Keith Urban is married to an Oscar-winning actress, but he knows he has another important relationship to maintain: the one with his fans.
Still at the forefront of country music stars, Nicole Kidman's spouse gets a big opportunity to please his followers each June, when artists and listeners converge on Nashville for a Country Music Association-sponsored event. The four-day gathering is captured for a television special, and ABC airs this year's edition of "CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock" Wednesday, Sept. 1.
A preview disc indicated the three-hour show offers a generous dose of the New Zealand-born and Australia-raised Urban, whose virtual greatest-hits set includes "Kiss a Girl" and "Days Go By." Among the many other talents showcased: Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Trace Adkins, and engaged couple Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton.
Though he's had a busy summer concert schedule, as have so many of his country music peers, Urban recognizes that playing the CMA Music Festival is still a prime gig.
Q: Did you enjoy performing at this year's festival as much as it appears?
A: Yeah, I really did. There's something about that crowd, and probably that little bit of extra mojo about performing in that stadium -- not long after it was under water (from the flooding in Nashville) -- was a euphoric feeling as well.
Q: Have you intentionally stocked your catalog with tunes that practically invite the audience to sing along?
A: I hoped that one day, I would have a set list where people know the majority of the songs. It's a blast to look out there and see people singing along with every song; it's incredible. I'm always happy to let my voice take a break and let the audience carry it!
Q: How have you personally experienced the growth of the festival, which used to be known as Fan Fair, over the years?
A: It's astounding to see how big it's gotten, particularly this year. I couldn't see an empty seat anywhere. It's such a win-win; what a magnificent thing that this festival is based on the genre and not on the specific artists. So many people come to celebrate their love of country music, and within three or four days, you've seen everybody.
Q: You made a point of saying in the show, "Nashville is alive and well and open for business." How are you finding it there now?
A: Certainly, it takes a little while, and it's been difficult with Opryland out of commission. I think people know we're back up and running, though, and Tennessee isn't called the Volunteer State for nothing. Everybody pulled together, and here we are.
Q: Is being the father of Sunday, your two-year-old daughter with Nicole, having an impact on your music?
A: Yeah, for sure. I'm not out there working all the time, and from being home, it's important to have something to take out onstage. I think everything benefits from it.
I think the performances have more purpose for me. If we're going to go out and connect with everybody, what are we communicating? I have enormous gratitude for having found somebody and found my center ... then to be able to plug into that through my music, if I can.
Urban development: Keith plays CMA Music Festival
Keith Urban performs on "CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock" Wednesday on ABC.