CMA Awards Keith Urban shares his journey to 'Get Closer'
Published by Peter Cooper on November 7, 2010 CMA Awards and Features.
Keith Urban (photo: Max Vadukal)
Back in May, rain fell. Water rose. Homes, businesses and iconic Nashville music landmarks succumbed to floodwaters. And Keith Urban entered a recording studio to sing a new collection of mostly sunny love songs.
“It was challenging,” Urban said in October, “but I had a lot of faith that my job at that time was to make a record.”
In between the recording of that album, Get Closer, and its Nov. 16 release, Urban played sunny love songs at benefits for flood victims and at his annual We’re All For The Hall fundraiser for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
He also collected top entertainer and male vocalist nominations for the Nov. 10 CMA Awards. And he turned 43 years old, marked the fourth anniversary of his marriage to actress Nicole Kidman and celebrated the second birthday of their daughter, Sunday Rose.
From the outside, Urban’s life looks filled with security and happiness. From the inside, Urban said, it does as well.
You lost a lot in the flood, because you had so many guitars stored at Soundcheck (a rehearsal space and storage facility that wound up enveloped by the Cumberland River for several days).
“I had weird dreams at night, imagining what I was going to see when we could get back into Soundcheck. They ranged from finding the water hadn’t risen more than a foot and hadn’t touched my stuff, to everything being underwater. In reality, because I was going to make a record, most of my guitars were up front, down low, ready to be put on a truck and taken to the studio. So the things I use every day were all underwater.”
You own a virtually priceless guitar that belonged to Waylon Jennings, a Fender Telecaster with leather covering the body of the guitar, and you used it in writing “Georgia Woods” on the new album. Did that guitar make it through the flood?
“It was submerged in water, but, luckily, the leather seemed to have protected it. ... It’s a magical sounding instrument.
“With ‘Georgia Woods,’ the riffs that open the song were straight from that Telecaster, plugged into a Fender twin amp. The line, ‘What kind of spell is this you cast on me?’ comes from the simmering atmosphere of that music, and (co-writer) Darrell Scott and I took it from there. I love when that happens. It’s elusive.”
You don’t lead a particularly normal life. Most people in your audience are neither famous nor wealthy. How do you write songs that aren’t pieces of fiction that are still relatable to those people?
“I don’t just write from where I am today. If you’re only going to write from today, there’s only so much to draw from. I can tap into any of the places I’ve been in my life. I can do that in finding other people’s songs, too. ‘Luxury of Knowing’ is a Lori McKenna song that has nothing to do with my life now but everything to do with a relationship I was in seven or eight years ago. It’s an amazing song, and I’ve never heard that perspective before. It’s not outright anger, but it has a simmering, fearful, paranoid uncertainty, and not a lot of songs encompass that mix of emotions.”
“Luxury of Knowing” is a different kind of song than you’ve recorded before, but much of what gets released to the radio has a signature sound that people instantly associate with you.
“Well, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You’re either called ‘consistent’ or ‘same as the last record,’ so which is it? I make the music that is coming out of me, without questioning it. I think about Paul McCartney saying, ‘You’d think people have had enough of silly love songs,’ but that’s what I write about. I write about where I am in my life, and now in my life and my marriage there’s a vibrant energy.”
How do you handle awards shows? You’re up for big prizes at the CMA Awards.
“I really care, and really don’t care, all at once. It’s exciting, and it’s nice to get recognition. But after any awards show, what I’m most excited about is the next day, to get back onstage quickly and get back to playing.”
Did you set out to make Get Closer a theme album?
“No, if there’s a theme it tends to emerge in the studio. In this case, there’s a line in ‘Right On Back To You’ that says, ‘Instead of running, I know it’s when I should hold you closer,’ and that sums up the whole record. I wanted to cover aspects of what it means to get closer in a relationship, and why it’s important. The epiphany for me in my own relationship was recognizing that the exact moment I want to turn and run is when I should move in closer.”
And that’s not your instinct?
“My instinct is of protection. I’m terrified of getting hurt, and that’s why I run. I don’t want to have intimacy, because I’m terrified that I’ll be disappointed, discarded, hurt. I’ve lived most of my life half-in and half-out, and when I met Nic that changed. She’s the first that made me ask the question, ‘Do I have the courage to love?’ I’d never asked that before, and I’d never had a very good answer, other than, ‘No.’ But now, I’m 100 percent in, with no exit strategy.”
Is having a child a part of that?
“Yeah, for sure. It pours a new purpose for me. It’s been an enlightening experience for me to be more selfless. When I was single, it was all about me, and that was not a fulfilling experience. I haven’t had a sense of being full and whole when the world has been about me. When I’ve given myself to my wife and my daughter, I’ve felt full.”
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Keith's heart and courage amazes. He has grown so much as an artist, and as a person. When it comes to Keith's music, I always want to hear whats on his heart and mind. Since early 2001 and now.
That he will share about his love for his wife and little one in his music, and interviews, gives me great respect for him as a person.