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September 27, 2020

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Keith Urban puts downtime to good use

THIS year was supposed to be a busy one for Keith Urban, with a full year of touring and a Las Vegas residency. Consequently, he wasn’t sure when he would have time to finish his next album “Speed of Now Part 1.” But in March the coronavirus outbreak brought live performances to a grinding halt.

“It ended up being the time I needed but not the way I wish I’d gotten the time,” said the globe-trotting country star who’s nominated for three Country Music Association awards, including entertainer of the year.

The downtime forced him back into the studio, where he connected with a kindred spirit in singer-songwriter Breland “The Pen Point Guard,” whose urban-rural fusion “My Truck” has become a big hit this year. The pair co-wrote two songs for Urban’s album that was released last week, including “Out the Cage” that features Breland on vocals and Nile Rodgers on guitar.

“Breland is a man after my own heart musically, and I was dying to get in the studio with him to see what would happen,” Urban said.

Urban gave a talk recently from Australia, where he’s living with his kids and wife Nicole Kidman, about finding creative partners and learning to talk about his feelings.


Q: You’re so focused on the collaborative approach to music, and this album includes artists with many different styles like Breland, Pink and Eric Church. Are you drawn to the experimental part of collaborating?

A: I never think of it in terms of experimental. I think of it in terms of all these different styles that have a connection to one another. What is that connection and can we harness it? In the process, we want people to hear it and go, “Wow, I really connect to that.” That’s what drives me — the commonality in people, music and everything in life. It’s what drives me far more than what separates us, because there’s plenty of that. We’re drowning in it right now.


Q: In that vein, one song called “Tumbleweed” includes a sample of a didgeridoo, an instrument invented in Australia. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a didgeridoo in a country song, but it works.

A: After the guitar solo, there’s a four-second breakdown, and I was like, “I need something here. We’ve heard everything.” And I went “Didgeridoo! Fantastic.” My engineer was like, “Didgeri-what? I’ve never heard one.” We went online and I found a guy playing one, and we decided to run with it.


Q: There’s a song on the album called “Say Something” about the power of words that seems to reflect the collective consciousness of this year’s protests. What did you want to say in that song?

A: If anyone wants to know what my beliefs and views are, listen to my music or look at my life. It’s all there in plain sight. I’ve never felt the need to go for soapbox-type things — probably because of the way my dad raised me — but there’s a need for that as well. I also think there’s a need for people to speak up in their families. I thought about people I wished I’d apologized to and never did, and they drifted out of my life. I also thought about people I wished I said ‘I love you’ to before they passed away, including my father. So I wrote the second verse to touch on all of that — the struggle with intimacy and learning to speak up and say intimate things. This is helping my family and is very different than the way I was raised.


Q: I’m sure that’s a good example for your children.

A: I’m learning but Nicole is incredible at it. She’s very expressive and doesn’t bottle stuff up, which is really helpful. It’s a much better way to be. We don’t walk around our house on eggshells. We get stuff out.


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