EW talks with country star Keith Urban -- The platinum-selling ''Be Here'' artist talks to us about his music

By Chris Willman
Updated July 22, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Keith Urban has legs. After 42 weeks on Billboard‘s top 200 album chart, his latest platinum CD, Be Here, is still in the top 20, thanks to the country chart-topper ”Making Memories of Us.” Next stop en route to crossover dominance: The Aussie star, 38, will appear on CMA Music Festival: Country Music’s Biggest Party, airing Aug. 2 on ABC.

You taped your CMA festival performance in Nashville, then did Live 8 in Philadelphia. Much difference between gigs?

Probably about 700,000 people. But when you’ve got 60,000 people versus closer to a million, it’s kind of semantics, because you only see so many and then it starts to look like some George Lucas CGI-ing.

You’re among the least traditional guys in country. Yet you do play banjo.

I hear it more as a rock instrument. I know that’s weird. [Laughs] If there’s a vision for my music, it’s a rock band with organic instruments. It hearkens back to when I saw John Mellencamp in 1987. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing. Boom — it was an epiphany: ”Oh, right: straight-up bass, drums, and rock guitar, but accordion, fiddle, and acoustic guitars, too.” When I moved to Nashville 13 years ago, what I was doing wasn’t accepted. But now it’s different. Country’s always been a diverse genre. Chet Atkins was almost railroaded out of town for putting strings on a country record; now there’s a street named after him.

You have fanatical female fans. Have you considered ways of balancing the gender ratio — writing misogynistic material, getting into a disfiguring accident?

[Laughs] Yeah, more misogynistic material —that’s a good move. But I’m watching a change in crowds. Especially when it’s college-age kids — it tends to be more evenly split, with more couples. Or maybe it’s guys coming to pick up girls.

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