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Keith Urban By: Elton John

Keith Urban By: Elton John

Elton John :: I’m aiming to do my next album with some of the big names in hip-hop. I’ve been getting beats together and stuff like that. It’s a totally different thing.

Keith Urban :: It is. I love a lot of what Pharrell [Williams] and Chad [Hugo] do. They’re extraordinary. I think the Dust Brothers are great. I would love to see you work with Dr. Dre.

Interview Magazine October 2006 features Keith Urban — torch and twang’s unlikely troubadour is rewriting the rules of the country club. Here he shares his thoughts with music’s one and only Elton John. Full article after the jump!

Keith Urban By: Elton John

ELTON JOHN :: So, mate, I’ve heard five of the tracks from your new album that you were kind enough to send me, and it sounds really fantastic. There are a few I’d like to have played on, I can tell you that. Some of them seem specifically to be about Nicole [Kidman, Urban’s wife].

KEITH URBAN :: They certainly came during the period we’ve been together. I wrote “Once in a Lifetime,” the day after the Oscars. [laughs] We had one of those evenings afterward, where I think we were struggling with a bit of “Are we doing the right thing?” And the next day, in the moment of reaffirming my commitment and my intentions, I think that’s what was weighing heavily on my heart.

EJ :: I’m not an A&R guy, but I would think that could be a single.

KU :: Actually, it’s just come out.

EJ :: Well, there you go. And what was the radio reaction?

KU :: It’s been extraordinary.

EJ :: What’s the new album called?

KU :: Right now it’s Love, Pain, and the Whole Damn Thing. It comes out November 7.

EJ :: This is the first album since Be Here, which came out in 2004, has now sold over three million copies in America, and shows no signs of going away. You must be proud. You’re an Australian boy who is now one of the biggest country stars in the world—that could probably never have happened a few years ago.

KU :: I think you’re right, mate. It certainly didn’t happen quickly for me though. I’ve been in Nashville for 14 years. It was difficult at first.

EJ :: Why is that, do you think? Did the fact that you are Australian make it hard for you to be accepted?

KU :: Well, it didn’t make it easy. I think the first handful of years I wasn’t really getting genuine support. It was just people sort of—

EJ :: Talking the talk but not walking the walk.

KU :: Pretty much, yeah. [laughs] But thankfully, I didn’t know that, so I had this wonderful blind side that helped me persevere.

EJ :: I read an interview in which you said that since you were young, Nashville was where you wanted to end up. Readers of Interview might not know that country music has always been big in Australia, starting with Slim Dusty who was probably the pioneer of it all—I would say he’s the grandfather of Australian country music. There have been so many other people in Australia who have flown the flag, but you’re the number one person who’s actually come over to Nashville and done it. How did it feel?

KU :: Exhausting.

EJ :: [laughs] That’s a great answer. From the tracks I’ve heard on this album it seems your music is crossing over into rock.

KU :: One of my writers, Monty Powell, and I were talking about records, like your album Tumbleweed Connection [1971], which if they were released today, would probably be released as country. There were a lot of those tunes that I grew up with that weren’t country, but it was inherent in what I was listening to.

EJ :: Well, look at the Rolling Stones. They’ve always loved country music. There’s always been at least one country song on a Rolling Stones album, and sometimes three or four.

KU :: Yeah. And Creedence Clearwater Revival was another great example. If “Down on the Corner” or “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” came out today, they’d both be considered country.

EJ :: Well, people nowadays pigeonhole music. When I first came to America in the late ’60s, early ’70s, everybody listened to everything. I feel now that things are put into little boxes— “black music,” “R&B,” “hip-hop,” “country,” “pop,” “AOR.” It’s really boring. I think what you and a few of your peers are doing with country music is trying to raise the bar a bit and bring in other sorts of music. Country is responsible for the birth of rock ’n’ roll. It has a lot of gospel in it, a lot of soul music in it, so it’s ridiculous just to pigeonhole it as country.

