When it came time to slap a name on his forthcoming sophomore American solo album, Aussie country singer Keith Urban looked at the road he's traveled and the exits he's taken. What he discovered was a highway paved with mistakes and pocked with near-fatal flaws that flowed into a nearly smooth golden road. "To me it just symbolizes the right road in life," Urban said last week on the eve of debuting his new album, "Golden Road," to an audience of music journalists in New York City. "Like everybody, I've gone through periods where I've taken the wrong exit, and you try to find your way back. I definitely feel I've found my way back." "Golden Road" hits records stores Tuesday. The first single, the upbeat "Somebody Like You," is wrestling for a top spot on the charts, already breaking into the Top 5 alongside Darryl Worley's "I Miss My Friend" and Diamond Rio's "Beautiful Mess." The album, which includes a country arrangement of the 1970s rock classic "Jeans On," exudes the confidence Urban has gained from two solid years touring in support of his Capitol solo debut in 1999. "When you get back in the studio after that amount of touring, you're flexing a different kind of musical muscle," he says, his Australian accent barely tempered by the time he's spent in America's South. Urban, who will be at the Arizona State Fair later this month, acknowledges that his confidence was in short supply on his first recording. He had just emerged from a rocky relationship with drugs and alcohol that almost destroyed him. "I had a tremendous amount of humility going into that record," he recalls. "I had just gone through a very rough time and was just extremely grateful to be alive. So I didn't have that bold confidence going on. I was inching my way back to that kind of confidence." That first album, which introduced American audiences to Urban's stellar guitar prowess, spawned three Top 5 singles and the No. 1 hit "But for the Grace of God." It also earned him the Country Music Association's coveted Horizon Award and the Academy of Country Music's Top New Male Vocalist Award - honors bestowed upon artists who industry insiders believe have the most potential to succeed. "Golden Road" could further pad Urban's American résumé. The album is nakedly honest, exposing Urban's deepest insecurities while celebrating how far he's come. "I think I had just gone through a lot of stuff that I felt compelled to write about," Urban says of the eight songs he penned for the album. "I felt a sense of peace about a lot of those things, and writing about them helped me finally get through them. Sometimes writing can be cathartic like that." "Somebody Like You" and "Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me" are upbeat triumphs, while "You Won" and "You're Not My God" address Urban's dark and depressing drug addiction. Both are throwbacks to country music's roots, and Urban says he feels fortunate that higher-ups at Capitol supported his decision to record them. "Country music's always been about real-life issues. Addictions and songs like that are part of real life," he says, sounding a message shared by many of his artist colleagues. "I'm really proud of the record, and I'm glad the label didn't try to cancel some of the songs, like 'You're Not My God.' Urban says he hopes "Golden Road" paves the way for him to continue his American country music journey. Anything else is icing on the cake.
Keith Urban's Golden Road Leads to Riches
This week's new albums disprove the prevalent theory that all men in country music sound too much the same. From Keith Urban's striking blend of pop and country music, to Pinmonkey's upbeat Appalachian vibe, to Ronnie Bowman's relaxing bluegrass, Nashville boasts an impressive variety of voices. As for those who prefer the middle of the country road, John Michael Montgomery returns with a new studio album as well.
Keith Urban proves that his 2001 CMA Horizon Award wasn't a fluke. His second Capitol solo album, Golden Road, finds him more aggressive on guitar, perhaps due to heavy touring over the last two years. "Song for Dad" may be next year's unavoidable Father's Day tribute, while "Somebody Like You" remains one of the catchiest, fastest-rising country hits of 2002. The Australia native also explores his spirituality on "You're Not Alone Tonight." Urban's past hits include "But for the Grace of God," "Where the Blacktop Ends" and "Your Everything."
part of an article on cmt.com
Keith Urban: Country's Golden Boy
Keith Urban talks about his new album, recording with Rodney Crowell, and the exact definition of a "ganjo."
