Keith Urban hails from Australia, but the musician felt a connection to Nashville, Tennessee from a young age. Speaking to Tim McGraw on Beyond The Influence Radio on Apple Music Country, Urban opened up about how his love for country music began, as well as his quest to one day travel to Music City.
"M dad's record collection was all country," he said. "So, I started reading the back of all these records at a very young age and every one of them said recorded Nashville, Tennessee, recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. And I'm like, 'Ah, okay, well, that's where you go to make records.' So, that's a very good, impressionable thing to have imprinted into a seven-year-old brain. 'You go to Nashville, Tennessee to make records. Okay, I will go to Nashville one day in my life. That's my life plan.'"
"Country was the thing that I took to, it was the songs I could learn, it's what I could sing and songs like Galveston, Wichita Lineman, all the Glen Campbell stuff," he explained, sharing that when he was young, he enjoyed singing Dolly Parton songs "because I could sing in her register pre-puberty. Man, I could literally sing 'Coat of Many Colors' or 'Applejack' in Dolly's key. It was insane, and it's floating around on YouTube."
Urban eventually made it to Nashville in 1989. "It was my first trip and I was wide-eyed and excited to be there and then I started making regular trips around '91, '92, and slowly moving in with a guy who let me crash on his couch," he told McGraw. "I would just leave clothes at his house every time I went there and then slowly was moving into Nashville and probably living there from '93 onwards and I was just excited to be there, and that was really it."
The 53-year-old is now known for his genre-bending style of music, something that he gravitated to at an early age. Urban cited John Mellencamp's 1987 album The Lonesome Jubilee as a major inspiration, as well as one of Mellencamp's shows.
"I went and saw John in concert and I sat there, Tim, and watched him almost just give me the most epiphany I'd ever had in my life because there was this rocker... And you know how his band, there's this rock rhythm section, Kenny Aronoff and just wailing away, rock guitars with Mike Wanchic and Larry Crane," he said. "But, then he's got acoustic guitars and he's got a fiddle player and he's got an accordion, but he's singing with total James Brown swagger and cocksureness, but he's singing rural lyrics and the whole fusion. With total attitude."
"Everything I loved about all the music I was confused by how they met, he distilled into a thing and it still gives me chills today, and I walked out of that concert going, 'I get it. It's not either/or, it's just make your own thing,'" he continued. "That's what it was, and the great thing is I didn't leave that concert saying, 'Oh, I'm going to do John Mellencamp music.' That wasn't what he said to me that night. What he said to me was find the things you love and make your own thing, and it was life changing for me."