About The Artist
The Set List
Urban Does Country
He plays a six-string banjo, not a four-string like everyone else. He taps his heel to the music instead of his toe. He can introduce himself to a room full of people and remember their names as if he'd known them all his life. Even the fact that he actually introduces himself to strangers - so totally unusual for a recording star of his stature and success - tells you Keith Urban is far from average.
The Success Is in the Details
Is it his borderline obsessive perfectionism that's helped catapult Keith Urban to stratospheric heights of music celebrity? It certainly hasn't hurt. Urban and his band tweaked amps and instruments for hours before beginning the actual four-song set. How many times are they going to run through "Days Go By," we wondered. The answer was simple: as many as it takes to get things just right.
It's a funny thing about Soundcheck sessions. Both Soundcheck and artist crews are busy setting up, getting ready, making sure everything's working and set to go. Then, after countless false starts and run-throughs of song snippets ... BAM! It all begins so suddenly. Urban's start that day took the studio by storm.
"Days Go By"
Guitar slung low as he leaned into the microphone in his signature stance, Urban launched into the set with "Days Go By," a hit off his album Be Here. His use of traditional Country instrumentation in unconventional ways was showcased in the driving mandolin that ran through the song like a whitewater rapid through a mountain pass. Grabbing and turning a tuning peg of his guitar signaled the intro to "Days Go By" - and the set - that was uniquely Keith Urban.
"Somebody Like You"
Song #2 opened with a non-traditional six-string banjo - and the line "There's a new wind blowing" in the song "Somebody Like You" (from Golden Road). It's a song that bespeaks the changes and maturation Urban's traversed as he proclaims "Don't wanna take this life for granted like I used to do." Admittedly, Urban's life has changed over the years as he's settled into an enviable position in the ranks of Country's most popular and prolific artists.
"Once In A Lifetime"
Can it last? Can Urban's status sustain itself?
One listen to "Once in a Lifetime," the debut single off his latest release Love, Pain, & the Whole Crazy Thing and it's obvious it can - and will. It's trademark Keith Urban: Catchy, up-tempo, can't-get-it-outta-your-head-even-if-you-tried. And, it's a love song (though not of the garden variety). Co-written with John Shanks - like several other highly memorable Urban tracks - the song debuted at #17 on the Billboard Hot Country Song Chart, a crowning achievement for any artist. (In Urban's case, it was a re-crowning.) In fact, it became the highest debuting single in the 62-year history of the chart.
"Making Memories of Us"
Just as quickly as Urban had launched into the set, it ended. Or so everyone thought. As the band left the studio to grab sandwiches in the control room, the small crowd of Wal-Martians that had come to watch the taping began to trickle out and head back across San Francisco's Bay Bridge to the Walmart.com office. Unbeknownst to the dotcommers, the best was yet to come.
After a brief break and re-setting of the stage, Urban returned to the main studio, acoustic guitar in hand. That's when the most intimate part of the performance began.
Accompanied only by a grand piano and the guitar in his lap, Urban crooned Rodney Crowell's tender and moving "Making Memories of Us" (from Be Here). The feeling was that of kicking back in the living room after a party at a friend's house. Urban was the one who grabs a barstool, picks up a nearby guitar and mesmerizes everyone still hanging out. When the song ended, you could feel the collective wonder felt by those few production crew members still left in the studio. The silent acknowledgement of bearing witness to a special moment can only be termed wholly palpable.
Of Music and Motorcycles
From the same stool, Urban openly and very candidly fielded questions that addressed everything from his humble beginnings to the two motorcycles he brings with him on the road.
Perhaps most revealing was when he talked about "Once in a Lifetime":
"It came about from a personal situation I was in at the time - and still am, thank goodness, that's turned out to be a wonderful relationship. I found myself in a position of needing to ... show a certain unwavering confidence in what we were entering into."
The song's lyrics confirm his comments: "The sun is shining on a brand new day/ ... It's a long way down and it's a leap of faith/But I'm never giving up/ I know we've got a once in a lifetime love."
Just as the feeling in the room during "Making Memories of Us" was that of friends hanging out with you in your living room, so was the interview. Not stiff or formal but friendly, relaxed and very laid-back. And oh-so interesting. Be sure to watch it.
One thing Urban said during the interview was that every album he releases should be a snapshot of his life at the time of the album's release. By the time you read this, Urban's latest effort will be on shelves at Wal-Mart stores and at Wal-Mart Music Downloads right here at Walmart.com.
If Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing follows the unique and most interesting progression of his life, anyone not picking up a copy can expect a gaping hole in their music collection. It's predicted by many to be a must-have album of 2006. And in our estimate, 2007 as well.
Thanks for stopping by. We'll see you around the site ...
- The Crew at Wal-Mart Soundcheck