By Brian Mansfield
CDNOW Senior Editor, Country
Ever since Keith Urban won the Country Music Association's Horizon Award in 2001, both his fans and the country industry have been eagerly awaiting a follow-up to his solo self-titled solo album. Urban, a 34-year-old native of Australia, seems to offer a little of everything for everybody. He's a budding guitar hero whose fretwork created a huge Nashville buzz years before he started having hits. He's also a scruffy, handsome guy who was heavily influenced by Glen Campbell, so he complements his picking with a penchant for accessible love songs.
Urban released an album in Australia in 1991 (it's still available as an import) and fronted a trio called the Ranch for his American debut, which is now out of print. His next album, Keith Urban, released in 1999, made him a familiar name to country audiences with such singles as "But for the Grace of God," "Your Everything," "Where the Blacktop Ends," and "It's a Love Thing." "Somebody Like You," the first single from his new album, Golden Road, flew up the charts faster than any of those, suggesting that Urban has yet to near the speed limit for the rapidly increasing pace of his career.
CDNOW: Golden Road is an interesting blend of good-time music, such as "Who Wouldn't Want to Be Me" and the single, and some really personal stuff, including "Song for Dad" and "You're Not My God." Was that the kind of balance you were looking for?
Keith Urban: Yeah, completely. That's me. That's me in a nutshell. Or a nutcase.
I think my goal was to try and figure out if all that stuff could go on one record. It's a fine line between diversity and unfocused.
It's a horrible analogy, but I really do think of myself as a Frosted Mini-Wheat. I wish there was a better way to put it. Every time I see that commercial, I'm like, "That's me." There's a sugary side -- it's ballady, it's sap, it's romantic. I do have that side to me. Then I have a very rough, crass, unpolished, clumsy side. They're both me. I kept trying to figure out, "Which one am I?" In the end, I went, "Well, I'm both." So why can't you put both on the record?
Talk about writing with Rodney Crowell.
It was awesome. How did that come together? I think through Larry Willoughby. Larry's Rodney's cousin. I think Larry said to Rodney, "You guys should get together. I think you'd get along really well."
I didn't know that Rodney did a lot of co-writing prior to that, so I was a bit nervous. We hit it off immediately. He didn't make me feel intimidated, that he was Rodney Crowell or anything. I took some musical ideas to him, and we wrote something pretty quick the first day. "You Won," which ended up on this record, I think we wrote the second day. It happened all pretty quick and fluid.
He was great. I love working with people who are really good lyricists. I like coming up with melodies and the rhythm and the chord progression, and the lyrical meter even. I love working with people like that, and Rodney was great to work with like that.
Talk about "Song for Dad." That's one of two you wrote by yourself, obviously for a reason.
I went in and recorded quite a few songs that I had written, but those two ["Song for Dad" and "You're Not My God"] seemed to be the ones I really wanted on the final cut. I get nervous doing my own songs. I really do. I prefer to do co-written stuff. It's like hyper-personal: You're playing, you're singing, you're producing, you've written. It's like, whoo, too much -- too much exposure, it's too naked.
Says the guy who posed for Playgirl.
At least I had a guitar. But I digress
Those two songs, the one for my dad came right at the end of the record. I probably wrote it right as we were finishing the record. I think I played it at a songwriters night somewhere, and [Capitol Nashville chief] Mike Dungan was there. He was like, "Ah, you've got to cut that song." I was like, "Well, I was kind of thinking for the next record." I was thinking, "This is great, I'm going to get a jump on songs for the next album." He said, "No, you should put it on this album."
Has your dad heard it yet?
You know, typical dad: "Good job, son." He didn't really say too much.
You have a 26-year-old blue-jeans commercial on your record. Where in the world did that come from to make its way onto the record?
I guess my sick memory for almost every song I've ever heard. Even if I haven't played it in 20 years, I'll probably be able to grab my guitar and be able to play it -- if not in its exact way, then pretty damn close. I took that so that, hopefully, any bit that I'd forgotten would be original. It'd be my take on the song. I think I remember most of it anyway.
