What's not to like about Keith Urban? The Australian/New Zealand-export country singer, songwriter and musician is loaded with a ridiculous amount of talent, he consistently tops the music charts, he's earned more awards than one fireplace mantle can display, yet he continues to be one of the nicest guys in the business.
The guitar gods were particularly generous when they bestowed magical powers in his fingertips that summon a fiery passion delivered into every skillful riff he plays.
Ever since he hit the American music scene in 1999, he has been cranking out hits, hitting the road for tour after tour and gaining an enormous following of fans, who have remained faithful throughout the years.
Urban’s reputation as a premier songwriter, vocalist, musician and virtuoso guitarist afforded him the opportunity to collaborate with the likes of The Rolling Stones, John Mayer, Steven Tyler, Miranda Lambert, John Mellencamp, Alicia Keys, Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Vince Gill and Eric Church.
His music is like a freight train — it always seems to be on the right track and there's no end in sight. The good news is, that train will be making a stop at the Laughlin Event Center on Friday, Oct. 5, with special guest Kelsea Ballerini.
He was born in New Zealand and lived with his parents in Caboolture, Queensland, Australia. His father, who owned a convenience store, put an ad for a guitar teacher in his shop window and young Urban took lessons.
He said his style of guitar playing was mainly influenced by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.
Following an appearance on the Australian TV talent show "New Faces," Urban began making inroads into the Australian country music scene. He appeared regularly on the "Reg Lindsay Country Homestead" TV program, "Mike McClellan's Music Program," and various other TV programs performing duets with local Brisbane girl Jenny Wilson. The duo won a Golden Guitar award at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Urban was in a band called Kids Country that performed during school holidays at various venues and made appearances on the Reg Lindsey show and "Conway Country."
Urban moved to Nashville in 1992. The next year, he appeared in the music video for Alan Jackson's rendition of "Mercury Blues." He and Vernon Rust co-wrote "Jesus Gets Jealous of Santa Claus" on Toby Keith's 1995 album Christmas to Christmas, 4 Runner's 1996 single "That Was Him (This Is Now)," and "Tangled Up in Love" on the Raybon Brothers' 1997 self-titled album.
He formed a band at that time, The Ranch, and released one self-titled album for Capitol Records Nashville and charted two singles on the Hot Country Songs charts. Throughout the late 1990s, Urban played guitar on several other artists' albums, such as Paul Jefferson, Tim Wilson and Charlie Daniels.
Still signed to Capitol, Urban made his solo American debut in 1999 with a second eponymous album. Certified platinum in the U.S. by the RIAA, it produced his first No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart with "But for the Grace of God." "Somebody Like You," the first single from his second Capitol album Golden Road, was named by Billboard as the biggest country hit of the 2000s decade. The album's fourth single, "You'll Think of Me," featuring his nephew and Australian country artist Rory Gilliatte, earned him his first Grammy Award.
In 2001, the Country Music Association honored Urban with its Horizon Award. He was the first Horizon Award winner in history to go on to win the CMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year, a title he’s captured three times, and the coveted Entertainer of the Year.
Since then, Urban’s career has seen a long list of groundbreaking firsts and accomplishments reserved for the music industry’s elite.
He has amassed several guitar cases full of hit songs and albums such as Golden Road (2002), producing and co-producing seven of the 13 songs on the album with Dann Huff. The lead-off single, "Somebody Like You," spent six weeks at No. 1. Follow-up singles, "Raining on Sunday," "Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me," and "You'll Think of Me," also went to No. 1 and the album earned him the Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 2005.
Be Here (2004) produced three more No. 1 singles including "Days Go By," "Better Half," and "Making Memories of Us," became his highest-selling album, earning a 4x platinum certification. Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing (2006) contained his second Grammy Award song, "Stupid Boy."
Fuse (2013) produced four more No. 1 songs on the Country Airplay charts, two of which are duets — one with Miranda Lambert and the other with Eric Church.
A new single, entitled "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16," was released in June 2015, as the lead-off single to his eighth American studio album Ripcord. The album later produced the Country Airplay chart No. 1 hits "Break on Me," "Wasted Time," and "Blue Ain't Your Color," with the latter also becoming Urban's longest-reigning No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart, spending 12 weeks at No. 1.
He continued to rack up more top hits including "Put You in a Song," "Without You," "Long Hot Summer," and "You Gonna Fly." Urban released "For You," which was the theme song of the 2012 action film, "Act of Valor" and appeared on the film's soundtrack. The song peaked at No. 6 on the country charts.
Urban demonstrated a sense of humor when in 2008, he joined Brad Paisley on his single "Start a Band," where both of them sang and played guitar. They also appeared in the accompanying video. The song was included on Paisley's album Play and went to No. 1 in January 2009.
Urban was invited to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry by Vince Gill at the third annual We're All for the Hall benefit concert that Urban organized. He was inducted in April 2012.
In 2016, Urban was selected as one of 30 artists to perform on "Forever Country," a mash up of "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "On the Road Again," and "I Will Always Love You," which celebrates 50 years of the CMA Awards.
