CMT Insider Interview: Keith Urban (Part 1 of 2)

Singer-Songwriter Talks About Touring and New Music

Editor’s note: Watch Katie Cook’s interview with Keith Urban in the new episode of CMT Insider premiering Saturday (April 3) at 1:30 p.m. ET/PT.

After headlining one of the most successful tours of 2009, Keith Urban will be performing at several stadium shows this year while also returning to some smaller festivals and state fairs.

He’s nominated for entertainer of the year and top male vocalist at the Academy of Country Music Awards show set for April 18 in Las Vegas. The following night, he’ll be part of an all-star cast performing musical tributes during the taping of ACM Presents: Brooks & Dunn — The Last Rodeo.

During a recent interview at CMT’s offices in Nashville, Urban talked to CMT Insider’s Katie Cook about being on the road last year and the new music he’s working on. Here are segments from the interview:

CMT Insider: It’s awards show season. It seems that over the last 12 months, you’ve won at every awards show. Does it feel like a banner year for you?

Urban: The tour went probably way better than what I was hoping for. I was hoping for it to go really well, but it went ever better than that, so I came away from the end of last year thrilled — beyond thrilled — the tour did as well as it did. So all the rest is kind of crazy.

All you need now is to have a musical.

A musical? You know, I did play in the school production of Oliver! I think it’s because I was the only sandy blond-haired kid that could sing. “Please sir, I want some more.”

Will you find that and send it to us, please?

I’ll make sure I find it and burn it! (laughs)

What do you think made ’09 such an incredible year for you?

Just finding a center in life has had a huge influence on everything else. For getting onstage and singing and playing live that I’ve done my whole life, it has taken on a whole new depth for me. And I think just the music that we made on Defying Gravity, at this time, it all came together.

The lyrics maybe mean something different now.

They do.

It may be the same songs, but they have a new meaning.

Oh, yeah, like a great book, but it always strikes me as different. And these songs definitely resonate with me differently.

Are you working on any new music?

Yeah, we’ve been writing a lot. I’ve been writing a lot with all kinds of people [during] the last month, two months probably. So, hopefully, we’ll be getting in the studio again very soon.

Can you hint to us what direction you’re taking?

I’m writing with a lot of the people I’ve written with on the last record — Monty Powell, Darrell Brown, John Shanks — and I’ve got a lot more writing sessions coming up here shortly with a lot more people. … The songs are just what they are. I don’t know what they are until they’ve hatched.

Well, if it ain’t broke.

Yeah, and I don’t think there is any other way to approach it. It’s just creating in the moment, and that is all I’ve ever done. Sometimes it works … sometimes it doesn’t. It’s the only way to do it. There’s no rule book or some sort of system for me to follow. There might be a set of rituals, but there’s no structured system that seems to work perfectly every time. It’s just spontaneous.

Kenny Chesney announced that he wouldn’t be doing his big stadium tours this year. When he was asked who he thought could carry on the torch, he said if you haven’t seen Keith Urban’s show, you’re really missing out.

I pay him so much money to say that. He has a new boat. That’s all I’m going to say. It’s really nice. (laughs)

Would you even desire to take on the task of hosting those stadium shows during the summer?

I think a lot is about the way Kenny has done it. He’s done it the way you’re supposed to do it — building slowly over a long period of time. It’s not about going in and playing arenas like that. It’s about doing the little clubs. Then you do the theaters, arenas and then out to the stadiums like that. He’s done it. I think it’s such a perfect template of how to do it.

Were you exhausted at the end of your tour?

I wasn’t, actually. Just the reciprocation from the audience every night — night after night it was so consistent. As a matter of fact, we went down to Australia to play, and that traditionally is a place that they love their seats. They like to sit down, and that is the way they are with all concerts. It’s not a reflection on anything other than that is just the way a lot of Australian audiences are. I was really hoping if we brought down this exact show — the production, the stage, everything — that maybe it would be different this time. And from the first night in Melbourne, when we started, everybody was up, and they stayed up the whole night. From city to city, they did that, and I have never seen that before. It made it easy to play night after night.

You’re playing some smaller festivals in the U.S. this summer.

Yeah, a lot of festivals that we haven’t done for a while, so that will be nice to get outside.