Exclusive: Keith Urban Talks Freestyling, Connecting Fans Through Music, And Nashville’s Destination City Status

Keith Urban

With three CMA Awards nominations this year and two nominations for the People’s Choice Awards for male artist and country artist, that type of recognition continues to mean a lot to Keith Urban.

This year marks Urban’s 14th CMA Awards nomination for Male Vocalist of the Year, 11th nomination in the Entertainer of the Year category, and his sixth nomination in the Album of the Year category for Graffiti U, bringing his career nominations to 45 with 11 total wins. Urban is the reigning Single of the Year CMA winner for his song “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” which he also produced.

“It feels as good as it ever did. I make music and just hope it connects with people,” says Urban about being nominated. “And when it does, from the fans’ standpoint, with them buying the music, streaming the music, coming to the concerts, etc., it’s extraordinary. But then, when you can have it connect with your peers like that, it’s an incredible feeling.”

He may be wrapping up the U.S. leg of his highly successful and energetic Graffiti U World Tour next month, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down any, with the tour moving overseas to Australia in January.

The tour, which kicked off on June 15 this year, has proven to be one of the most energetic and critically hailed tours of his career and much like his newly released Graffiti U album, the show blends a multitude of different styles and influences. Following his very successful Ripcord World Tour, Urban gives keyboardist Nathan Barlowe credit for evolving his shows into a unique and responsive experience for the fans.

Keith Urban

Urban explains, “I knew I was needing someone [new] in the band but I couldn’t even define their role. I thought well, they’re not really a DJ, they’re not really a keyboard player, they’re not really a percussionist, they’re not really a multi-instrumentalist, but they’re kind of all of those things rolled into one. And lo and behold, Nathan came along and was working on the contraption that he called the Phantom, which allows him to trigger sounds, sampling things, and using pre-recorded pieces live so that we can change arrangements of songs in real time. It’s really an extraordinary thing that he does. I love stepping out to freestyle on songs and not being so locked into the arrangement.”

“It’s all feel,” adds Urban. “It’s feeling the room, feeling the audience, feeling the moment that something needs to be shortened, or needs to be lengthened, or needs to be dynamic in some way. I love having the flexibility to do that.”

But before the tour heads to Australia in 2019, Urban will head over to Sydney later this year to host the 32nd Annual ARIA Awards, Australia’s GRAMMY Awards.

Urban’s previous album, the No. 1 Platinum-selling Ripcord, was the second-highest selling album in Australia 2016 and spent 27 weeks in the Top 10 and 46 weeks in the Top 20 of the ARIA Albums Chart. The singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer is no stranger to the ARIA charts with a total of 14 ARIA Platinum-selling singles and albums, earning him a total of five ARIA Awards.

He admits that hosting hasn’t really been on his bucket list. “No, it’s not something I ever thought about at all,” says Urban. “I’ve been on the ARIAs a couple of times before, but never thought about hosting them. I’m not quite sure what I’m in for.”

After hosting the ARIA awards show in November, Urban will finish out the year by returning to headline Nashville’s New Year’s Celebration for a second year in a row. And for Urban, it’s much more than being able to sleep in his own bed that night.

“It’s so much more than that to me,” admits Urban. “I’ve lived in Nashville 26 years and to have the chance for people to start really thinking about Nashville, as being a New Year’s destination is fantastic. The city has exploded in the last five years and the change has gone through the roof with the new hotels, the food, and everything that is happening. Hopefully, we can make this a destination for people everywhere, not just America, but all over the world.”

Urban summarizes, “Nashville’s on a lot of people’s bucket list so if we can have them come on New Year’s Eve and experience it, it will be fantastic!”




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Category: Artist, Awards, Exclusive, Featured, Touring

About the Author

Sherod Robertson is President and Owner of MusicRow Enterprises. He oversees all operations and develops strategic initiatives for MusicRow magazine, RowFax, and MusicRow's CountryBreakout chart. Robertson previously served as Director of Finance of Arista Records after beginning his career as Vice President of Finance and CFO at Reunion Records.

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