Urban has released a total of nine studio albums (one of which was released only in Australia), as well as one album with The Ranch. He charted 37 singles on the U.S. Hot Country Songs chart, 18 of which went to number one, counting a duet with Brad Paisley and the 2008 single "You Look Good in My Shirt", which he previously recorded on Golden Road. Those also include his third Grammy Award-winning single "Sweet Thing" from his album Defying Gravity.
His 10th album, Graffiti U, was released this year and includes the particularly meaningful Top 20 hit "Female," which has been described as "an empowerment anthem partially inspired by the Harvey Weinstein scandal."
"As a husband and a father of two young girls, it affects me in a lot of ways," he said about the song. "And as a son — my mother is alive — it just speaks to all of the females in my life, particularly.
"For a guy who grew up with no sisters in a house of boys, it’s incredible how now I’m surrounded by girls. But not only in my house; I employ a huge amount of women in my team. The song just hit me for so many reasons."
His wife, Nicole Kidman, provided background vocals on the song.
SPECIAL GUEST: KELSEA BALLERINI
With age comes wisdom, but even at a young age, experiences are the best teachers and serve as inspiration for growth as an individual. Sometimes they can define a person and lead to the realization that who a person is comes from how those experiences are handled. They can also help a young singer-songwriter cope with challenging, grown up emotions — the good, the bad, the ugly — while providing her with material for some of her best songs.
Kelsea Ballerini has known her share of loss, love, and the highs and lows of life, but she's also found the courage to take what she's learned and put all of those feelings into her music. Unapologetically, her latest collection of songs unveils a strength in herself and her music. The newly released LP, on which she either wrote or co-wrote every song, picks up where her gold-certified debut album, The First Time, ended.
One of country music's newer voices continues her story in this "sonic journal," sharing moments of her life over the last two years, finding her own way and choosing her own path.
From the first notes of "Graveyard" to the concluding chorus of "Legends," Unapologetically illustrates what happens when Ballerini pushes country's boundaries and reveals just how personal the Grammy nominee's writing can be.
She wanted to make an "intentional album," carefully curating tracks that unfolded within the record as her own musical documentary in three parts. It's not the norm to write albums this way, nor is it easy, but Ballerini goes with what is in her heart.
"I had to let myself be ok with being vulnerable," Ballerini said. "My first album, I wanted it to be an introduction, just reaching out my hand. I had a song about my parent's divorce, about being insecure – it was one song per emotion. In doing that, I wasn't really able to articulate the depth of those emotions. Now, having gotten older, having gone through a big breakup and having fallen in love in a massive way, I had to say, 'hey, let yourself feel that, let yourself write that.' The end product was this record, which is a chronological story of my life these past few years."
Unapologetically is an album that found Ballerini battling through her insecurities and coming out stronger, telling the story of the many ways her life has changed in the past several years. It wasn't an easy thing to retrace the steps, but she did it, working with songwriters like Ross Copperman, Shane McAnally, Ashley Gorley and Hillary Lindsey and her production team from her debut, Jason Massey and Forest Glen Whitehead, writing over 200 songs but culling them into 12 sharp chapters. And that journey begins with loss.
Most things end, not begin, in the graveyard, but that's where Unapologetically starts, with "Graveyard," a moody and masterful meditation on burying ourselves in a relationship. Fans of The First Time might not expect such a somber note to kick things off, but it sets the musical template for what comes next: the edgy ode to self-rediscovery of "Miss Me More," the smooth sass of "Get Over Yourself" and the anthemic "Roses."
"I was going through a breakup that was really hard on my heart, and finding success at the same time,” she said. "It was a big tug of war between my heart and head, and career and personal. It was messy. I didn't show it at the time, but now I get to."
The important thing about Ballerini's songs, they are relatable, offering her fans a way to cope together, so the vulnerable feel empowered, restoring courage to move on to something better.
Sometimes when you're broken, you have to learn to live again. Picking up the pieces after heartbreak. Songs like "Machine Heart," deals with the struggle for self-love and perfection, while "In Between" has Ballerini trying to make sense of her place in the world.
"Sometimes I play grown-up, and sometimes I play pretend," she confesses.
"Perfect doesn't exist, and I'm exhausting myself trying to be something that isn’t real. And I know if I am feeling that, then 90 percent of the other girls that listen to my songs are feeling that too."
But leave it to the newly engaged Ballerini to enter this phase of Unapologetically with a Motown-tinged, tongue-and-cheek nod to romanticism on "I Hate Love Songs."
"Legends" is the album's closing track and the first single that ties it all together.
"'Legends' feels like a song about loss, about life and about love," said Ballerini. "And it just depends on the perspective you listen to it from on how you hear it. I wrote it two years ago when I was going through a breakup. But now, it's a love song. It's about a love you are reflecting on. About loss, life and love."
Ballerini has come a long way from her hometown in East Tennessee. She is a Grammy nominee for Best New Artist, she's banked three consecutive No. 1 songs, played slews of tour dates and nurtured a growing reputation as one of Nashville's sharpest writers.
She opened for Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood and now Keith Urban for this trip to Laughlin, and is headlining her own tour, in addition to winning an ACM Award, a Billboard “Rising Star” Award and an ACCA for Breakthrough Female of the Year.