Keith Urban's "Fuse" is still burning, and with a just-announced Sept. 10 release date for the country star and "American Idol" judge's ninth studio album, he predicts recording will go "down to the wire."
"If you had asked me three months ago, I'd have said we've got 13, 14 songs done and were just going to round them out," Urban -- who's released "Fuse's" first single, "Little Bit of Everything" -- tells Billboard. "But new songs have come along that I've finished writing or I find, and before you know it, we're back in tracking those, and then the album goes off into a different direction. I've probably got about 16 or 17 songs, and I've got about three or four, maybe five more to do. There's lost of material; I've just got to figure out what constitutes the album at this stage."
Urban says "diversity" is the buzz-word for "Fuse" thanks to a broad array of collaborators he's working with in Nashville and Los Angeles, including longtime collaborator Dann Huff, Nathan Chapman, Butch Walker, Mike Elizondo, Jay Joyce and Zach Crowell.
"I'm just seeing what comes out of me working with those guys," Urban explains. "I love working with people who play a lot of instruments, and really, all these guys play lots of instruments and they program and play synths and they can build an entire track just on their own. I love the idea of working close and collaboratively with people like that so we can work quickly and we can not have to try and get this vision across to six, seven, eight different people in the studio -- not exclusively, but I like starting like that."
Urban says there will be "a nice mix" of his own material and songs contributed by other writers (Brad Warren, Brett Warren and Kevin Rudolf wrote "Little Bit of Everything"). He recently finished co-writing a song with Walker and is working on another with Dan Wilson. Urban says three other songs -- "Even the Stars Fall for You," "Cop Car" and "She's My 11" -- were considered for the first single but notes that "there's any likelihood we might cut something that is a stronger, better choice for the next single for whatever reason."
Urban also hopes to preview some of the new songs on his upcoming Light The Fuse Tour 2013, which kicks off July 13 in Cincinnati. "I've never done that, and certainly I've never hit the road before an album was finished, but that's what's going to happen this year," says Urban, who hopes to wrap "Fuse" up by the beginning of August. "Basically we're going to hit the road with one single out, an album in the works, and there'll just be certain songs that feel right to do live even though nobody knows them. But the way I look at it is that when people hear a song on the radio, that's the first time they've heard it, too, and hopefully it connects with them and they want to hear it again. So our stage will be kind of like our radio station, and we'll be playing these songs for the first time."
Besides "Fuse" and "Idol," Urban has been busy on a variety of other fronts this spring. He performed at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival benefit in New York City during April and guested with the Rolling Stones in Los Angeles early this month. He appears on "Almost Saturday Night" from John Fogerty's just-released duets album "Wrote a Song For Everyone" and has recorded a track with Buddy Guy for the blues legend's upcoming collaborative album.