Keith Urban on the Don Williams Influence

"Still the Absolute Benchmark," He Says

If Keith Urban wins album of the year at the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards, I think I know who he’s going to thank.

Don Williams.

Because at his recent “Blue Ain’t Your Color” No. 1 party, Urban talked about the impact Williams’ music had on him.

Urban said his father had Williams’ whole body of work, and that he knows those records inside and out.

“Those have informed more records I’ve made over the years because of their simplicity. They’re still the absolute benchmark for simplistic record-making at its finest. It really, really is. I implore anybody to go listen to those records,” Urban urged.

1979’s Portrait was a great album, Urban said, because of the stunning minimalism.

“That informed ‘Making Memories of Us.’ That informed ‘Tonight I Want to Cry.’ And it informed ‘Blue Ain’t Your Color.'”

(About six years ago, I’d asked Urban which country songs he wished he’d written, and he had a track from Portrait on his list, “Circle Driveway.”)

“Those records influence the way I make records, especially something like this. They’re the masters of recorded simplicity and honoring a song in a way that I cannot think of other records that hit that spot of extraordinary craftsmanship.

“It’s about achieving that minimalism to never step on a song and just let it be framed,” he added.

Urban also touched on the rest of his late father’s record collection — with some Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, and Glen Campbell — and said “there wasn’t many hats in there.”

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