After hearing the 50th Annual CMA Awards nominees last week, I’m happily contemplating a November win for singer/writer/guitarist Keith Urban. Yep, no anxiety knowing his name will be on the ballot for CMA’s Entertainer of the Year. It makes perfect sense. Why?
1. Ripcord – the album. Keith’s latest (released May 6, 2016 and available on iTunes) is ageless, inventive and filled with cool beats and riffs. The songs are interesting and memorable. Wasted Time is breezy and fun. In my day those carefree moments with friends at a lake were fueled with California Coolers not Locos. Same spirit, different spirits.
Other favorite songs from Ripcord are the modern country story song Boy Gets a Truck; singer-songwriter-escque That Could Still Be Us and Habit of You; pop tunes Worry ‘Bout Nothing and Sun Don’t Let Me Down; and the waltzy Blue Ain’t Your Color. That last song, written by Steven Lee Olsen, includes my favorite line, “If I were a painter I wouldn’t change ya, I’d just paint you brighter.”
I can listen to this album over and over just like I did with Urban’s classics Be Here, Golden Road and Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing. Fellow fan Deb Meissner recently tweeted Keith is one to”expand his musical horizons every album.” I agree.
2. 2016 RipCORD World Tour – I don’t have a ticket to Keith’s 50-city tour until Oct 27 so I’m eagerly anticipating fall dates in Moline, Milwaukee and Bloomington, IL. I bought a bunch of extra tickets so I can introduce friends and family to the fun. Keith’s concerts are exciting jam-packed-with-music, money-well-spent evenings.
Wisconsin fan Carol Higgins is also eagerly anticipating her upcoming RipCORD shows. She has tickets for Chicago, Minneapolis, Nashville and Milwaukee. For the latter she purchased a Once In a Lifetime VIP ticket, complete with a one-on-one meet and greet; backstage, pre-show acoustic concert; a secured spot in the VIP pit standing area and some special merch. I asked Carol via Twitter why Keith deserves EOTY: “He truly appreciates his fans and goes out of his way to connect with his audiences with meet and greets, a guitar to a fan in the stands,” Carol said. “And his post concert video chats are awesome.”
So are his concert announcements. Check it out:
Yep, Keith pulls you in from the moment the show is announced to when his tour bus pulls out of the arena parking lot. Talk about entertainment value!
3. Best spontaneous concert moment – speaking of pulling you in,
when Keith pulled fan Rob Joyce up to play guitar it showed Keith’s uncanny sense of what makes for good entertainment. He went with it. Not only did it put Rob in the spotlight, I have no doubt the spontaneous, that-could-be-me-moment had a positive impact on selling show tickets. Read about Rob’s big moment on stage with Keith here.
4. American Idol – I never missed the reality singing competition if Keith was on. I admired his upbeat personality, music sense and ongoing positive coaching style. Even when he wasn’t impressed with a contestant’s performance, he was decent, kind and encouraging. He was a great model and coach for all the contestants in ‘l6 but his single best move in my book was picking Parson James’ Waiting Game for winner Trent Harmon’s last contest song. Everyone talks about Trent’s turn on Sia’s Chandelier as a game changer but when Trent sang those high notes in Parson’s song, a chill ran through me. Yes, it was that good. Throughout judging Idol, Keith also made a habit of using the platform to uplift others beyond the contestants. I recall Keith giving a shout-out to an unknown Sam Hunt a few years back, legend Vince Gill and more. I also imagine the marketing folks at Shazam love him too – he mentioned it more than once or twice. Perhaps the best part of seeing Keith on AI was watching as his sweet, sensitive nature was revealed, perhaps most notably when Kelly Clarkson sang her emotional Piece by Piece.
5. Smart social media and fan engagement – Keith Urban by the numbers: 2.58 mil followers on Twitter; 6.1 millions likes on Facebook; 1 million on Instagram followers plus more on Snapchat, Pinterest, Periscope and other social media sites.
I’m a fast scanner when it comes to socials; I probably see less than 5 percent of what Keith puts out there. But I try to catch the highlights and have a few favorite moments, including: Keith’s tour announcement (above); his after-show chats and the opportunity to sign up for a live conference call – last January 11. Of course I signed up!
That Vekeo call was pretty darn amazing. At first when my cell phone flashed someone from Nashville, TN, was calling I almost blew it off, assuming it was a telemarketer. But then I remembered the Keith thing and answered. A recording prompted me to enter a code to ask a question which I did without hesitation. A few minutes later Keith came on the call with Annabelle, his fan engagement staffer. My heart pumped as I listened to him talk about his upcoming tour and answer questions from other fans. Then a person – perhaps Annabelle – came on my phone and asked if I wanted to ask a question. I was the last one selected. My heart really raced then. A couple minutes later Keith was saying, “Hello, Karen” and I was almost dumbfounded. But I gathered my wits and said that when I see him perform I feel like he’s singing to just me…how does he do that? He joked that he looks for me (I joked back and told him I’d wondered if he was starting to recognize me since I’d been to so many shows). We had an actual back-and-forth conversation. It was something! If I never get to interact with him again, I’m good.
I also loved his version of carpool Karaoke with his wife Nicole Kidman. There are 49 million views of that video on his Facebook page. And 1.5 million views on a link in Keith’s YouTube channel. Check it out:
The video was linked from Keith Urban’s YouTube channel. I claim no rights to the content.
6. Giver to the greater good. According to Keith’s website, he and Vince Gill have raised $2.6 million for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum© via their star-studded All for the Hall concerts in Nashville. In addition to cash, they’ve raised awareness and interest in the hall.
His website also lists Keith is the first Ambassador of the CMA Foundation, an advisory board member at the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and a longtime supporter of The Mr. Holland’s Opus Fund and The Grammy Foundation. In 2013, he introduced his new URBAN™ Guitar Collection via HSN to benefit both the Grammy Foundation and Mr. Holland’s Opus Fund.
FEATURED TOP PHOTO TAKEN AT THE GRAND OLE OPRY ON AUGUST 16, 2016. CONTRIBUTED BY CAROL HIGGINS – thanks!