The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame announced Thursday that Keith Urban is among its inductees to be inducted in 2023. The news came live from Columbia Studio A, a block and a half from where the superstar- song’s author. from Australia in 1989, hoping to make a name for himself.
“It’s really surreal,” Keith Urban told The Associated Press.
He said that if someone had told him then that one day he would be included in the hall, he “simply would not have believed it.”
Urban spoke to AP shortly after announcing his career as a songwriter, his next studio album due out in 2024, his return to Las Vegas for an extended stay and other topics.
Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
AP: In your talk about Hall, you mentioned that you first came to Nashville in 1989. Does this award let you remember those early days?
URBAN: I keep driving down 16th Street and Music Row and time seems to evaporate. And I’m back, driving down the same avenue to go to the songwriting session.
I wrote there five days a week at MCA Publishing, and on the one hand, it was a terribly hard time for me, because I wrote songs not exactly like this: I was sitting in a room with a complete stranger, a couple of notebooks. and acoustic guitars in a windowless room. That’s how it was done back then.
I think it was a great training ground for me because I was forced to work in an environment that didn’t come naturally to me. But with him, I learned a lot about songwriting. As difficult as it was, perhaps this is where I learned the most about composition.
AP: And that’s a particularly notable songwriting award given the collaborative nature of Nashville’s songwriting rooms and country music.
URBAN: Being a recognized songwriter is extraordinary because I’ve always enjoyed writing songs. When I really started writing poetry in school, I started writing songs just out of a desire not to get stuck, always singing someone else’s song, playing in cover bands and realizing that “it’s not going anywhere for me.” I want to write my own songs.”
Ed Sheeran was once asked, “How do you write a good song?” And he said, “Start the hard way.” And I think that’s the most accurate point about composition. You have to get rid of the really bad and mediocre characters in order to get to the stronger and better ones. Tyler Hubbard and I recently wrote about a song called “Dancing in the Country” and this session was great. I am constantly learning how to write songs through my collaborations.
AP: What can we expect from your next album?
URBAN: I have another single coming out in the next few months; we’re trying to choose between three in particular right now. Most of the album, I would say, is finished. I think I have one more song that needs to be recorded from scratch, and then a few more songs that just need to be mixed. I am now in the final stages of landing the plane. The album will be out sometime next year.
AP: How would you describe it?
URBAN: I started working on the record at the beginning of last year. I spent most of the year in and out of the studio touring, only to probably get to February of this year and look at it all and feel like it wasn’t the band of songs that was really talking to me. I think there was another album inside of me. It was a strange feeling. In fact, this has never happened to me with a record that I gave up two-thirds of. I probably settled on three of those 12 or so songs.
It was the most terrible feeling: “Okay, back to the easel. I have to get in there and start writing some songs.” And indeed, from February to now, the whole record took a completely different direction when I had time to write. It was the heart lost from the body of the songs he recorded. And it all started to sprout, you know, and out of the next three separate contenders that we have right now, I’m the songwriter for all three.
AP: Does fatherhood appear as a theme on the new album?
URBAN: I never wrote about it; It doesn’t speak to me from a writer’s point of view in a way that I think is in my vein. I love songs about hope, wild longing, overcoming difficulties and just mindless fun. At this stage, there is one song that will probably be on the album, it’s called “Break the Chain”, and it’s probably the most personal song of all.
AP: In November you will return to Las Vegas for an internship. What does this show format tell you?
URBAN: There’s a little more intimacy, which I think creates a different connection between me and the audience. There’s also a production that you can build that doesn’t have to be able to physically get in and out of trucks every night, so it unlocks the potential of what we can design. This is a big advantage for me.
And then there’s a challenge every night. You have a lot of fans there, but also a lot of curious people who come to Vegas and say, “Okay, who’s playing? Which show should we go to? The challenge is to make these people part of the present moment. It takes me back to the days of playing in clubs, when you went on stage and no one knew who you were. No one cares that you are a band playing in the corner and you have to get everyone’s attention. Las Vegas is a bit like me. It’s exciting.
AP: And I have to ask you, there was a viral video you made during the Eras of Taylor Swift tour where you accidentally showed Phoebe Bridgers and Beau Burnham kissing. Did they contact you?
URBAN: No, I’ve never heard of them. But I’m sorry, Phoebe? Sorry Bo? Question marks? I felt terrible. Wrong place, wrong time.