the trio got together for a songwriting session. "I had raise 'em up like this or raise 'em up like that saved in my phone, and I'd been wanting to write it," he told Taste of Country. "I had Jeffrey and Tom coming over, and I wanted to write something smarter than just trucks and all that kind of stuff. So I knew it was gonna be a good idea to bring that title in with Tom, because he's just incredibly crafty. He's very good at taking a song in a way that you normally wouldn't think it was gonna go."
Douglas immediately saw where he was going. "He just jumped into that, 'Black umbrellas in the pouring rain …,' that Townes Van Zandt approach," Johnston recalled. "So that was originally gonna be the only chorus, and I said, 'Man, this is really cool but this song's bigger than that chorus.' You hear that chorus first, it makes it kind of a sad song more than an uplifting one, so we wrote that 'White sails down in Mexico …' to kind of give it more of an uplifting vibe."
"We literally poured that song out in an hour and a half," he continued. "The guys left, and we didn't have the bridge part yet. We just had the two verses and the two choruses, and I sat there as I was doing a little work tape, and I was like, 'S—, man, this needs to go somewhere else.' And I just kinda freestyled that whole thing, 'Raise 'em up trophy high …' I just started singing over that, and I called them both and said, 'This thing just went to a whole new level.'"
Keith Urban explained why he chose to record the tune with Eric Church: "I felt this song was such a journey and a deeply American aspect to this song too, particularly in the second verse," he said. "What 'Raise Em-Up' can mean, all the various things that that phrase can mean; it's such a cinematic song, and I've always considered Eric as a cinematic artist, and I sent him the song and he was in the studio immediately. I am so glad he wanted to be a part of it because it took the song to a new place."
Church typically only cuts songs that he penned himself, but as soon as heard Urban's demo, it resonated with him. "My first thought was, 'I wish I'd written it,'" he admitted. "And I wished that because I feel like we did. If we sat down and wrote a song, it would be that kind of song. It's artistic and has a lot of depth, but it's about something so universal."
Urban was quick to respond to Johnston, Steele and Douglas' demo. "That thing was on hold - I sent it to Keith at 5:30 that afternoon, and he texted me, and he said, 'This is amazing, let me live with it for a day or two.' And that's what happened, pretty much," Johnston said.
"I sent it to Keith because I'd had some success with Keith, but it's funny how it turned out … my only hesitation with Keith was the second verse, that has that thing about the stripes and stars. Him being from Australia, I wondered if he'd sing that," he continued.
"The first time Eric heard it - at least that's what he told me - he was trying to talk Keith out of cutting it," Johnston continued, laughing. "Saying, 'I don't know if that's right for you, man.' Which is really funny. Right around that time, [Johnston's band, the Cadillac Three] did a European tour with Eric last year, and he'd say, 'Aww man, I wanted that song, man. It's real special, Jaren. It's real smart.'"
The song's music video was shot in Nashville in February 2015. The clip starts with a young girl dancing along to the song. "Some of the idea for this video started with me playing with my phone one day, filming our girls jumping in slow motion," explained Urban. "That's all that they were doing, just jumping up in the air in slo mo. We put 'Raise 'Em Up' on and were watching this film of our girls and they just went together beautifully. It was so simple, and emotional, and it captured some of the spirit of what I feel is at the heart of this song."
We also see Urban and Church singing and playing the song on guitars while joking around with each other. "My favorite part of this video were the candid moments that were captured between Keith and I on film," Church said. "It's cool that a number of those made it in the final version. To me, they really reify the emotion of the moment and experience."