Keith’s VOICE OF REASON
He’s won a string of Grammy and ARIA awards, and is no stranger to musical hits, so it was only fitting that Keith Urban was going about his day job when realisation sank in that he was part of a hit television show.
It was mid-April. The Voice had just started airing in Australia, and the country music superstar was back in the United States gigging and writing songs ahead of flying back to Australia to rejoin fellow coaches Seal, Joel Madden and Delta Goodrem, and their artists, for the live element of the reality show to begin.
In Orlando, Florida, Urban was doing a corporate gig, and Seal just happened to be another of the artists on the bill.
“Seal asked had I seen any of the show yet, and I said I hadn’t had a chance to watch,” Urban says.
“He said: ‘Mate, you’ve got to watch it, it’s doing really well’.”
“Then I started hearing everywhere that people were loving it.”
But by the time the coaches had returned in Australia, The Voice fever was running high.
Viewers were marvelling at the talent on show, dissecting coach comments and decisions, hitting Twitter debating Seal’s fingernails, Madden’s toothpick addiction and Goodrem’s hairstyles. And the unassuming, self- effacing Urban was finding himself a whole new set of fans.
As the finale of The Voice show looms, Urban says the past few months have been a surprising ride – as much for him and his fellow coaches as their charges. the winner is announced, will mean the work is over for Urban and his coaching cohorts, but Urban warns that for the winner, the hard work is just beginning.
The prize of $100,000 and a recording contract with Universal records are a great step up, he says. Now, they’ll have to pay their dues.
Urban paid his for almost two decades in pubs and clubs around Australia, saving enough money to make return assaults to Nashville in the US
“I guess we all hoped it would take but we were still blown away,” he grins.
Urban signed on for The Voice at the urging of wife Nicole Kidman.
“It wasn’t so much that she talked me around – it was more her saying ‘let’s see if we can make the schedule work’ because she loved the US version,” he says. Is she now telling him ‘I told you so?’ “Well, she is the good voice of reason,” he says.
“Put it this way, I probably wouldn’t need to be talked around to do it again. I’d love to do it again.”
The final two instalments of The Voice – tonight and tomorrow night - when before becoming a country superstar.
It was a hard grind, but while some might think the winner of The Voice is any less worthy for not having done that, it’s not a theory Urban subscribes to.
“A lot of people are so quick to say that’s a cop- out, you have to work the pubs and clubs to pay your dues but honestly, if we didn’t have to, would we?” he laughs.
“Nobody wants to go and starve for 10 years. Nobody chooses that. That was just my lot. That’s what it took for me. And if some other bugger comes along and does it in a year, you know what? Fantastic.
“The fact is, there are no longer as many pubs and clubs to play, so that forum as a means of getting ahead doesn’t exist like it did when I was starting out.”
“These guys aren’t getting an easy ride. I don’t know what sort of courage it takes to get up. The idea of doing that is something I find so intimidating and nerve-wracking.
“I don’t think anyone gets out of paying their dues; you just do it in different levels. Maybe it’s in front of an arena full of people instead of a pub full of people. Wherever it is, you’re still learning in the trenches.
“For me the trenches were tiny little pubs and clubs in front of very few people and it slowly got bigger and bigger and bigger.
“Nowadays it might be just on television in front of millions of people – that’s where you are going to fall on your arse or you are going to rise to the occasion.”
Despite being part of the ride for the past three months, Urban is loath to name a winner from the final four.
“This show has reminded me to assume nothing,” he grins
“Going in I expected the talent to be good, but not as brilliant – or consistent – as we got.”
While The Voice has been kicking goals, Urban’s “day job” has also been chugging along quite nicely – he has won not only Aussie hearts on the show, but a whole new host of ears for his work.
His latest album, The Story So Far, released since the show went to air, debuted at No. 1 of the mainstream ARIA album chart.
It was a first for Urban – he’s had three previous number ones on the Australian country album charts, but this is the first time mainstream Australia has put him on top.
“That feels incredible. Like many artists in this country, it’s hard to get radio airplay for the kind of music I make,” he says. “As a performer, all you want is for people to discover your music – this means they have.”
Of his new-found popularity, Urban is typically humbled, and sometimes, slightly embarrassed.
Fans labelled him a human jukebox because he seemed to know the words to every song performed on The Voice.
“I know a lot of songs, what can I say,” he laughs.
“You know what’s terrible? I can remember four million song lyrics, but I’ll lose my car keys and cell phone in a second.”