When Keith Urban closed the recent CMT Music Awards show, he invited a choir of Gulf Coast residents still displaced by Hurricane Katrina to join him as background vocalists on his hit, "Better Life." Urban returns the favor this weekend when he appears at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Urban performs Friday (May 5) during the festival's closing weekend. Jimmy Buffett appears Saturday, and Travis Tritt will make a guest appearance during rhythm & blues great Sam Moore's Sunday afternoon set. The weekend will also include performances by Lionel Richie, Fats Domino, Paul Simon, Little Feat, the Ohio Players, Robert Randolph & the Family Band and dozens of others.
In a recent interview with CMT Insider host Katie Cook, Urban said he wanted to sing "Better Life" with the displaced residents of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana to give the song a slightly different meaning while providing a reminder that many areas along the Gulf Coast still haven't rebounded from the hurricane.
"We went down to New Orleans, and I was just shocked at the amount of work that still needs to be done," Urban said. "And I was like the rest of us who thought, 'Oh, it's all dried up. The water's gone. Everything's back and everything's fine.' There is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done. ... There are organizations like Habitat for Humanity that still need a lot of volunteers. It's pretty amazing the work that is going on down there, but there's still so much to be done."
Urban's appearance in New Orleans is one of only a handful of concerts he has scheduled through the summer as he continues work on his next album.
"It is going well," Urban said of the sessions. "I forgot how hard it is making records, though. It's been a couple of years, and it takes awhile."
Asked to predict what the new album will sound like, Urban said, "I'm kind of curious myself, actually. Because you get in there and start recording, and it just starts to unfold itself."