keith urban

Country music legend Keith Urban. (Photo: Courtesy of UMG)

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Keith Urban Talks Touring, Life in Nashville and the One Thing He Can’t Travel Without

Singer, songwriter and guitar legend Keith Urban is more than a little bit country. Raised in Brisbane, Australia, Urban found his love (and talent) for music at an early age. His parents gifted him his first instrument — a ukelele — at age 4, which he later traded for a guitar, eventually leaving school at 15 to play shows and pursue his music full time.

In 1992, Urban shifted his home base to Nashville, where in time, his career took off and he turned his country superstar dreams into reality.

“What makes Nashville special? For me, everything,” Urban says. “It’s the home of country music. It’s the home of the dream I’ve always had since I was a kid to live there.”

Today, Urban’s legacy in the industry is cemented, and fans clamor for every opportunity to hear and share his music and wisdom — which made him a popular judge on “American Idol.”

keith urban
(Photo: Courtesy of UMG)

Urban recently performed in London and took part in a special VIP meet-and-greet for Marriott Bonvoy members. Marriott Bonvoy Traveler connected with Urban before the show and got the chance to chat with him about touring, Nashville and the one thing he cannot travel without.

You’re always on the go. Where have you been recently that really surprised and impressed you, and why?

We toured a lot recently and are still on tour. We went up to Canada. I’ve been there many, many times, but this particular tour … I felt Canada in a whole new way. Some of the cities were just electric, and I love that I get out to experience some of the cities, as well, that we travel in. Canada was just fantastic.

Has travel ever influenced your songwriting or a song?

Traveling influences the songwriting I think inasmuch as I can hear lots of different music when we travel around. When we were in London recently, I wrote “The Fighter.” I think that city and the sort of energy and the music in that city influenced that song. I don’t know if I would’ve written it if we weren’t there. So, yeah. That was a good time to be there.

keith urban
(Photo: Courtesy of UMG)

Tell us about Nashville. You and your family have made it one of your homes — what do you think makes Nashville special?

Nashville’s been home for well over 20 years for me … It’s a great place to have a family. It’s a very family-oriented city. [It’s] one of the few places I think where if you’re late for something and you say, “Well, I’m late ’cause I had to do something for my kids,” they’d be like, “Oh, okay.” It’s a good quality of life place that’s accessible. It’s growing huge, but it’s just a really great city.

What should people do when they go to Nashville?

When you go to Nashville, there are a lot of things you should do, depending on how long you get and what time of year you’re there. Definitely go see the Country Music Hall of Fame. Go and see anything at the Ryman Auditorium if you can. That’s probably my favorite venue in all of the world to play. Experience Lower Broadway. Pretty much any night of the week, it’ll be rockin’ down there, especially in the summertime.

CMA Fest if it’s on. Loveless Café — there’s so many great meat and threes in Nashville. There’s really infinite things to do. Of course, the Grand Ole Opry is happening … It’s infinite. There’s so much to do in Nashville.

When you perform in other cities, do you take time to play tourist?

I do get to see a lot of cities we play in. Particularly if we’ve gone to them multiple times. Back in the day, I used to take my motorcycle on the road, and that was a great way to get out, and now I take a little, little car … in a trailer behind our bus. I’ll get in that and just trundle around the towns we play in. It’s really cool. It’s a great way to see the place.

keith urban
(Photo: Courtesy of UMG)

In addition to the Ryman, where have been some of your favorite venues to play?

So many venues that I’ve gotten to play that are really special … Red Rocks in Colorado, absolutely amazing place. The Gorge in George, Washington, up in Washington state is absolutely spectacular. We even played on the rim of Niagara Falls one New Year’s Eve, which was very memorable, mostly for the freezing temperature.

How do you spend your downtime when you’re on the road?

When I’m on the road, I love driving. It’s probably my number two passion after music. So I’ll either rent a car or we take a car with us on the road, and I just like to drive anywhere. While we’re here in Australia, I’m actually driving home from the gig every night: walk off stage, get in my car and drive home. It’s an amazing feeling.

keith urban
(Photo: Courtesy of UMG)

What is your ideal kind of vacation?

We love all kinds of vacations. Different parts of the world, different times of year. Gosh … I don’t know if I have an ideal vacation, ’cause I love the beach, I love the mountains, I love the desert, I love snow, I love summer. I love it all. Yeah, I’m a good traveler. Nic and I both love traveling.

What do you always need to bring with you on tour that people might be surprised to know?

When I think about touring, the one thing that I absolutely must have is a coffee grinder, killer coffee beans, and a whole drip contraption: ceramic drip, the whole thing. I have a whole coffee science lab set up backstage in my dressing room. I love making really, really good coffee. Must have.

Finally, why should people travel?

What I’ve always loved about traveling is experiencing other cultures, other foods, other music — just everything is different. I think anybody that can travel, I always highly recommend traveling in any form. I know backpackers that do it for nothing and everything in between. But I just think it just keeps our horizons really, really broad. I really think it helps for compassion and empathy, inclusiveness, diversity, acceptance, tolerance: I think all those things happen when you travel.

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