Urban 'Defying Gravity' with country success

Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 11:45pm

Keith Urban’s been part of contemporary country’s upper echelon for over a decade now, though he actually made the move to Nashville from Australia (he was born in New Zealand) in 1992. Now on the Escape Together World Tour with Sugarland, which comes to the Sommet Center Saturday night, he’s also supporting his latest release Defying Gravity.

Urban’s warm, appealing voice and deft conversational, story-song writing style have been well showcased on several studio releases. But he’s also among the most accomplished and versatile musicians in any genre. Besides acoustic and electric guitar, Urban also plays piano, bass, bouzouki, mandolin and ganjo.

Urban’s earliest impact in Music City circles came as a guitarist for Brooks & Dunn. His forte in that area even led to his inclusion as one of the players backing Alan Jackson in the video for Jackson’s version of “Mercury Blues.” Urban also had a three-piece ensemble called The Ranch that cut one disc in the late ‘90s, and his dashing guitar licks were heard on discs from Charlie Daniels, Emerson Drive, Garth Brooks, The Dixie Chicks and Paul Brandt during this period.

Still, it’s been as a headline solo act that Urban has achieved his fame. His self-titled 1999 debut proved the set that elevated his career, earning him three Top Five chart hits and also the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist and Country Music Association’s Horizon Award in 2001. That was followed by Golden Road in 2002, and the transition from session ace and guitar hero to country star and front man was complete.

His versatility, performing charisma and overall industry profile have also made Urban a favorite choice for the bookers of awards shows. He’s appeared on everything from the American Music Awards and CMA telecasts to the Grammys and CMT (who were title sponsors for his first headline arena tour). Urban was even part of a 2005 promotional campaign by the GAP that paired him with seven others from various idioms.

Urban’s gone on to win numerous industry honors as a singer and player, including the CMA Entertainer of the Year award in 2005 and CMA Male Vocalist of the Year in 2005 and 2006. He won Best Male Country Vocal Performance for “Stupid Boy” in 2008, and “Start a Band” with Brad Paisley captured both the Academy of Country Music Vocal Event of the Year in 2008 and Collaborative Video of the Year honors at the Country Music Television Awards this year.

But an even bigger event than hit albums and industry citations happened in Urban’s life last July. He and wife Nicole Kidman (a highly respected Oscar-winning actress) had their first child, a daughter named Sunday Rose Kidman Urban, right here in Nashville.