The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Cover Story - – Deb­bie Schipp

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.”

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