If you go
› What: Keith Urban
› Where: Riverbend Festival, Coca-Cola Stage, Ross’s Landing
› When: 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 31
› Admission: $60 for single-day wristband
› For more information: https://riverbendfestival.com
Keith Urban has no hesitation in saying his current release, "Graffiti U," is not a country album. Fact is, says Urban, it's not any particular type of album.
"I didn't want to present any particular genre," the country superstar said in a recent phone interview. "I wasn't trying to make a pop album. I wasn't trying to make a country album. I was just trying to make a 'me album' in 2018."
And a "me album" at that point in time meant reflecting the kind of music that Urban was drawn to and finding ways to take those influences and come out with songs that felt authentic to him.
Exactly what types of music inspired "Graffiti U" proved to be hard to pin down, even for Urban. He allowed that he's attracted to a lot of new music at this point, but he works more by instinct than any other factor in crafting songs.
"It's always based on an energy. I get pulled toward a certain energy, whether it's in people I meet, whether it's in art in some form, movies, music, whatever it is, I get pulled toward certain energies," Urban explained.
"I have found myself being very pulled toward a lot of new music that's being made, not just in pop, but in country. There's a lot of great music. And there's non-genre music, like Post Malone is happening right now, which I find myself strongly pulled toward because it's so original. I was watching a documentary about this band over in the U.K., this duo called the Sleaford Mods. I was riveted by that documentary because the music is so uncategorizable and so (original) and so raw. So it doesn't matter what the genre is. I can be pulled toward anything that just has this riveting (quality) in it."
In fact, Urban said he titled the album "Graffiti U" because he sees graffiti as a pure form of expression, and he wanted to experience that sort of unfiltered freedom and creativity as he wrote and recorded the album.
DID YOU KNOW?
› Keith Urban released his new single, “We Were,” three weeks ago. It’s already No. 28 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and No. 24 on the Country Airplay chart.
› Urban is the reigning Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year.
› Might someone be going home with a Keith Urban-autographed guitar Friday night? The country star has become known for going into his audiences during concerts, choosing a fan at random and giving them a guitar.
The opening track, "Coming Home" (a Top 5 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart), Urban said, sets the tone for the rest of "Graffiti U." The song mixes folk with banjo and other acoustic instruments, pop with its warm melody and a bit of hip-hop in the cadence of Julia Michael's vocal and the song's programmed percussion.
"I like the fusion of all the elements that came together on that song," Urban said. "It felt like that was a good, broad entry into the rest of the album."
A native of New Zealand, Urban, 51, had considerable success in Australia with an album he released in 1991 before he came to the United States in search of a record deal. He released an album with a band he formed, the Ranch, before getting signed as a solo artist by Capitol Records.
Success came quickly, with Urban's 1999 self-titled debut album giving him his first No. 1 single, "But For the Grace of God." The hits have kept coming at a steady pace ever since. Urban is now nearing 40 hit singles in all, 18 of which have topped a country chart, including seven from his previous two albums, "Fuse" and "Ripcord."
Urban's eight previous solo albums have all gone either platinum or gold.
Urban's personal life also continues to be in a good place. The turnaround for Urban came when he married actress Nicole Kidman in 2006, kicked (with Kidman's help) his addiction to alcohol and started a family that now includes two young girls. The couple will celebrate their 13th anniversary in June, and Urban had little trouble explaining why their marriage is thriving.
"First of all, she's my favorite person to be around. I love, love, love her company," he said.
"That's really the first thing. I want to be around her all the time, talk to her and listen to her. We're just very, very simpatico as personalities. I think that's key. I loved being around her when I first met her, and doing everything and anything with her. And that hasn't changed. That feels exactly the same as it did the first week we started going out."
Another secret to the relationship is that Urban and Kidman put their relationship ahead of their careers and find ways to spend as much time together as possible.
"If she's shooting out in California ... we just relocate out there, even if it's in a rented place, a hotel, wherever it is. We just go as a family, the four of us," Urban said. "Obviously, I'm on tour. I go to where the show is and then I go back to wherever she and the girls are, so that we stay together."
There will be plenty of trips to tour stops and family locations over the next several months as Urban plays a healthy selection of festivals this summer. He said his hit-filled show very much aims to reinforce the themes of the "Graffiti U" album.
"I think if there's a theme to this album, it's to inspire a confidence in each person to just express who they are, how they feel and not feel like they have to apologize for it, make excuses for it, filter it in any way or change it to suit anybody's expectations," Urban said.
"It's just an absolutely natural, unapologetic form of expression. That's what the album is. It's very much what the tour is. And if people feel that way in listening to the music and seeing the show, then I think I've done my job."
Contact Alan Sculley at Last Word Features, email@example.com.
Thursday's headliner: LIONEL RICHIE
* Baby boomers first knew Lionel Richie in the 1970s as frontman for the Commodores, bringing to life that band's funky dance tracks like "Brick House," before going solo in 1982.
* Songs he wrote and sang that became hits are too numerous to list, but a few of the most recognizable are: "Lady," "Sail On," "You Are," "My Love," "Dancing on the Ceiling," "Truly," "Hello" and "Running With the Night."
* He co-wrote the 1985 charity song "We Are the World" with Michael Jackson, which sold more than 20 million copies.
* "We Are the World" won a Grammy Award, one of four Grammys has has received.
* He won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song for "Say You, Say Me" featured in the movie "White Nights." That song also won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
* In 2016, he received the Johnny Mercer Award, The Songwriter Hall of Fame's highest honor.
* In 2018, Richie was the celebrity spokesperson for an AmeriTrade commercial pitching how the company lets you trade any time day or night. The humor in the pitch was that Richie resisted using the words of his smash hit "All Night Long" to describe that 24/7 service, instead substituting phrases such as "from darkness to light" and "all night through its entirety."
Saturday's headliner: MACKLEMORE
* Rapper Benjamin Hammond Haggerty goes by the stage name Macklemore.
* He collaborated with producer Ryan Lewis to release "Thrift Shop." The single reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in 2013. It was the first since 1994 to top the Hot 100 chart without the benefit of a major record label behind it.
* Their second single," Can't Hold Us," also reached No. 1 on that chart, making them the first duo in the chart's history to have their first two singles top the chart.
* The duo won four Grammy Awards in 2014: Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for "Thrift Shop."
* Macklemore was honored this month with the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award from MusiCares, in recognition of his support of MusiCares and his commitment to helping others in the process of addiction recovery.