Keith Urban Reveals How He Personally Asked Dolly Parton To Present Him As A Member Of The Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame

“You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.”


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

October 13, 2023


6:17 pm

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Keith Urban, Dolly Parton; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Keith Urban reveals how he asked Dolly Parton to present him as one of the newest inductees of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

On Wednesday evening (Oct 11) Keith Urban was among the impressive group of songwriters who were selected as this year’s class of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees. In honor of this celebratory occasion, each of the five new Hall of Fame members were tasked with choosing a member of the industry to present them during the 53rd anniversary NaSHOF gala. Urban decided to use this opportunity to reach for the stars and ask the “9 To 5” singer. 

Keith Urban; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Keith Urban; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

While catching up with Country Now prior to the star-studded event, the country music superstar explained that if in order to get Dolly Parton to agree to his request, he had to take a personal approach. 

“They said to me, ‘you need somebody. Would you like anyone particular?’ And I went, ‘Dolly!’”

Although he knew it was a long shot, Urban went in with the mindset of “you miss a hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.” He knew this wouldn’t be an easy ask, but he was still determined to figure out the best way to go about it. 

“I went, ‘how do you ask Dolly Parton to do this?’ And they go, ‘you hand write a letter.’ So I got my pen out and hand wrote a letter asking her if she would do it.”

Dolly Parton’s Response “Shocked” Urban

Urban explained that Parton was the best person for this job because of the massive influence she’s had on his life and career, stemming all the way from his days as a little kid when he would sing her covers. 

“There’s actually footage of me on YouTube singing ‘Applejack’ at the age of 10. And because my voice hadn’t broken yet, I sang in her key,” he said with a laugh. “That’s why I sang Dolly Parton songs because I could sing like her, sing that high. It was crazy.”

Luckily, his heartfelt sentiment came through across the letter and he even received a handwritten note back from Parton, letting him know that she would “love to do it.”

“I was just shocked. I didn’t expect that at all,” he added. 

Keith Urban, Dolly Parton; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Keith Urban, Dolly Parton; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

The Surprise Of The Night

Among his fellow inductees, Kix Brooks, Casey Beathard, David Lee Murphy and Rafe Van Hoy, Urban was the final songwriter of the night to be honored. While the 4x GRAMMY winner already knew Parton would be appearing at the event, those who were in attendance did not, which led them to being completely surprised when she walked out on stage with her signature blonde hair, sky-high heels and full glamour. 

As the lights went dim and the dark figure walked out from behind the stage, a gasp could be heard throughout the room once it was apparent that Parton was present. 

Dolly Parton; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Dolly Parton; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

She first addressed all the songwriters in the room, sharing her admiration for all their work and dedication to the genre of country music. Then, she shifted her focus to Keith Urban, gushing about his kind heart and “unbelievable” talent.

“I’m sure all of you know and feel the same way, I have never seen a person with everything. Keith is so good looking, he’s so nice, he’s so kind and an unbelievable musician, singer, performer. But tonight, we get to honor him as a songwriter and I’m so happy that I get to be part of it,” she shared.

Eric Church Honors Keith Urban

Then, returning to the stage for the second time in the night, Eric Church honors Urban with a musical tribute of the Australian native’s self-penned No 1 hit, “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me.”

Bowing Down To The Country Music Queen

After hearing the kind words from Parton and witnessing Church do what he does best on stage, Urban hugged his fellow artists and even bowed down to the “9 To 5” singer, showing his respect for her iconic legacy and equally as kind heart. He started off his speech by placing an “In Dolly We Trust” sticker on the podium and went on to thank many of those sitting in front of him, including his wife, Nicole Kidman, and their daughters. 

“Thank you so much to everybody for inviting me into the family because it feels full circle in so many ways,” he shared. 

Dolly Parton, Keith Urban; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Dolly Parton, Keith Urban; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Urban’s “Surreal” Night

The “Somebody Like You” singer wrapped up his speech by reciting the lyrics from a deeply personal song he has in the works. The audience listened intently as he shared a snippet of the autobiographical narrative called “Just Getting Started.” He also dedicated the tune to those on his team who have been by his side throughout his successful career.

Prior to the ceremony, Urban gave a further look into this “surreal” night full of full-circle events as he described the day he got the call.

“I was in the studio. I always like that you should be doing that thing that you’re being honored for at the time you get told…And particularly where I was at Backstage Studios, because I was at the back door looking over towards, I could see where Shoney’s [Inn] on Demonbreun used to be. It’s called Comfort Inn or something now, but it’s still there. And that’s where I stayed on my very first trip to Nashville. I’m looking at that while I’m on the phone hearing this news and it was just a beautiful metaphor. It’s not that far from this place I’m looking at to here, and it’s multiple lifetimes at the same time.”

53rd Anniversary NaSHOF Gala

The 53rd anniversary NaSHOF Gala welcomed this year’s group of inductees alongside their friends, family and esteemed members of the country music community. Decked out in cowboy hats, sharp attire and elegant ballgowns, this group gathered to help celebrate the talented songwriters that were selected to join the class of 235 existing members of the Hall that was established in 1970.

Beathard and Murphy were inducted into the contemporary songwriter category, Van Hoy joined the veteran songwriter category, Urban was inducted as a contemporary songwriter-artist, and Brooks joined as a veteran songwriter-artist.

Keith Urban, Kix Brooks, Rafe Van Hoy, Casey Beathard, David Lee Murphy; Photo by Andrew Wendowski
Keith Urban, Kix Brooks, Rafe Van Hoy, Casey Beathard, David Lee Murphy; Photo by Andrew Wendowski

Additionally, the late John Jarrard was inducted into the Hall’s Legacy category, an honor which his widow Janet Jarrard was on hand to accept. Later on, Bobby Bare was honored with the Frances Williams Preston Mentor award. Bare was unable to attend the event in person, so his son, Bobby Bare Jr., proudly accepted the honor. 

The star-studded event was celebrated in the heart of Nashville, taking place inside the grand ballroom of the Music City Center.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.