CMT Insider Interview: Keith Urban

He Talks About Marriage and New Album, Greatest Hits: 18 Kids

Editor’s note: See the interview with Keith Urban when the new episode of CMT Insider premieres at 1 p.m. ET/PT on Saturday (Nov. 24) and re-airs at 7:30 a.m. ET/PT on Sunday (Nov. 25).

Keith Urban doesn’t have any concerts booked during Thanksgiving week, but he’s demonstrated his work ethic this year with tours of Germany, England and Australia leading up to his current North American tour that continues on Nov. 29 in Knoxville, Tenn., and concludes Dec. 16 in London, Ontario. He and another multi-platinum act, Carrie Underwood, will be launching a 24-city tour co-headlining tour that starts Jan. 31.

Urban and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, charmed fans at the recent CMA Awards show in Nashville, and he has been the center of media attention lately with the release of his new album, Greatest Hits: 18 Kids.

During CMT Insider’s recent interview in Cleveland, Urban talks about the married life and his music and career. Amused by the notion that some of his newer fans may think of him as an overnight success, he laughs and says, “It’s been a very long night.”

CMT: First things first, why did you name it Keith Urban Greatest Hits: 18 Kids?

Keith Urban: Oh, for a lot of reasons. I mean, in a lot of ways, the songs are like my children, and it was a bit of a play on the amount of times we get asked about having kids. So, I think by now, we’ve probably had about 18 kids, you know.

When an artist puts out a greatest hits album, it almost forces you to reflect on their career.

It was an interesting opportunity to go back and listen to these songs, the original versions of them — a lot of which I haven’t heard of in a long time. We do almost all the songs on this greatest hits we’re doing in the show right now, but having not heard the originals for a long time, it was interesting to see how far they’ve come.

When you went back to listen to the songs, did any of them surprise you — in either a good or bad way?

What did I cringe at, you mean? What the hell was I thinking there? (laughs) It’s one of those things where I obviously wouldn’t record it that way now, but at the same time, they’re all accurate. They were absolutely right for the time. They’re like snapshots, in that I listen to a song and go, “Yeah, that’s the guy I was when I recorded that.”

What was it like when you had your first No. 1, “But for the Grace of God”?

It’s amazing. To hear the song on the radio is awesome because you’ve always wanted to hear your song on the radio. And I remember the day they called to tell me the song was No. 1. It just didn’t sink in … because I’ve come halfway around the world, and they’re telling me it’s No. 1. And I’m like, “Where? What state?” And they’re like, “No, it’s across the board.” Yeah, it’s an amazing feeling.

There are two new songs on your greatest hits album, and one is a remake of a Steve Forbert pop hit from the ’70s.

Yeah, “Romeo’s Tune.” Most people don’t know the name of it. They just think it’s called “Meet Me in the Middle of the Day.” I’ve always loved that song. And I always hear songs with banjo in them even when they’re not in them. It’s just the way my head operates. And I hear stuff like that and just thought that’s something we would have done on Be Here or Golden Road. It would have fit perfectly on those records. So when we were putting together all these songs and looking at sort of the musical journey, that song seemed to fit perfectly.

You’ve been touring in the U.S., but you’ve also been shuttling back and forth because your wife is working in Australia. Has that been an additional burden in touring just because of the logistics?

Not a burden specifically [but] a challenge to just kind of figure out how to keep the balance and the two things that I love. Being with my family is very important to me, and touring is very important to me, too, because it’s who I am. It’s what I do.

Are you getting good at sleeping on planes?

I’m getting good at sleeping everywhere, actually. Standing up.

At the CMA Awards, you and your wife not only walked the red carpet, but you went across the street to greet some of the fans. That’s kind of your world as a country artist, but you could tell the fans couldn’t believe you were actually walking across the street that night.

I think it’s just important to not forget what we do — and the fans. I mean, it’s the whole family aspect of it, and to not acknowledge them is crazy — especially for me. The most amazing support has come from those very people.

It seems to me that when two celebrities get married, it’s almost like celebrity-squared. Have you found it difficult to deal with being that much more famous?

I think that what we try to do is recognize that there’s a public aspect to us and to acknowledge that. It is what it is, but to also try and keep a balance where we can keep a bit of our private life private and not seem like we’re hiding or ignoring or pushing people away. That’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to seek a balance where it’s not too intrusive into our life but where we also can express our gratitude to the fans, as well.

A greatest hits album is sort of like closing the first chapter and moving on to the next phase of a career. Do you see it as a milestone?

Yeah, I think chapter is a good way to put it because it is, like I’m in the book of life, if you will. That there’s a certain point where we’ve got “X” amount of songs and we can come and play these places, and we’re not having to fill it with a lot of cover songs. And the people know everything. That’s a great feeling. Then we can start to hopefully build on top of that as well.

If this is chapter one, what’s ahead in chapter two?

Just to keep getting better at what I do. That’s really it. Keep digging and keep doing what I’ve always been doing — try to reach people and find ways to connect with them. I think there’s just so many people in the world that don’t feel understood, and when you hear a song and you go, “Oh, that song understands me,” that’s an amazing feeling. I get it when I listen to the radio. … That’s a beautiful part of music.

If this is the end of Chapter 1, it’s a pretty good place to be.

It’s awesome. It really is. And it hasn’t come easily…but I guess if pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth, then I think I’m in that place.

Just try to ease up on the pain in the future.

Yeah, a little less of that would be good.

The interview was conducted by CMT Insider producer Terry Bumgarner.