KU :: Yes. And country, of course, is quite a diverse genre within itself, and one that’s obviously growing and evolving like rock ’n’ roll has done within the last fifty years. I think the iPod shuffle is one of the best things invented. The fact that you can throw on your whole record collection and have the songs coming at you randomly is helping people break all those boxes and just enjoy an incredible diversity of music.

EJ :: Well, all of the five tracks you sent me are different from each other. Do you sit down and write a song as a song? Or do you have a country thing in mind when you write?

KU :: No. I just write. But I think there’s an inherent countryism in the bulk of what I do.

EJ :: Has that always been the case?

KU :: Yeah, I think so. I never wanted to be a rock ’n’ roller. Rock ’n’ roll to me is more like Creedence Clearwater or John Mellencamp or someone that has a strong rootsiness about them.

EJ :: On what you’ve written so far for this album and what you did on Be Here, your rock ‘n’ roll roots are coming through, though. It’s like Elvis Presley did rock ‘n’ roll-with a country feel.

KU :: Well, I guess that brings us back to our initial point-that it all came from the same seed. It’s all Southern music to me.

EJ :: You’ve lived in America for 14 years. What have you seen change here in that time?

KU :: Well, musically, hip-hop and rap has just grown enormously. It’s the rock ‘n’ roll for the new generation.

EJ :: Good thing or bad thing?

KU :: I think it’s a good thing when it’s done right. I mean, the origins of hip-hop are extraordinary, and I think if thinly veiled presentations of it bring people into a deeper place because of it, then it did its job.

EJ :: I’m aiming to do my next album with some of the big names in hip-hop. I’ve been getting beats together and stuff like that. It’s a totally different thing.

KU :: It is. I love a lot of what Pharrell [Williams] and Chad [Hugo] do. They’re extraordinary. I think the Dust Brothers are great. I would love to see you work with Dr. Dre.

EJ :: That’s who I want to start with, because he’s the king of the king. Would you ever consider doing anything like that with any other artists?

KU :: I am always curious about the fusion of music, because that is where new styles come from. I thought what Tim [McGraw] and Nelly did was really courageous, and I quite liked the song. But I think it’s important that you bring what you do into the process so that you’re not losing yourself. See, I’m still a huge fan of banjo–

EJ :: What’s the track with the banjo on it? It’s the first single, isn’t it?

KU :: Yes, there’s some banjo on that initial track. The banjo is an extraordinarily percussive instrument, and it has a kind of nasty tone that conjures up all kinds of emotions and moods that I find can be really brooding, which you don’t really associate with it.

EJ :: I’ve used banjo and mandolin quite a lot on some of my records because I loved the percussive sound they get. When they’re plucked and played like that, they do sound amazing. Has Nicole heard some of this stuff?

KU :: Yeah. “Stupid Boy” was a song that was written and recorded by a new artist here in Nashville named Sarah Buxton. I played the song for Nic, and I said, “Man, I love this song; I need something like this on my record.” She said, “Why don’t you just do that song?”

EJ :: Do you know who the song is about?

KU :: I don’t know the guy. But I know that she wrote it about an ex.

EJ :: A man singing it makes it sound so different.

KU :: That’s what Nic said. Because it’s a girl singing it and my initial thought was, “I can’t say ‘stupid boy’ like I’m telling it to somebody else.” And she said, “No, you’re looking in the mirror, singing this song.”

EJ :: You must have played with some great musicians in Nashville. There are some fantastic ones there.

KU :: There ‘really are. There are so many reasons I love to live here, and I’m very grateful that Nic loves it here as well. I like to move around–we’re both gypsy kids, in a large way. But this is a great base for us. She’s an extraordinary soul and I love the fact that I’ve been able to give her an environment where she can blossom.

EJ :: Well, I’m so thrilled for both of you. There’s something about the South that I really love. I find it inspiring to write there. I’ve written three musicals and three to four albums there now. I’ve just finished an album that’s coming out in September, and I seemed to soak up all those Southern influences-the gospel, the country, the soul. It’s in the air down there. In terms of your career, what would you like to see change in the next few years?

