Keith Urban penned this song with a couple of songwriters who are better known for their work with pop and R&B acts.
British American songwriter James "JHart" Abrahart whose other credits include the UK hit songs "Don't Look Down" by Martin Garrix, "Body On Me" by Rita Ora and "Sax" by Fleur East.
Canadian producer Greg Wells, who is a frequent collaborator with Katy Perry. His other credits include OneRepublic's worldwide hit "Apologize" and Adele's 21 track, "One and Only."
Urban recalled the story of the song: "I worked with a lot of new people on Ripcord, and Greg (Wells) was one I'd wanted to work with for a long time. He'd been writing a lot with J (James) and so the three of us spent a couple days at Greg's studio to jam and see if we clicked. Greg had this cool chord progression and I grabbed my guitar and started singing a melody."
"J suggested the title, and before we knew it, we were talking about growing up and all the things you do, no matter where you are in the world, and the song just took off from there."
While the three songwriters grew up in completely different places, they had many of the same experiences. "I have a lot of that formative years memories from sort of ten to 16, 17 right through there. So, that's a big coming of age, right of passage period in a boy's life," recalled Urban. "And there was a place we had to I think it was called Lime Rock was the name of the little water hole we would go down to and there was a big rope swing that someone had put in a tree and it was a horrendously long drop to the river below and we would often just cut class and go down there and hang out. And I have such great memories of that. It was an exhilarating, exciting time. You know, girls and skipping class and finding somebody that owns a car on a Friday night and pile into that and drive around with nothing to do except hang out at the gas station act important and be somebody that you're not.
And it was crazy, you know. I get here to write with these two guys and Greg's [Wells] from Canada and J. [Hart] is from Atlanta, Georgia and yet the three of us had the exact same memories, pretty much the same," he continued. "Different names of drinks, different names of cars, different names of towns, but pretty much all the same things. So, this song really took off when we started writing it."
The song's music video is the third directed by John Urbano for Urban following "Cop Car" and "Somewhere In My Car." The clip was shot in California over a two-day period and shows Urban penning the lyrics to the song as well as performing it on a banjo during a party in the woods. Interspersed are shots of a group of young people enjoying the warm weather.
Keith Urban's father died on December 5, 2015, when the singer was in the midst of working on Ripcord. The loss induced Urban to ponder about the meaning of life and how to prioritize one's days. "The impact that it had is just bringing me again back into the moment and the brevity of time," he told Billboard magazine. "That theme is in a few songs on this record - 'Wasted Time,' for sure, is sort of reflective. When life is its simplest, it's really at its best."
The song almost didn't make it onto Ripcord. It was written in late January and early February 2016, only about a month before Urban revealed the album's release date.
Urban is a big fan of the song's co-writer J. Hart. "James Abrahard (J Hart) is a crazy talented kid," he told Taste of Country. "He's super young, he lives down in Atlanta, Georgia. But he's an R&B guy much more in the writing world. But as a singer, he's just crazy gifted."
Keith Urban explained the album title: "The name Ripcord comes from a play that's opening in New York soon. But the image of a ripcord, I like it. I like the sound of the word. I like the energy that it denotes, but metaphorically I also love that it's a thing that you grab to save your life, and that's a really beautiful thing. And I was thinking about the various things in my life that I reach for, like family, faith, music, all manner of things. So, Ripcord took on a whole new meaning, but it really, for me, fits the music. It definitely fits the tour."
Keith Urban sings about "Sippin' on the Loko's" during the chorus. Four Loko is a caffeinated alcoholic beverage, which is popular among teens in the US. After it was banned in several states it was re-introduced with the caffeine removed. The Australian singer admitted to ABC Radio he had to Google exactly what the drink is, after one of his co-writers included it in the song. "I didn't grow up sippin' on Lokos, but I grew up sippin' on some nasty stuff! We had UDL, which stood for United Distilleries Limited, and it was a prepackaged mix of bourbon and cola - cola wanna-be and bourbon wanna-be - jammed into a can," he recalled. "And you could get vodka and something else. And it was like the worst - awful, just awful, but it was cheap and it would do the trick.
"Lokos sang better than UDL!" Urban added laughing.