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BNE September/October 2016 |


have advice for my kid?’ It’s hard, you know, I

can’t advise anybody anything; everyone’s got

to find their path but because I was playing in a

band on the weekends, and the band would play

without me during the week, and because I’d

been playing guitar since I was six, [my parents]

could see this is what I’m going to do and I was

willing to work. My mum and dad both had a

strong work ethic.”

Although Urban’s dad was a drummer and

there was lots of music in the family he didn’t

read or write music in a traditional way. “I

failed music at school which was a real drag!”

he laughs. “It was all theory-based and I wasn’t

theory-based. I just learned by ear; I got taught

a basic chord and then another basic chord and

it was just like monkey see, monkey do. That’s

how I learned.”

His goal was to get to Nashville and he

moved there in 1992 but he admits it was a

tough start. “I really wasn’t prepared for how

hard it was going to be, or how long it was

going to take.

“People there were saying, ‘Well, just do

your best’,” he recalls. “And I was thinking, ‘I

am doing my best and I’m just smashing into a

brick wall. What now? What now? I don’t know

what to do’.”

Urban has said he didn’t start drinking until

his 20s – but then he made up for it. Faced with

stress and challenges he has said he often took

the wrong road and several stints in rehab have

followed, the last one soon after his marriage

to Kidman. However, he often has been open

in interviews about his struggle with drug and

alcohol addiction.

“Yeah, I had to surrender a lot to struggles I

had and get help with that and just be willing

to recognise that I was an alcoholic, simple as

that,” he says. Kidman’s support was crucial in

his recovery. “Meeting her and getting married

wasn’t life-changing, it was life-beginning,” he

says. “It was literally like, ‘Okay, now life starts’.”

A song on his new album is a reminder to

enjoy life and Urban had his dad in mind when

he was writing ‘Gone Tomorrow (Here Today)’.

Sadly, Robert Urban passed away in December

last year. “I’m grateful that he got to see the

field being fruitful, so all of the support and

I had to surrender

a lot to struggles

and get help

with that


pening night is always

interesting!” laughs Keith

Urban. We’re talking soon after

the release of his latest album and just ahead of

the world tour that will bring him to Brisbane

in December. “The funny thing is, you know,

you have these songs, you’ve written them, we’ve

recorded them and we’ve never played them

live,” Urban says. “You get out on the road and

you play stuff and it’s amazing how much stuff

in theory just doesn’t work in practise.”

The new songs he’s talking about are from

his album


which debuted at #1 on the

Australian charts when it was released in May.

With four Grammys to his name, Urban has a

deep reservoir of hits stretching back 16 years

that he will draw on for the tour – one reason he

travels with nearly two dozen guitars.

“We have songs in our set list that we’ve

played for a lot of years,” he says, “and

sometimes for me as a guitar player, if I just play

a different guitar, it can become a slightly newer

song. You play differently and you’re engaged.”

There are also songs that he has to play over

and over. “That we


to play over and over

again!” he corrects me. “Thank goodness people

still want to hear ’em!” he says.

It’s hard to believe that Urban, who is 48,

could be any happier than when he has a

guitar in his hands. Urban’s wife of 10 years,

Nicole Kidman, drops in on our interview.

“When you go and see Keith live, that’s when

you really get to know him and you see the

musicianship. It’s extraordinary, and I know

nothing about guitar other than I like how

it sounds,” Kidman says and adds that she

and their daughters, Sunday Rose and Faith

Margaret, will join Urban on tour. “We’ll be

out there dancing. We like dancing!”

Some of Urban’s new songs were written in

London last year while Kidman was starring

in the play

Photograph 51

. She says: “For me,

deciding to go back on stage was inspired by

him when I see him perform because it’s like

– well, it’s like extraordinary love coming from

the audiences. I see what he gives and what they

give back and it’s really beautiful energy.”

Urban began performing as a teenager

growing up in Caboolture on Queensland’s

Sunshine Coast. His parents, Bob and

Marienne, were big fans of American country

music and when he quit school at age 15 Urban

says his parents “totally got it”.

“I get asked by parents all the time, ‘Do you

work that he put in, he could see it. He saw me

happily married, and all the things I think, as a

parent, you want to see from your kids.”

He says he can often almost still hear his dad

keeping the beat when he’s writing a song. I ask

him what comes first when he starts writing,

the music or the words. “I hope anything

comes, really!” Urban laughs. “Anything,

I’ll grab anything. You know, my dad was a

drummer. Rhythm is a deep part of my whole

being, really.”

Urban uses his ‘ganjo’ (a six-string banjo) to

explain and show how a song comes to life from

a bit of rhythm and a few chords. “It is really

just a kind of a cool little drum beat, it is very

simple, and then everything starts to sort of

dance together and melody comes. So we just

start playing that and that might just go for ever

and you’re just sort of diggin’ on it, you’re just

sort of in the zone, it’s like a trance. Things will

come,” and he starts singing! “It’s interesting

how songs can sort of evolve so rapidly from

things that are spontaneous.”

In an interview with country music website

Urban told Gayle Thompson he

was much more willing to trust his instincts

on this album. “I was willing to try any idea

that came to my head, as crazy as it might be.

You can always pull back, but I just wanted

to go where the idea and the muse, where the

energies, wanted to go. This record is the first

one in a long, long, long time that I felt really

satiated artistically, incredibly, by the end result,”

he said.

The recording process for


took almost

a year and a half and Urban worked with a lot of

people he had never worked with before. On his

new song ‘Sun Don’t Let Me Down’ he worked

with Nile Rodgers, who has been producing

hits since the days of disco. Then he invited the

rapper Pit Bull to join in.

“It was one of those moments where I

thought, ‘he would be really good on that song’.

Luckily he loved the song and he did something

on it. I love the fact that those things can just

sort of organically happen through hearing and

thinking and putting things together,” he says.

Urban’s music often takes country in new

directions. He’s made a signature of a driving

sound that aims to lift people up and make the

most of every minute. “I’ve always had that

feeling – I have for many, many years – that

everything is now. This is all there is, is now. In

the moment.”

Keith Urban’s


World Tour comes to

Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Boondall on 16

and 17 December. Tickets from $112.04 to $158.94

including fees at

Interview by John Blackstone/CBS On Sunday