Recently I spent a little time interviewing Keith Urban in Nashville in the middle of spending time with my late great father in hospice in Florida. I already had an advanced copy of Keith's joyful new album Defying Gravity with me then and found myself listening again and again to a gorgeous new Keith song "Standing Right In Front Of You." Even on an album full of uplifting songs of love, that track stood out and somehow helped lift my spirits at the exact time when my spirits really needed any lifting they could get.
That got me thinking about the role of music in our lives, and the fact that especially in trying times like these, there's something to be said for music that makes you happy, or at least reminds you what happiness sounds like. I predict that Defying Gravity will be a smash not only because it's a radiant and accomplished piece of work by a wildly gifted singer-songwriter and guitar slinger, but also because it's music from the heart to the heart at a time when a lot of people out there need that kind of direct, emotional conversation even more than usual.
Even though he is almost annoying handsome, talented and yes, married to the glamorous and gifted Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban is -- I can attest -- a wonderful, soulful gentleman who understands a little about hard times himself. Defying Gravity reflects the fact that he's in a great place now, which is lovely for him, but also his profound sense of gratitude after coming through some of life's challenges, which is a timely reminder for the rest of us.
As Keith told me in Nashville, "Between marriage and sobriety and having a child, it's been an extraordinary gift that I just couldn't have imagined -- or maybe I could have imagined but didn't know how, or when or if. So for those things to come together now is absolutely beautiful. It's allowed me to be present in a way I've never quite been. I was always thinking about tomorrow or the past -- anywhere but here. Even though I made an album called Be Here, I still wasn't every really here. Now I love being present -- I have a lot to be grateful for in the present."
That genuine sense of gratitude is, to my ears, one of the reasons that country music remains in a far better place than the rest of the music world. As a rule, the country music business has always stressed artists honoring their fans -- and remaining connected with them -- more than their rock & roll brethren. When I talk to country artists, I often feel a real sense of appreciation for the people out there who spend their hard earned money and give them a gig in life. For too long, rock has celebrated the distance between the rock star and the rock fan, while country has generally emphasized the common ground.
Okay, so maybe most of us can't look as cool as Keith Urban did playing on the Today Show this morning, but we can still share the music as we attempt to defy gravity ourselves.