KU :: I’d like to tour Europe and overseas a lot more. I feel our music could find an audience over there, but you’ve got to get over there and do it. We’ve already done a handful of trips to Germany and Scotland and Ireland, and it’s just wonderful.

EJ :: So to our special theme, “the times they are a-changin’.” Given your success in country as an Australian, and the fact that I got married within the past year to another man, which I never thought I’d be able to do, I’d say the times have changed, you know?

KU :: They really have. Do you think for the better or the worse, Elton?

EJ :: Some things for the better, but a lot for the worse. But I’m an eternal optimist. I think that things will always work themselves out, because I believe in the good in the human spirit. And I think as” musicians we can do a lot to help that. It may be naive, but I think music and sport are the two things that can help. We don’t come together enough to do peace concerts and things like that like they did in the ’60s.

KU :: We just spent some time at a conference Toronto that Bono appeared at, and I ended I writing him a letter because I have such respect for what he’s doing and the line he keeps putting himself on–making himself vulnerable to so many things.

EJ :: Yeah, when you make yourself vulnerable, you get attacked from all quarters. They think you’re attention-seeking, but actually what you’re trying to say is “Listen, we’ve got to try and do something.” It’s not coming from the religious leaders, so it might as well come from musicians and artists who gnuinely care. I think artists, in general, really care about the human spirit and the human condition, and are really disturbed about what is going on in the world. What about the Dixie Chicks–they certainly went out on a limb.

KU :: I think there’s a way to go out on a limb and then there’s a way to not do it. There’s no question that they had balls, though. A lot of their intent was right, and it was coming from the right place, I think.

EJ :: As musicians, no matter what our political views, we should come together for humanity, because that’s the only thing we can do. You go to a concert and you play, and sometimes, if you’re in Northern Ireland, it’s the only time that the Catholics and Protestants come together, and you go away feeling good about having done something, however small.

KU :: I do think the times are a-changing, though. I think in a lot of ways Bono is a modern-day John Lennon, as far as the risks he’s willing take and putting himself on the line. I struggle with a lot of the realities of being an immigrant living in America. It’s a delicate place to be. You’re a guest in someone’s house, so you don’t have a lot of right to speak up and say what matters to you. I’m always remembering that I’m a guest here.

EJ :: Do you think as an American or do you think as an Australian now?

KU :: Oh, I think I’ll always think as an Australian but I love the South, and I find a lot of similarities between America and Australia. And I still love the idea of America.

Elton John recently released The Captain & Kid, a sequel to his 1975 multi platinum Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

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Posted to: Elton John, Keith Urban

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  • Andreia

    First!!!!!!!!!!i LOOOOOOOVE Keith!!!! he’s soooo damn hoot!!! Nic & Keith Forever!!!! ;)

  • Dancer

    After reading the article I realized Keith is a much more intelligent individual than I gave him credit for. I’ve always loved his music and loved the fact that he is humble, but he is also someone who thinks aobut things outside of his own world unlike so many stars, musicians etc. Go Keith!

  • judi

    I am a hugh Keith fan..wish him and Nic lots of happiness.

  • Lori

    What an amazing man!! Keith totally rocks. I just love him. He is so articulate and humble. He is an incredible artist and a gift to us all.



  • Marge

    The man is smoking in that picture!! Wow. He is a great artist(just like his new and equally smoking wife).

    Nicole and Keith are my second favorite hollywood couple. Second only to Angie and Brad of course.

    I wish them all the happiness in the world. They both deserve it.

  • Pol

    6 | Marge

    Same here Marge! I´m so glad Nic has found someone at this stage of her life. I´m so glad she has moved on from her previous marriage. I was thinking that TC was haunting her forever, Dear God. Keith seems so inlove with her.

    Im also a BAMZS fan although I don´t linger here (JJ) because of other BAMZS fans who don´t really pay a good service to the couple. Anyways, loved this interview!

  • Sherry

    Personally, I can’t stand hollywood couples or the hollywood thing. Keith is wonderful though. His talent and his spirituality are amazing. He is a man among men, to me…always will be…

  • Jim S

    I always wanted to write something like that on my site. Mind if I use some of your ideas on my blog? ;-)