Keith Urban Says Music’s the Same as It Ever Was

In a recent interview with Michigan’s , Keith Urban quoted Talking Heads. Yes, those Talking Heads — David Byrne’s band that was most popular in the ’80s.

Let me give you some context. The reporter asked Urban if it was meaningless to try to define whether he was rock, pop or country. And Urban said all of that was “totally meaningless to me.” He added, “I make music, and people decide what it is. That’s it. I don’t think about it any more than that. I grew up as a country artist but had very contemporary country influences.”

Then he went on for a bit about how people insist on labeling music as country or otherwise.

“People have this relentless ongoing conversation about what’s country and what isn’t,” he said. “It’s never changed. If people really, really were country fans, they’d know it’s always been there in every single decade. What’s great about country is its simple, organic way of absorbing pop inspirations into its sound and pulling the genre forward.”

Urban cited the 1950s as the time when rock started to take over country music.

“Guys like Chet Atkins intentionally started to put string sections on country songs, which had never been done before. Everybody at the time thought that was sacrilegious. They said, ’That doesn’t sound anything like Ernest Tubb. What are you doing?’ What’s happening today is, in the words of David Byrne, same as it ever was,” Urban laughed, quoting lyrics from the 1981 Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime.” (Not to be confused with a different song of the same title featured on Urban’s Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing album.)

It is funny to think that all the disagreements fans, myself included, get into over what makes a song country (or not) have been happening for decades. But Urban knows that regardless of what you call a song, people just like what they like.

“Country is a state of mind,” he said. “At the end of the day, people decide what they want to call it, if they want to call it anything.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.