Things You Might Not Know About Keith UrbanPublished on October 11, 2016. Updated October 20, 2020
Keith Urban has been breaking the mold ever since he stepped into the American music scene as a tattooed, shaggy blonde, Australian country singer. He’s been on a rapid rise to fame ever since the release of his first hit single in 1999. He’s had 18 singles reach the number one spot on the charts and earned three Grammy awards. He’s recognized as one of the best performers and guitar players in the industry, with a CMA Male Entertainer of the Year award under his belt and career changing hits like “Sweetest Thing,” “Days Go By,” “Somebody Like You,” “You Gonna Fly,” and most recently, “Wasted Time.” Urban served as a coach on the Australian version of The Voice and as a judge on American Idol. He’s currently married to fellow Australian and Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman and they have two children, Faith, 6, and Rose, 8, together. In honor of his upcoming 50th birthday, here’s a look at 10 things you probably didn’t know about this amazing musician!
10. Farm Boy
Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, Keith’s parents Bob and Marienne Urban ran a convenience store. The store was located in Brisbane, but when he was 10 they moved north onto a farm where Keith was forced to chip in and get his hands dirty! “I had to clean out the pigsties and shovel sh-t out of the chicken coops. But even after our house burned down and we had to live in our tin tractor shed for 18 months, my older brother, Shane, and I sleeping in a single bed on one side of a big workbench, my parents on the other, it looked like a squatter’s residence – all that, for me, is a great memory,” said Urban.
9. Natural Talent
Urban grew up listening to country music because that’s what his parents liked, but it didn’t fully transfer over to him until he got his first instrument which was a ukulele at the age of 4. When he was 6 he got a cheap guitar and it was clear he was naturally gifted. He used to get teased at school for being blonde and dimpled, but once he mastered the guitar, everything fell into place. In eighth grade he won the lead role in his school production of Oliver! and experienced his first taste of fame when all of the students at his school were walking around with buttons featuring a picture of his face. At the age of 15 he was given his parent’s blessing to drop out of school and tour around, playing in any venue he could find.
8. Worked as a Guitarist
It was hard for Keith to make the transition from Australia to Nashville, especially because he experienced so much success in Australia. In 1990 when he was 23 he came in first place on the show Star Maker which lead to a recording contract with EMI and four hit singles on the Australian charts. But that success didn’t transfer over. When he moved from Australia to Nashville he went from being a famous singer to a road guitarist working behind the scenes for artists like Brooks and Dunn, Dixie Chicks and Alan Jackson. He’s actually in the background of Jackson’s 1993 hit song “Mercury Blues.” It wasn’t until 1999 that Urban started having success on his own.
7. Hard Road to Success
In ’95 he started focusing on his own career and managed to form a band called the Ranch. They had a deal with Capitol Nashville, but got nowhere. “It was mind-blowing. We recorded some of those songs 12 times, the same song in different studios, different producers, always trying to get the right combination of radio-ready stuff,” said Urban. Producers didn’t like his sound and no one ever really had any faith in his creative intuition. He was told he didn’t have the right sound for country music at the time. The band eventually broke up with no album. In 1998 he got together with a producer named Matt Rollings and created his first solo album which landed him one of his first hit songs, “But for the Grace of God.” He was then given a deal with Capitol as a solo artist.
6. First Celebrity Relationship
Nicole Kidman wasn’t his first famous girlfriend. A lot of people would have forgotten that Keith Urban once dated supermodel Niki Taylor. Their relationship flew pretty well under the radar as they managed to avoid all of the gossip columns which is a pretty big feat for a country star and a supermodel. When they split, she kept the house they shared together. He went on to marry Nicole Kidman and she married NASCAR driver Burney Lamar.
5. Awkward First Encounter
Keith Urban recalled the first time he met Nicole Kidman during an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2010. He described it as extremely awkward. He was at an event in Los Angeles called “G’Day L.A.” where they were both being honored when he saw her backstage, “I swear to you, she glided across the room, like floated. I don’t know how she did it. It’s like she’s standing there, and she didn’t walk. It was out of this world.” He finally worked up the courage to go talk to her. “[I] introduced myself and she was very pleasant and everything, and there was that moment of waiting for the next thing to be said-of which I didn’t know if I was bothering her or what was going on – so I just sort of said, ‘Well, nice to meet you’ and I just walked away,” said Urban. After a little convincing from his friend, he went back over to apologize for abruptly leaving and the rest is history!
4. The Secrets to his Songwriting
In an interview with People, Monty Powell, a frequent co-writer of Urban’s, said the driving force behind all of his hit singles is a cheese sandwich! He said that Urban works best in the mornings, but by the afternoon his blood sugar begins to drop and he starts to doubt everything they wrote that day. “We’ll hop into his old pickup truck, drive into Leiper’s Fork for fried pimento cheese sandwiches. There’s a hit song in every fried pimento cheese sandwich!” When he’s not scribbling down songs in the shower, he works in a naturally lit room in the downstairs of his old farmhouse, where he lives with Nicole Kidman in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee. “He always writes down his lyrics in pen, never pencil and definitely not on the computer because according to him, he “can’t type fast enough.”
3. Drug Addiction
As a kid, Keith was pretty straight and narrow. He didn’t get into trouble, didn’t fight, drink or do drugs. He was very focused on music, but when he moved to Nashville and his success didn’t transfer over he got caught in a downward spiral of self doubt and insecurity. He couldn’t find any gigs on stage, he was living in a bad part of town with a roommate who was doing drugs. “And then one day he offered me this massive pipe. I’d never had it, it looked good, so I took it. Things didn’t immediately go pear-shaped, but that was the beginning of it,” said Urban. He was into coke and ecstasy and, of course, alcohol. By the time he married Nicole Kidman he had been to rehab twice, but relapsed both times. It wasn’t until she staged an intervention with his closet friends in 2006, only four months into their marriage that he actually dedicated himself to getting sober and she stuck by him through it all. “It was very, very hard to have to have her go through that,” said Urban and he credits her for saving his life.
2. His Dad was an Alcoholic
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Urban talked about his childhood in a way he never had before. At first he said his only trauma as a child was moving around a lot, but then got into the fact that he wished he had a much more “intimate house.” He then went on to say that his dad was an alcoholic, so he didn’t really receive the kind of love he should have: “My recollection is that he was a physical disciplinarian. Ten years ago, I would have said, ‘He never did anything I didn’t deserve.’ Now I realize it’s not about deserving it. I don’t recall him ever telling me he loved me as a kid. I’d do a gig I thought was fantastic and the only thing he’d say is, ‘When you speak on stage, you’ve got to slow down.’ And the way he disciplined me, he seemed to have forgotten about it as he got older. I don’t think he was in denial, he genuinely had no recollection. ‘Hitting you? I never did that!'”
Being a Dad gives me a WHOLE new love and appreciation for my Dad – and everything he’s done for me. – KU #withdad A photo posted by Keith Urban (@keithurban) on
1. He Cries Once a Month
It’s not surprising to hear that Keith Urban is quite in tune with his emotions because many musicians are. That’s why they do so well living in such a creative space, but Urban takes it to a whole new level! He openly admits that he has a “good cry” about once a month. This helps with all of his pent up emotions. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine he said: “When I haven’t cried in a while, I can tell I get pent-up. Then maybe once a month I have a good cry, one big avalanche of a torrential downpour, and I feel amazing for weeks afterward. The streets are cleaned, the skies are blue, there’s no humidity and it’s beautiful.”