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Keith Urban picks up an enormous 1.5-liter bottle of Fiji brand water-he drinks three of them a day-and takes a swig. He settles into a chair in the slightly chilly corner office at his management company's Music Row digs. Today is a relatively calm moment in the whirlwind that is Keith Urban's life. He just returned from his first headlining tour of Australia, the country he left for Nashville a dozen years ago. Tomorrow night he begins a sold-out three-show stand at Music City's legendary Ryman Auditorium, making him a conquering hero in both his native land and his adopted home. Indeed, Keith's career momentum has reached a furious pace in the last year. His third solo album, Be Here, has gone platinum and spawned two Top 5 hits. He's up for four trophies at May's ACM Awards, his download-only Sessions@AOL acoustic EP is a hot seller at iTunes, and his Crossroads collaboration with rock legend John Fogerty has been all over CMT. Over the coming months, he'll please ever-bigger crowds on his Alive in '05 headlining tour-and fans who don't get to see him live can look forward to an upcoming concert DVD filmed at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles this past December.
The following is the first of two installments- look for part two in our May 9 issue. Both are drawn from two lengthy interviews, conducted over two weeks on two continents- first by phone from Australia, then at Keith's management office in Nashville. "God, I think we've solved the world's problems," Keith joked as the second interview wrapped up. Maybe not-but, hopefully, we did get a little closer to discovering the real Keith Urban.
You're currently building a house in Nashville. How's it looking?
It's coming along. It should be ready to move into by the end of May. I actually found it as it was being built, which allowed me to make a lot of changes and get it the way I want it.
What area is it in?
Not far from the Row. I'd like to have been further out on some acreage, but there's a fine line between privacy and isolation. When you live alone, it's easy to be a bit isolated when you're too far out. If I had a family, I'd definitely move a little further out of town.
Do you feel like you've put roots down in America now?
I've always felt like that, I just couldn't afford to buy a house!
How big a priority do you put on security?
Well, it's important to me, obviously, to have privacy. I don't know that I've got psycho fans, but who knows? I hate having to be aware of [security]. I used to not have to be.
As someone who values his privacy, is it difficult to be in a profession that allows you less privacy than anything else you could have done with your life?
I think I've done a really good job keeping most of my private life pretty private. I have a very simple circle of friends, and I pretty much keep the same friends for a long time. It's changed a little bit, just with moving and . . . there's people I've distanced myself from since I changed some of my ways of living. For better, obviously.
After going through that experience, how much of it did you feel you had to share with the public? [Keith has acknowledged having had a drug problem in the late 1990s.]
It wasn't that I wanted to share any of it, but I also didn't want it to be this skeleton in the closet that kept growing and growing and became some sort of mammoth, when it was never that anyway. I didn't live the kind of life Waylon Jennings did, or even Johnny Cash. Mine was smaller and quicker and much more confined-but it's important for me not to keep things hidden. I find that once it's out, it becomes a nonissue.
Do you have to police yourself to make sure you don't go back to that kind of stuff?
I don't know that I police myself. It doesn't have the allure that it used to have, thank God. It's not like I walk around worrying about being pulled back into it. It just doesn't seem to occupy my thoughts the way it used to. It's like people talk about their college days-"Oh, I got all my partying out in college." I didn't go to college, so I was a real late bloomer to all that silly, chaotic stuff you do when you're young. And I feel I'm at that place now where I've gotten a lot of that out of my system.
- Chris Neal
To read more of the part one series Keith Urban Revealed , pick up the new Country Weekly hitting newsstands on the sale date of April 11!