Keith Urban Shares His Honest Thoughts On The Ever-Changing Sound Of Country Music

“In this current movement, I think it’s really born of getting down to the basics,” Urban explains.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

February 15, 2024

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Keith Urban; Photo by Nathan Zucker/CMA

With every new generation of artists that steps onto the scene, comes a coinciding wave of new sounds that force the music industry to evolve and explore beyond the bounds of a genre. Country music specifically, has seen major shifts in recent years as rappers, pop artists and more are now breaking into the genre and introducing their unique sounds to the beloved honky tonk anthems. As a result, country music has expanded to create subcategories of country-rock, Americana, pop country, red dirt, etc. 

The Changing Sounds Of Country Music

While sitting down with Keith Urban, the country star reflected on the constantly changing sounds of the genre and why the music industry as a whole has started to see a tremendous increase in fans of all genres taking a liking to country music in particular. 

“It’s storytelling. The center of country music is storytelling, great storytelling. It doesn’t have to be the deepest, most extraordinary, award-winning poetry, but it’s got to be a relatable story, a real story, and I think that’s what’s happening right now. There’s a desire and a craving for truth,” he told Country Now and other outlets. 

Keith Urban; Photo by Andrew Wendowski, Music Mayhem
Keith Urban; Photo by Andrew Wendowski, Music Mayhem

Urban continued to think about the type of music listeners seemed to be heavily drawn to lately, and found himself getting to the root of the answer by asking questions like, “What’s the center of what you’re trying to say? And can I feel that in this song?”

He has discovered that one of the main reasons for this expansion is the uniqueness country music brings to the table. The genre has mastered the art of expressing emotions with songs and letting the stories speak for themselves through something as simple as an acoustic guitar and a set of powerful lyrics that depict nothing but the truth. 

Back To The Basics

“In this current movement, I think it’s really born of getting down to the basics, an acoustic guitar and a singer telling a story without all the trickery,” the Australian singer/songwriter added. “I think we’ve just been sort of processed and faked out to such a degree that the audience is just craving something that they can feel is real. And It’s good to know we still need it, crave it, and can recognize when there’s an absence of it.”

Keith Urban; Photo by Russ Harrington
Keith Urban; Photo by Russ Harrington

Recalls His Move To Nashville

Despite acknowledging the fact that the industry is evolving around him, Urban feels that in many ways, he’s still the same person who came to Nashville in 1992 with a surplus of hopes and dreams waiting in the wings, hoping for the chance to be recognized. 

“I moved to Nashville a long time ago. The first hotel I stayed at, Shoney’s Inn down on Demonbreun, it’s still there. It’s called the Comfort Inn now, but I love that in a city that’s changed so much, that building is still there and the little motel room that I stayed in is still there. So there’s this great connect through line for me, and I don’t feel that different from when I stayed in that little room hoping I could get a record deal, hoping I could figure out how to record music in the studio and work with great players and maybe get a two of us one day and hit the road. I still feel exactly the same,” he shared honestly.  

New Music

Keith Urban’s incredible skills on the guitar, on stage, and in the studio have carried him through many milestones in his career as fans continue to celebrate his music. The country star is gearing up to introduce his next chapter of music on a new project. Neither the title nor the release date have been announced for his next album.

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However, fans have already gotten a taste of what’s to come from Urban this year with the release of his newest song, “Straight Line.” The tune penned by Urban with Chase McGill, Greg Walls, and Jerry Flowers offers an upbeat and cheery perspective on life that encourages listeners to keep moving forward and maintaining a hope that bigger and better things are on the horizon.

“I just love the spirit of it and I think if anybody’s seen us play live, this song for me captures a lot of that feeling of what I’m trying to create in the room that we’re playing in, the feeling I want people to have,” Urban said while reflecting on his latest tune.

Keith Urban; Straight Line
Keith Urban; Straight Line

Even the cover photo depicts strong symbolism of reliance and perseverance, as he went on to explain. It’s a black top road with the two yellow painted lines running down the center. It starts off crooked but gets straighter the further in the distance it goes. Even the shrub of greenery that peeks out from the road was an important aspect of the image that Urban purposely chose to include. 

“Beth Nielsen Chapman had a song called ‘Life Holds On’ that I remember in the ‘90s and she says, ‘I was swinging on the swings when I was a little girl/ Trying to get a handle on the big wide world/ When I noticed all the grass in the cracks in the concrete/ I said, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way around anything’’ And I always remember those lyrics,” Urban shared. “I just thought, oh my gosh, it’s so true about grass shooting up through cracks in the concrete. There’s life, and it’s resilient, and it perseveres and you gotta have hope, even when it looks impossible.”

With even more new music on the way in 2024, Keith Urban is gearing up to perform at major festivals and renowned venues throughout the year.

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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.