Always generous with his time and resources, Keith Urban outdid himself Wednesday (Jan. 25) when he surrendered the spotlight at his own No. 1 party to two musicians who had covered his “Long Hot Summer” hit in videos on the Internet.
The party, held at Nashville’s stylish Cabana restaurant, was shoulder-to-shoulder and wall-to-wall by the time Urban and his “Long Hot Summer” co-writer, pop star Richard Marx, entered the room.
But it was what happened after the two men had held a press conference and accepted an armload of awards that really made the event memorable.
It has become Urban’s custom to conclude each of his No. 1 parties by performing — usually solo — the song being celebrated.
This time, though, as the party neared its end, he brought singer Patrick Woolam of Kansas City, Mo., and electric guitarist Leslie Strong of Hazard, Ky., to the stage. He explained that he had spotted their videos of “Long Hot Summer” online and liked what he saw so much, he traced them down and invited them to Nashville to perform at the party.
They didn’t let him down. With Urban, Marx, a drummer and a bass player providing backup, Strong kicked off the song with a sure-fingered, blistering run, while Woolam grasped the microphone stand and belted out the intro as confidently as if he were singing his own words.
Grinning with satisfaction, Urban simply played his electric guitar until the middle of the song, at which time he finally took a vocal turn.
The crowd roared its approval of the performance, and many of the partygoers stayed on to offer the newcomers praise and encouragement.
Woolam, who plays in a band called the Transients, told CMT.com he had to cancel some dates to come to Nashville but was determined to avail himself of this “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.
Strong said she and Woolam did only one run-through with the band before making their Cinderella appearance.
Even before the party got underway, it was clear something big was going to happen. Instead of an open floor in front of the stage, there were two rows of chairs for reporters and a semicircle of TV cameras perched like crows on their high tripods.
The drums, microphones and guitar stands onstage foretold there would be music, as well as the usual speech-making and award-giving.
A huge screen, high and stage right, showed an endless loop of waves washing onto a deserted beach. A few brightly colored beach balls were also in evidence, although no one tossed them about as they would have done at a regular concert.
BMI publicist Kay Clary called the crowd to order, introduced Urban and Marx and bade the press conference begin. (Normally, such question-and-answer sessions are held before guests gather for the celebration.)
Urban spoke about the circumstances under which he and Marx wrote “Long Hot Summer.” It was just after the Nashville flood of May 2010, he said, in which he lost many of his guitars.
So he rented a room in a Nashville rehearsal hall where he and Marx could work, borrowed a guitar and the two began writing.
They continued working on the song when Urban went to Chicago, where Marx lives, to open an Eagles concert. There they polished the song on Urban’s bus.
Urban’s voice sounded the same as always, an indication he has recovered fully from the November surgery on his vocal cords that rendered him speechless for three weeks.
“It wasn’t that hard not to talk,” he said in response to a question about his doctor-ordered silence.
He said that before he went on vocal hiatus, he recorded several books on cassette tapes so he could continue “reading” them to his 3-year-old daughter, Sunday Rose. It was not an entirely successful ploy, he admitted, since Sunday kept saying, “I want you to read it.”
A reporter, noting that both Urban and Marx are married to actresses (Urban to Nicole Kidman, Marx to Cynthia Rhodes), asked why neither man had ventured into movies.
“Because I suck at acting,” Urban said. He did mention later on that he and frequent co-writer Monty Powell had written a song for the adventure movie, Act of Valor, which is due to open next month.
Marx said knowing what’s involved in film acting curbed any interest in it on his part. He noted that one of his sons is an actor.
Asked how he and Urban met, Marx quipped, “Craigslist,” then went on to explain that they first met in a music publisher’s office.
Both men were in a jocular mood, and Urban was particularly funny explaining how his inability to speak forced him to exaggerate his facial features to convey enthusiasm, particularly in conversations with his wife.
He said he resorted to carrying around a whiteboard, even on social occasions, so he could engage in discussions. The trouble here, he admitted, was that by the time he scribbled down his observations, the conversation had turned in another direction.
“When you have to write stuff,” he explained, “you get real particular in what you say.”
Once the press conference ended, it was time for the career summaries and awards.
BMI’s Jody Williams pointed out that “Long Hot Summer” had gone No. 1 in October, but Urban’s surgery, as well as his and Marx’s crowded schedules, had delayed the celebration until now.
He reminded the crowd that Urban has clocked in 13 No. 1 singles, sold 11 million albums and will serve as a judge on the Australian edition of The Voice talent contest.
Williams also announced that Urban and Vince Gill will headline the third annual All for the Hall benefit concert on April 10 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. This event raises money for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Mike Sistad, speaking for ASCAP, which co-sponsored the party with BMI, said Marx has won 20 ASCAP awards for most-performed songs, sold 30 million albums and scored at least one No. 1 single in each of four decades.
“I’m very old,” the 45-year-old performer deadpanned later.
“Long Hot Summer,” Sistad added, is Marx’s 14th No. 1 and his second with Urban, the first one being “Better Life” in 2005.
Dann Huff, who produced “Long Hot Summer,” and engineer Justin Niebank were praised both by Marx and Urban.
“I think this is my favorite song of any I’ve written that I had no hand in producing,” Marx said. “I’m happy to be even a microscopic part of this community.”
Urban expressed his “love and gratitude” to his wife and “little girls” — his youngest is 1-year-old Faith Margaret — and his sorrow that they were unable to attend.
Then it was time to play some music and introduce his Internet discoveries.View photos from the No. 1 party.