Editor’s note: See the interview with Keith Urban on the new episode of CMT Insider debuting Saturday (May 2) at 1:30 p.m. ET/PT.
Keith Urban is just days away from launching his Escape Together World Tour, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be out of touch with his wife, Nicole Kidman, and their daughter, Sunday Rose.
“I want to have my family out here as much as I can this year,” he said. “That’s something that’s new to the tour, but I always play a little bit better when they’re out.”
In an interview with CMT Insider host Katie Cook, Urban talks about preparing for the tour, choosing his opening acts and bringing his fans closer to the stage.
CMT Insider: Talk to us about the process of a tour rehearsal. It takes weeks, right?
Keith Urban: Yeah, well, months in our case. It was because we started piecing the tour together last year. It’s great to see it come to this phase because it all starts on a drawing board with a lot of ideas getting thrown around, and it’s come to this, so it’s great.
Do you come into the first rehearsals with a very clear idea of exactly how the show’s going to go?
Yes and no. I think of it more in terms of specific things I’d like to see through the whole show. I always try and pace it for short-attention-span people (laughs) which I think everyone is to a certain degree, especially now. … I think there’s a certain point where our attention can only sustain for so long, and then we just need a change of any sort. The elements that I wanted to incorporate in this tour are really theatrical, cinematic and musical. If we can make those three things happen within the course of our whole show, then it should be a really thoroughly entertaining evening.
I know fans loved the setup last year of the stage. You had that long catwalk and the satellite stage where you did the acoustic stuff. Are you keeping any of those elements?
We had to abandon the ramp that came out through the middle of the audience because we, fortunately, had more demand for tickets this year. So we wanted to free up all that floor space. My biggest goal was to continue making it as intimate as possible because an arena is a big environment and can be a bit disconnected, particularly if you’re in the farthest seats. So, obviously, the video screens allow us to connect with those people, but I always wanted to allow the stage to give the feeling of “us” more — not “me and you,” but “us.” It’s all about “us.” This tour is called Escape Together. I don’t know if you can see it, but the edges of the stage kind of melt down into the arena so its very easy access to get down into the audience.
Tell us about the video screens. Can you give us any hints as to what might be on them?
We separated it into five different screens this year. We had one big one last year, and we split it up into five. There’s a reason for that — which you kind of have to come see on the tour. … They do pretty amazing things.
Are there any songs or any real fan favorites that you put back in the set list that weren’t there last year?
There are some songs that I’ll probably do acoustically. We’ve got a satellite stage, so I’ll come out actually through the crowd this time. Usually I either walked out through the ramp or have flown out, but this year we’re going to go straight through the audience on this stage, which will be out in the middle of the arena. And I’ll probably do that a couple times.
Tell us about the opening acts this year.
It’s a mix. Taylor Swift’s going to come out and do about 10 shows with us. Sugarland’s coming out to do a bunch. The Zac Brown Band, Dierks Bentley and Lady Antebellum are going to come do some shows with us as well. Little Big Town. Jason Aldean’s going to be out. It’s a good mix.
What do you look for in an opening act? How do you pick these people?
Compatibility with what we’re doing musically. And I think all the people that we’re bringing out are going to be able to connect with our audience.
You’ve always said that you’ve enjoyed the touring process. Is there anything about it that you don’t like?
Being away from home is the hardest for sure. Certain sleepless nights on the bus can start to add up. It’s a very physically demanding show that we do, so if I don’t sleep right, it can start to unravel.
Let’s talk about some of the physical demands and emotional demands of doing a tour this big. How do you get in tiptop shape? Is it consistent all year?
Oh, yeah, definitely. I don’t think of it in terms of, “Oh, I’ve got a tour coming. I have to get back in shape.” I like to be able to do what I want to be able to do, and it requires work.
What kind of workout do you do? What’s a day at the gym like?
Oh, just a little bit of this, a bit of that. … I mix it up a little bit because this show is cardiovascularlly challenging, and so that’s the biggest achievement.
Good job on saying that word. I would have stumbled.
Yeah, I can only do it once.