Keith Urban believes in destiny. During an interview with CMT Insider host Katie Cook, the country star noted, “In a lot of our jobs, I think you’ve got to be born into it because there’s going to come a time when it’s so difficult, no matter whether you’re an actor, musician, or what you’re doing. When it’s so difficult and it’s not getting anywhere, the only thing that’s going to pull me through that moment is thinking, ‘I’m born to do this. I love this, and what else am I gonna do, you know? I’m gonna do this.’ And so it carries you through.”
That spiritual approach to life and lyrics has endeared Urban to his fans for more than a decade. In this interview about his new album, Get Closer, he tells Cook about finding a message in the music, catching and releasing new songs and capturing a moment in time with every album.
CMT Insider: The name of the album is Get Closer, but there’s not actually a song on the album called that. So where did the title come from?
Urban: I’ve never wanted to name an album from a song title if I could avoid it because I like it to be a body of work. And I couldn’t think of a title for this album to save me. The record was coming together quick, so I was listening to all these songs trying to find the common thread between them and what this record was really about.
There’s a song on the album called “Right on Back to You,” and in that song, the guy drives off after some incident with his girl. He pulls to the side of the road and realizes, “I always do this, I always run. What am I running from?” It’s that realization that it’s intimacy that [he's] scared of. [He's] running from love and … it just keeps [him] in this perpetual cycle of unfulfillment. The guy realizes in that moment, “When I want to pull away is probably the moment where I actually should get closer.” It doesn’t mention it in the song, other than a line that says, “But instead of running, I know it’s when I should hold you closer.” So Get Closer seemed perfect for the record.
That’s good advice for somebody. You’ve gotta give it to get it.
You can’t have an exit strategy. I think that’s part of it. I think anybody that’s loved and had their heart broken, they know exactly what it feels like to try and do that the second time. It’s so difficult. It’s nearly impossible. There’s a tendency to want to pull back a little bit. And as we all do, we go, “As I get more comfortable with this person, I’ll open up a little more and a little more.” But part of the thing that’s getting comfortable with them is being open completely. So it’s a bit of a conundrum isn’t it?
There are eight tracks on this album, which is a little less than you would normally have. Is there any significance there?
I think the concept of what an album is in the midst of being reconfigured. … I’ve got plenty of albums in my collection that are nine songs long, eight songs long. When it was vinyl, it was [sometimes] four on one side, five on the other. It’s been every combination of numbers at some point. With the CD, of course, we could put more songs on, so it got bigger and bigger and bigger. But I think quality of songs should be the first and foremost thing, as opposed to quantity. So I just wanted to look at maybe doing [albums] on a more regular basis.
Well, that’s good news.
Hopefully, yeah. But it’s always about the songs. If the songs are there, we should able to. … I think we’re gonna get to the point where if we’ve got songs, we should be able to record them and sort of catch and release, you know?
Absolutely. Well, one song that I love that you didn’t actually write, but sounds tailor-made for you, is “Without You.” It really does sound like something you would’ve written, word for word. That’s obviously what drew you to it, I would think.
So much, yeah. It was strange to hear a song so autobiographical that I didn’t write and wasn’t written for me. A remarkable song.
How did you find it?
[Nashville songwriter and labelmate] Emily West called me one night. She said, “I just heard this song … and you would swear it’s your life to a T.” You know, the cars and guitars and your family and the baby girl coming along. It just nailed it. Crazy. Beautiful song.
I feel like the whole CD is leaning a little sexier this time.
It’s got a good simmer to it. (laughing) It does, yeah.
Is that something you were conscious of when you were making it?
No, I’m never conscious of that. I’m always unconscious. (laughing) … I like things to just be organic. They just sort of come out, and they start to take shape and take form. And I think this record started to have that kind of energy to it that I was really very happy to hear.
I feel kind of weird saying, “Were you in a sexy mood making this record?”
Well, they all capture my life. All these albums have at some point. People will ask, “Did you get to make the record you wanted to make?” I’ve always made the record I wanted to make. And do I cringe at some of the things? Of course. You know, they’re like a high school yearbook photo. You’re kind of like, “Ugh.” But they’re accurate. I love that I can see the tenacity. Every record I’ve ever made was very accurate of where I was at that time when I made them.
Obviously, a big part of that is working with [producer] Dann Huff. I know you guys work very well together. You seem like you’re very open to the process. You might go in with one arrangement and it might totally change once you’re in there working on it. Is that true?
Definitely. And songs that we think are gonna just, “Oh, we can’t wait!” … we get in there and they just don’t rise the way they should. It’s just a feeling. It’s frustrating sometimes because there are certain songs I feel like, “Well, I think this could be a single. Why isn’t it?” And it just isn’t. And it can be just timing. There’s a song on this album called “Shut Out the Lights” that Monty Powell and I wrote five or six years ago, and it just never seemed to fit any record until this one. And it just came to life on this record.