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CROSSROADS - Keith Urban by Mark E. Waterbury
Pivotal moments in musicians' careers propelling them from obscurity to infamy
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Copyright 2005 by Music Morsels,
a Serge Entertainment Publication.
Editor: Sandy Serge
Mark E. Waterbury, Scott Turner
performers are often born and bred in the rural areas of the U.S., growing
up in cultures that help formulate the music that they hold dear. It’s very historical; from
the Scots and Irish who brought their fiddles and mandolins to the Appalachians
in the 1800’s, to the cowboys herding their cattle across the Great
Plains, seated around campfires plucking battered six strings. Many country
performers experienced hard times that helped to shape the bluesy aspects
of their music, Maybe most Americans don’t realize that there is
a very rural and cowboy culture in Australia. That is the fertile piece
of Earth where the seeds for Keith Urban’s career were germinated.
Born in New Zealand before moving to the very urban setting of Brisbane, Australia, Keith Urban’s father uprooted the clan while Keith was quite young when he purchased land in the nearby farming community of Caboolture. Along with the rural atmosphere where the family provided for itself primarily from the animals and crops raised on the farm, Keith’s parents were heavily into American country music ranging from Glen Campbell to Charlie Pride. Country music infused its way into Keith’s blood as he began to dream of moving halfway across the world to the country music mecca of Nashville, Tennessee. “I inherited this kind of love for the American Dream,” Keith recalls. “I fell in love with the music, the cars and the whole idea of America.”
Before he embarked on that massive journey, Keith needed to establish himself on the music scene down under. As a youth, he won country music talent competitions, and by the age of fifteen was performing in clubs across Australia. Even though he was greatly inspired by his country roots, Keith’s developing guitar prowess was often influenced by rockers such as Lindsay Buckingham, Mark Knopfler and fellow Aussie Malcolm Young from AC/DC. After slugging it out for seven years in the club scene, Keith finally secured a recording contract with EMI Australia. Because his tenacious touring had already spread his name across the continent, his solo debut blistered up the Aussie charts to number one. Now established in his homeland, Keith decided it was time to attempt the same level of popularity in the U.S., as he finally left his home country and moved to Nashville in 1992.
Once he reached Music City, USA, it took Keith awhile to fully realize his dreams. Because of his ride atop the Australian charts, he was able to first find work as a songwriter. He later formed a three piece band called The Ranch which received critical acclaim for their 1997 debut album, but went mostly unnoticed due to the corporate structure of country music at the time. Keith went astray for awhile and soon found himself with a drug habit that needed to be dealt with. He developed vocal problems and began losing confidence that he would be able to realize his dream. He reached within himself and found a way to beat these problems, using the fact that he still had a contract with Australia's Capital Records as a catharsis and inspiration. Keith determined it was time for a solo album to be released in the States. His self-titled debut hit the racks in 2000, and the label capitalized on Keith’s sex appeal with the videos produced, garnering a strong female following. Keith was far from one dimensional in his appeal, however, as his intense live shows attracted attention beyond his looks, but for his musical capabilities as well. Keith embarked on a hectic two year tour as the album climbed the charts, producing three top five singles including the number one smash “But For The Grace Of God.” Along with the popularity of the album itself, Keith’s guitar talents received plaudits and his instrumental song “Rollercoaster” was nominated for a Grammy. He also won awards from both the Academy of Country Music and Horizon Awards. It was apparent that becoming a solo artist was the right move for Keith’s career. “For me, it’s just a matter of getting more comfortable in my own skin. I hope there is more of me coming through in the music. I think that comes from getting comfortable with myself as a person and as a musician, but also from getting comfortable in the studio. In the end all you can do is live and learn.”
Obviously Keith lived and learned quite well. His sophomore album “Golden Road” generated five hits including “Somebody Like You” which remained number one for eight straight weeks. After the usual exhaustive touring to support “Golden Road.” Keith returned to the studio to record his third album, 2004’s “Be Here.” This album steered a bit away from the typical country subjects, and instead carried many more of Keith's personal feelings. “If there was a theme to this album, it would be the big questions I ask just like anyone else. What are you doing here? What’s life about? These days I think more about the brevity of our time here. So it seems to me making the most of every day is really crucial.” Since his solo career began, and for that matter for almost his entire life, Keith has been making the most of every day, The efforts really paid off with “Be Here” as the album debuted at number one on Billboard’s Country Album Chart and number three on their top 200. “Be Here” also afforded the opportunity for Keith to headline his first tour, and as usual, the road warrior is performing everywhere, still on tour deep into 2005. Performing live and giving his all on stage is perhaps one of the most important aspects as to why Keith’s career has exploded. “It’s a daily challenge. You gotta rise to the expectations. Those of your own, of those who’ve seen you before, and the friends they’ve brought along...especially the ones they’ve dragged along.”
In early 2005, Keith launched Monkeyville; an online community in gratitude of his fans who have helped to make him one of country’s hottest stars. When Keith was a young lad on the farm in Australia, he had his dreams of Nashville. Perhaps he never anticipated the level of which the realization of his dreams would reach. Through his persistence, passion and plain old hard work, his dreams have definitely come true. “We want our music to connect with as many people as possible. That’s what it’s about for me - giving all I got to lift spirits and raise the roof.”