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Keith Urban turns hardship and heartbreak into solid gold

Story by M.B. Roberts

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 the woman 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 it comes along - but it's the last thing I'm thinking about."

So, if he were looking, what would catch this star's eye?

Find out in the current (11/12/02) "Newsstand Issue" on sale now!