The ups and downs of Keith Urban's life in the last few years have all the makings of a great country song: he's soared to the top of the sales charts, headlined sports arenas, married a movie star ( Nicole Kidman), relapsed then emerged from a stint in rehab for an old substance-abuse problem, became a first-time father and lost virtually every piece of musical equipment he ever owned in a flood of biblical proportion.
There's little direct reference to any of that, however, on "Get Closer," Urban's new album that comes out Tuesday. That's because, when it comes to songwriting, Urban prefers to zero in on the motivations and repercussions underlying life experiences, rather than recounting the gritty details.
"Nic and I both deal with that," Urban, 43, explained over breakfast in Beverly Hills recently on a swing through Southern California. "Even in the film choices she makes, people will ask, 'Is that what's going on in her life?' For me, I'm looking for the feelings in a song that resonate with me, for a multitude of reasons. I'm also looking for songs that might help other people too."
It's an approach, however, that can leave listeners in the dark about the specific people or situations that inspired him. There is, however, one song on "Get Closer" that's destined to strike a lot of fans as pay dirt regarding his thoughts on life with Kidman, daughter Sunday Rose, fame and worldly temptations.
"The traveling, the singing … the fast cars, the guitars/They are all just second to this life, this love that you and I've been dreamin' of for so long," Urban sings in "Without You," then adds, "Along comes a baby girl, and suddenly my little world just got a whole lot bigger/People that I barely knew, love me 'cause I'm part of you/Man, it's tough to figure."
Asked about the song, Urban flashed that boyish smile that's endeared the New Zealand-born, Australia-reared singer and songwriter to legions of country music fans since he first surfaced on this side of the Pacific fronting the trio the Ranch.
"It's the most autobiographical song I never wrote," he said with a laugh, crediting the song's writers — Dave Pahanish and Joe West — for unknowingly concocting a song tailor-made to fit his own life.
"My friend told me, 'You've got to hear this — you won't believe it,' " said Urban. "As a songwriter, I'd be thinking, 'Well, that's what I want to say — now how do I craft it?' I'm pretty sure if I'd tried to write that, I would have filled it with metaphors and analogies, whereas this is perfectly sound and beautifully put.
"I have this feeling that song's going to affect the way I write in the future, to remind me of the power of simplicity," he said. "It was really profound to hear it from somebody else.... I've always loved cars, and obviously guitars. It's crazy that that song could name check every single thing in my life. I've also had all of those things in my life without Nic, and they mean nothing without love. That's profound."