Just last week, I had the opportunity to interview country crooner Keith Urban, right before he was to go in for vocal cord surgery. We chatted about several things dear to Keith, including his music, his wife Nicole Kidman and daughters Sunday and Faith, as well as his newest venture-Phoenix.
RCR: I am sorry to hear about your vocal cord condition. How are you feeling right now?
KU: I feel fine. It’s more of an underlying raspyness that I’ve got. Vocal fatigue kicks in if I sing too long. So this is something I have to get operated on to get back where I used to be.
RCR: What went through your mind when you got the diagnosis?
KU: Relief. It was something that was wrong that could be remedied. Whatever sort of nervousness goes along with surgery. I have had some vocal issues in the past, and I have usually been able to go on vocal rest and remedy everything. So, it was one of those awkward decisions when you say, ‘Well, it is probably one of those times now where these issues are getting to a place where it is requiring surgery.’ And vocal surgery has come so far in the last decade.
RCR: You have so many of your fans pulling for you with this surgery. How does that make you feel?
KU: It’s beautiful. It’s like a family. That’s the feeling that I have always gotten from playing in front of these audiences. It is really appreciated.
RCR: Phoenix smells amazing! How did you come up with this idea?
KU: Many years ago, I got approached to do a cologne. I thought I really want to do this, but I want to do it when I have the time and commit to it properly and I don’t want to slap my name on something that is already pre-made because I genuinely love creating. So I spent a year, starting from the ground up. I really loved the process and I feel really grateful that it is out. It is finally done!
RCR: Tell me a little more about the creative process of coming up with the scent. Was there a lot of trial and error?
KU: Yes, lots of trial and error. I really started by putting together lots of things that I like to wear. And I had a huge list of colognes that I liked. So I really began to look at the common threads between them to find what it was that I needed to seek out. It started there. And initially, there were a dozen different variations of the scent, and so I would have these bottle shipped to me. I would try them out on my friends and on fans. I would wear them to meet and greets. And I think the best feedback is the unsolicited feedback. So I would wear it and walk around for the day and just take note of how people commented on it and what they said. Then I whittled it down to six different formulas, then four, then two, and then eventually arriving to the one that became Phoenix. It was like writing a song in that I was hoping to create something with a common connection and was something that I would wear, and that is absolutely what we landed on.
RCR: What did Nicole think when you told her you were going to do a men’s fragrance?
KU: (Laughing) She loved it! I felt lucky to have somebody like her to give me feedback while going through this process. I want guys to love this because it is a men’s fragrance, but honestly, it has got to be something that the opposite sex enjoys too. So it was good to get feedback from my wife on this.
RCR: How involved was Nicole in this process?
KU: She was my first reference for trying things out. And we are so incredibly in sync. More often than not, we really love the same things. We are so much alike it is extraordinary. If we are out and she tries on different things, we almost always have the same reaction to the same things.
RCR: Phoenix was released last month. Is it getting the response that you had hoped for?
KU: It is. It is doing very, very well. I feel good for where we are right now.
RCR: Do you have any future plans to release any other colognes or men’s grooming products?
KU: I would like to. I am hoping that Phoenix does well enough to do more and hopefully, a women’s line at some point. I would really enjoy that. And I have someone in my life who would be very helpful in that regard!
RCR: How does your music influence your personal style, and vice versa?
KU: It’s lifestyle. That’s how I think of it, more so. Personality and lifestyle. So songs and clothing are just the way that we live. First and foremost, I was raised in a very small town in Australia, but it was relatively coastal. So, I have more of that laid-back way about me and that reflects in my music, for sure, and certainly the way I dress.
RCR: And speaking of music, when will you be creating new music?
KU: I have already started writing and will continue to do that. I am going to be down and out for the count for about a month (following vocal cord surgery). But, I am still intent on creating a lot of music while I can’t speak. It is going to be a good time to write music. I would like to see a new record next year.
RCR: Following surgery, when will you be able to sing? Early next year?
KU: Theoretically, I should be able to start singing towards the end of December. Performance-wise, I am guessing towards the end of January or beginning of February, if everything goes smoothly.
RCR: Are there any songs that you would like to remake?
KU: Probably. It is not something I am thinking about for the next record. There are a lot of songs I love, and I would wait to do a remake until a time where I felt like I could do something different with the song. Those things fly around my mind for down the road.
RCR: You are such an amazing guitar player. Who is your guitar hero?
KU: Oh, there are so many! And I find that over the years, I find new ones and new old ones. Certainly growing up and early on, Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits was a huge influence. And then, Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac) and the country guys like Ray Flatt, Ricky Skaggs’ band, and Albert Lee. Some of those chicken pickin guys I loved. And I love Malcolm Young and his rhythm playing, and these days, David Gilmour and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
RCR: Do you have any special plans for the holidays?
KU: We were thinking about going back to see our family in Australia, but my need for surgery derailed that! So, we will be staying stateside and having our own family Christmas.
RCR: I bet that is special.
KU: It is beautiful. Sunday is three and a half and Faith is eleven months, and she will be turning a year at the end of December, so it will be a wonderful time for them.
RCR: Have the girls made out their Christmas lists yet?
KU: Yes, I have gotten a few things. Christmas takes on a whole new meaning with kids. Like getting up crazy early to unwrap presents!
RCR: Sounds like fun! Well, thank you for your time and I wish you a full and speedy recovery. And looking forward to hearing your new music.
KU: Thank you. I really appreciate that. Merry Christmas, sweetheart.
RCR: Merry Christmas to you too!