Keith Urban Recalls His Move From Australia to Nashville
Keith Urban began his relocation from Australia to the United States more than 25 years ago. Although he had found success as an artist in his home country, the now-superstar knew that his heart belonged in Nashville.
When Urban won the Star Maker competition in Tamworth ("the home of country music in Australia," according to Urban), his prize was to record a single with EMI Records.
"That came out and did well," Urban recalled to The Boot and other reporters at a reception honoring his exhibit, Keith Urban So Far. "But the other thing that happened was that I signed with a publishing company that was affiliated with MCA ... and they sent me to Nashville to write with people, and that was what I wanted more than anything."
That trip was Urban's first to Music City.
"I was thrown into that world that you guys know so well: The writer gets the new artists, and they get thrown in a room, and you’ve got to try and write a song," the country star recounts. "It was wonderful and odd and difficult and exciting. I was in Nashville. That’s all I wanted to do."
Still, Urban's transition to Music City took a while. It was two years until he was finally ready to call the United States home.
"I would write, and I would stay at a hotel. A guy named Greg Kane, who was an engineer at MCA Publishing, said, ‘Come stay at my house. It will be much easier than staying in a hotel.’ So the next trip, I stayed at his house, and I brought clothes and sort of left them there," Urban says. "And on the next trip, I brought more clothes and left them there. Slowly I sort of moved in.
"I was excited to be leaving things at his house, because it made me feel like I lived in Nashville, which is all I wanted to do," Urban adds. "That’s why it’s always been hard to put a timeline on when I moved to Nashville, because I was moving in since 1990. I finally had the last of my stuff here by 1992."
However, it wasn't all smooth sailing for the aspiring singer: After several years of trying to establish himself as an artist, Urban released one album with his band, the Ranch, in 1997, which failed to produce any hit singles. The lack of success sent him into a deep depression, causing him to make a series of unhealthy choices.
"Definitely, there were times when I didn’t know what else to do, through the mid- to late ‘90s, which, not coincidentally, was my first trip to Cumberland Heights [rehab center], in 1998. Because I didn’t know how to cope, I didn’t know what else to do, I didn’t have the structure or support," Urban explains. "When you’re doing your best and it’s not working, I’m not quite sure what to do next, because I felt like, I’m doing my best, I’m not sure what else to do, other than keep doing it and wait for something to break."
Fortunately, Urban didn't give up, and in 1999, he released his self-titled solo debut, which spawned his first No. 1 single, "But for the Grace of God." The tunesmith says that the credit for the hit doesn't entirely belong to him.
"I guess [I was] just waiting for my time to come around," he concedes. "When I first came in ’89, I was really out of sync with what was going on. Clint Black, Killin’ Time was the big album; it was hat acts everywhere. I was so out of place in 1989 … There were always those angels who kept me believing in myself."
Keith Urban So Far will be on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame until May of 2016.
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