But it came about because Gary Borman, who manages me, called me one day and said that he'd been offered a jeans commercial for one of his artists, and they didn't want to do it. He said, "They haven't said that they'll give it to you, but it got me thinking, if something like that came along, would you do it? Are you that kind of an artist?" I went, "Dude, I would not only do it; I've got the song for it. It's not my song, but it's the perfect jeans song." So I whipped up a quick little demo and sent it to him. He goes, "I remember this song, yeah." I said, "I'm thinking of putting it on the record." He's like, "Why would you do that?" Why not?
"I get nervous doing my own songs It's like hyper-personal: You're playing, you're singing, you're producing, you've written."
In the credits, you thank your producer, Dann Huff, for making you a better guitar player. How did he do that?
He pushed me into some areas of melodicism that I wouldn't have gone into before. More bluesy, seventh-y scales and stuff. I would fall into some areas, and he'd go, "Yee-ahh, do more of that, but then go into that area." "Wow, yeah." So he kind of did impose a bit of his approach, but I was able to make it my own. It stretched me out a little bit. It was really good. He's such a great player, man.
What, exactly, is the "ganjo" that you play throughout the record?
It's a six-string banjo. And it's tuned like a guitar, so it's a guitar-banjo, hence the name.
What are the differences between it and a regular banjo?
It's a slightly wider neck, and [it] obviously has six strings instead of five.
The tuning is like a guitar, but to make it sound like it's a banjo, obviously you have to do chordal inversions and riffs, and stuff -- hammer-ons and pull-offs, all that sort of crap -- to make it sound like that.
After the last song on the cd, You're Not My God, stick around...let it play, even though it sounds like there's nothing left. You will be very pleasantly surprised! Those of you who are avid ku fans may have heard the "hidden track" in concert before.
Q : I've noticed in the past that Keith Urban's name was never capitalized. But, now it is. Do you know why?
A : We do indeed know why. When Keith was first putting together his Web site, he thought the lowercase look was quite cool. And, it ended up carrying over into all aspects of his career. With Keith's new CD, Keith has since returned to the normal uppercase and lowercase font. Keith says, and I quote, "I finally found the CAPS key."
-from MWL's katie Cook during a news segment/sent in by a viewer
Urban Country Proves Golden on Chart
It's Keith Urban week on the country charts, thanks to a new album containing a single that tops Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks for a second consecutive week. Meanwhile, Elvis Presley shows his staying power on the albums chart while Shania Twain continues to rocket up the country singles chart.
Urban's "Somebody Like You" stays at No. 1 during the same week his second solo album, Golden Road, debuts at No. 3 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. On the all-encompassing Billboard 200, Golden Road also arrives at No. 11 to put it behind only Bon Jovi's Bounce and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' The Last DJ as the highest-debuting album of the week. With a No. 2 debut the Billboard 200, Bon Jovi was unable to oust Presley's ELV1S: 30 #1 Hits from the top position. The Presley title also remains at No. 1 on the country albums chart.
Last week on ACC, the man from down under became the man on top when Keith
Urban scored his second #1 with "Somebody Like You." His first number
one, "Your Everything," stayed there for just one week. Can he make it
two weeks this time? Find out when Bob reveals the official rankings of
the official chart, this weekend, on American Country Countdown. Tune
into your local Country radio station this and every weekend to hear
American Country Countdown with Bob Kingsley.
Career Detours Lead Keith Urban to Golden Road
Up in the California hills above Malibu, on a breathtaking property owned by architect Frank Lloyd Wright's son, an unexpected golden-haired visitor caught Keith Urban off-guard during the video shoot for "Somebody Like You."
That would be the anxious dog that suddenly races through a scene in the middle of the clip.
"He belonged to somebody in the crew I guess," Urban tells CMT.com. "He had been out of the shot all day and just took off."
