The Reverb Interview: Keith UrbanBy Ricardo Baca | October 11th, 2011 | No Comments »
It would be nearly impossible to write about pop-country star Keith Urban and not use that exact identifier — pop-country.
Urban belongs to the same elite club as Sugarland, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum and others. Their music is rooted in Nashville, but they’re not afraid of a little Hollywood gloss.
And Urban isn’t ashamed of the genre tag.
“None of this is new,” Urban said earlier this week as his tour bus navigated the highway between Sacramento and Fresno, Calif. “This is the conversation that country music has been having since the ’50s. I grew up in a house where my dad’s record collection was all Charley Pride and Glen Campbell. And Glen Campbell’s ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix,’ that’s a huge pop hit. And that was in the ’60s.
“Country has been crossing over into pop for decades. The only thing that has changed is that there’s less of a cycle. It used to be that country would go pop every decade or so, and then it would go back into a more traditional thing, and then back to pop. ‘Urban Cowboy’ had a huge pop appeal. Dolly Parton’s ’9 to 5′ and ‘Islands in the Stream’ — all these songs were huge pop hits. So now it’s really business as usual.”
When Urban headlines the Pepsi Center tonight, the mop-topped heartthrob will be supporting his latest record, 2010′s “Get Closer.” It positions Urban at the top of his game: After a very public rehab stint, Mr. Nicole Kidman remains one of country music’s most likable and popular stars.
It suits him well. In fact, Urban seems like he’s almost used to the spotlight of the American paparazzi.
“I don’t know if (people’s fascination with my life) will ever seem normal, but it’s par for the course,” Urban said. “It’s a strange fascination at times, but I do my best to share that with people while maintaining the obvious privacy needed for my family.”
Urban’s music is in top form on “Get Closer.” He co-wrote half of the record’s eight songs. He even worked with songwriter Richard Marx (of “Right Here Waiting” fame) on his current Top 10 single, “Long Hot Summer,” which has been dominating summer airwaves with its feel-good choruses since June.
One listen to the breezy, melancholic “Without You” presents a unique portrait of Urban, not to mention the Nashville process. The song makes the point that life’s great joys — traveling, singing, fast cars, guitars, daughters — are nothing without somebody to share them with.
Urban said that no song has ever so aptly captured his life, and yet he didn’t write it.
“It happened to mention all the things that are important to me,” Urban said. “I didn’t change any of the lyrics — the baby girl, the fast cars, the guitars — I guess it was somebody else’s life, too.”
Urban is also one of the genre’s most active performers. “Get Closer” followed his previous effort, 2009′s “Defying Gravity,” by only a year and a half. And Urban is already working on music for his next album as he upholds his reputation as one of country’s biggest touring acts.
Not only does Urban play a lot, but he’s also gigging the biggest rooms in the land.
“For me, it’s all about the palpable energy under a single roof, and because of that, arenas are my favorite places to play,” Urban said. “For this tour, we have a stage that helps it feel like a club — but with a lot more people than you could get into a club.
“This stage was designed to feel intimate, so people can put their hands on the stage and we’re right there with the audience and it’s not some huge, 20-feet-tall thing that people have to look up at. But whether it’s 500 people or 20,000 people, we’re all under the same roof. It’s that feeling of unity that I look for in a concert experience.”