Keith Urban: Road Less Traveled (2002)
True, Golden Road is the title of Keith Urban’s new album. But to the sizzling guitar-slinging singer, those words perfectly describe the real-life path he’s traveling. “Golden Road is a good way to describe the road you’re supposed to be on,” shares Keith. "I was on it for a long time. Then I took some really bad detours and dead ends. Now, I feel like I’m back on track.”
It’s hard to believe that Keith, 2001’s CMA Horizon Award winner and the ACM’s Top New Male Vocalist for 2000, has ever hit so much as a speed bump. But only four years have passed since he struggled with a serious cocaine addiction, ultimately hitting rock bottom.
“At that point, there was major chaos in my life,” confides Keith. “I pushed everybody away. Cocaine kills everything you need—belief and self-esteem.” Keith checked himself into a treatment center in Nashville. But after a few weeks, he quit.
“Rehab didn’t work for me,” explains Keith. “It’s a great thing for a lot of people. But for me, I had to just let go and say ‘I’m done. I’m not letting drugs do this to me anymore.’ Then, it was a higher-power thing. I think what got me out of it was spirituality.”
Keith also had his music. “I was so fortunate to have that!” he confesses. His debut album, Keith Urban, scored four hits —including his self-penned No. 1 “But For The Grace Of God”—and went gold, selling 500,000 copies. Then, just as he started work on his follow-up album, Keith’s world was shaken again when he and his fiancee broke up. “That was a very hard time,” he admits.
Once again, music played a pivotal role in Keith’s healing process. In fact, his new No. 1 smash, “Somebody Like You,” was written while nursing his heartache. “When I wrote that song, I was still in the midst of this breakup with my fiancee,” he confides. “It was weird to write about being so positive and secure with that going on. But she really loved me. I could see that. I was going through all sorts of stuff and didn’t like myself. I said, ‘Man, I wish I could love me the way you do.’ That was the inspiration.”
The song inspired a romance-charged video co-starring what is rumored to be Keith’s current real-life love interest, supermodel Niki Taylor. When asked if there is, in reality, a romance blooming, Keith remains mostly mum. “We’re friends,” he smiles. “Good friends. She loves country music. A mutual friend suggested we meet because Niki wanted to be in a video. The video is very earthy and organic. She just fit the bill so well.”
Keith claims he doesn’t mind all the talk about him and the girl who has graced a thousand magazine covers. “I’d ask about it, too!” he laughs. “But seriously, I’m really happy with my work right now. Dating is just not a priority. I’m not going to turn down love if comes along—but it’s the last thing I’m thinking about.”
So, if he were looking, what would catch this star’s eye? “Somebody who will listen and support you,” reveals Keith. “Someone who loves you for just the way you are. Someone who puts their arms around you and makes you want to be a better person.”
When Keith is ready to let love into his life again, he'll still have to deal with the not-so-easy scenario of dating in the public eye. “It’s hard in the sense that you’re not sure what people are liking about you,” acknowledges Keith. “You’d like to try to find somebody who doesn’t really care about your celebrity or your money—of which I have neither! But I’m working on it!”
“And, when you’re touring all the time, you have to have somebody at home who has faith in you and trusts you. That’s tough for anybody.”
Then there is the issue of a star’s own temptations on the road.
“It’s easy for me to be faithful,” declares Keith. “I’ve toured for so long that I can definitely tell when fans of the female persuasion are after you just because you’re the guy on stage. I can tell when it’s fake. Even going out to bars and stuff feels so shallow sometimes. If I go to a bar these days it’s usually with my band when we’re traveling, and we end up jamming.”
So, for Keith, it always comes back to music. Happily, he is busy collecting rave reviews for Golden Road.
“I can feel this thing shifting gears,” says Keith, whose life has recently returned to jam-packed and overbooked. “But I was ready for this.”
Keith, who wrote eight of the 12 songs on Golden Road, poured himself into the songwriting. “I sort of forgot I was making a record,” he laughs. “I also forgot that, eventually, everyone would be hearing these songs. That was a good thing because I didn’t think, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t be saying this.’ Or, ‘Maybe I don’t want everybody knowing that.’
The result is a record packed with personal emotions. One of the songs lifted directly from Keith’s real life is “Song For Dad”, a heartfelt tribute to his father in Australia.
“I wanted to write that song to thank him," he says. "I think it’s important for him to understand that my brother and I love him. We’re old enough now to look back and say, despite everything, he did a pretty good job. I think everything he did, even the anger stuff, was out of love."
Keith's dad was strict with him and his brother. But as a former drummer, he also understood early on that Keith had a musical gift. "I left home and joined a band when I was 15," notes Keith. "My dad was a musician, too. So he could see if I stayed in school I would be wasting my time."
Just as his father recognized his son's talent, Keith eventually came to appreciate his dad and the sacrifices he made for his family.
"You definitely get to a point where you stop seeing your parents as your mom and dad and see them as people who tried to have a family and still tried to achieve what they wanted with their lives."
Recently, Keith also began to see his father in himself. "I noticed that I do things like him and I say things he used to say," he says. "He's a real thinker. He was always very articulate and passionate. And well-dressed! It made me happy when I started to notice his mannerisms in me."
Keith says he definitely plans to become a father himself someday. In fact, he sees it happening in the next five years.
"I’d love to be married," he grins. "And have two or three kids."
Sounds like Keith's Golden Road is on the right path!