And, oh yeah, supermodel Niki Taylor -- who now lives in the Nashville area -- also stars in the video.
"She belonged to the crew, too," Urban jokes. "She just took off running."
Actually, a mutual friend arranged the collaboration between the beautiful people. Keith, who turns 35 on Oct. 26, says they remain good friends.
"She'd never done a video before, which I thought was amazing," Urban says. "And she loves country. Who knew?"
Add that coup to the list of Urban's pioneering. "Somebody Like You" sits at No. 2 on CMT's Top Twenty Countdown, and the single has spent two weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's country singles chart. The new album, Golden Road, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard country albums chart.
It has been 10 years since Urban, who was born and raised in Australia, moved to Nashville in pursuit of a country music career. Because of his fast fingers on electric guitar, his budding skill as a songwriter and a youthful, sexy look, the music business did notice his star potential. Still, for many years, the big break eluded him.
"Unfortunately, it was always like, 'That's great, but what do we do with him?' I don't know how to take that. I'm flattered and frustrated all at once," Urban remembers. "But this guy, Cliff Audretch [an executive at Sony Music], gave me the best advice I ever got. He came to see us one time in Nashville years and years ago. He came to me afterwards and said, 'You're really unique. It's going to be your biggest curse until it becomes your greatest blessing.' That was exactly it."
Urban signed a development deal with Warner Bros. in 1995, but it stalled. The Ranch, a band he formed with Jerry Flowers and Peter Clarke, issued a self-titled album in 1997 on Capitol Records. Despite strong material, country radio ignored its two singles and the Ranch soon called it quits. Urban shakily faced the future with two major-label false starts in a business that rarely allows even one.
"I went for six months without playing live, and that was the longest I had ever gone without performing," Urban remembers. "It dawned on me that as a performing musician, you get applause for what you do. And I've been performing since I was 7, so a huge part of my self-esteem -- for better or worse -- is based on this audience adulation. If you take that away from me for six months, ooh, there's a major imbalance that put me off course."
In the late '90s, Capitol Records hired a new label chief, Pat Quigley. Before long, the label endured a mass exodus of its established stars (such as John Berry, Suzy Bogguss, Deana Carter and Billy Dean) as well as many new artists. Surprisingly, the label kept Urban. His 1999 self-titled debut won points for sincerity but lacked the hot guitar work of The Ranch.
"I just wasn't in a bold frame of mind," Urban says, about making his first solo record. "I was just really glad to be alive, and to be here still, and to have kept my record deal. It was a very humble record, a lot of humility on that record, because that's where I was at."
The first single, "It's a Love Thing," crawled to No. 18, but the second single, "Your Everything," reached No. 4. Finally, "But for the Grace of God," a modest ballad about striving for personal peace, rose to No. 1 in early 2001. He snagged the CMA Horizon award that same year.
"All I wanted to do was get accepted in Nashville because you get a lot of buzz about you, but that doesn't mean you've got support or the acceptance of the town. When they visibly show that they're behind you, that's a big deal," he says about his victory. "That meant a lot to me."
Rather than jump into a new studio album, Urban laid down 10 tracks in December 2001 with only a bass player and a drummer to decide if a new batch of songs met his standards. In addition, Urban's break-up with his fiancée kept Golden Road under construction longer than anticipated.
"It was very, very difficult," Urban admits. "I found some solace in my work but also found days when I couldn't do it. I had to reschedule stuff. That had a lot to do with the record taking a long time. It's an awkward place to be, singing all those joyous love songs."
All the same, Golden Road succeeds in blending the intensity of his live show with his knack for writing mainstream country love songs.
"There are a lot of ways to achieve your objectives, and what I needed to do was ease myself in. That last record did that. It's a much more polite record," he says. "You don't scratch your privates on the first date, you know? I mean, that's you and who you are, but you just don't it."
So, speaking of being polite, when do you scratch yourself?
"When your career's over!" he answers with a chuckle. "At least you had a career!"