Born in New Zealand, Keith Urban learned to play guitar as a six-year-old in Australia, after a young woman asked to place an ad in his dad's shop window offering guitar lessons. His parents made a deal with her that they would advertise in return for lessons for their young son. The boy had natural ability. By the time he was eight, Urban was winning talent shows. He also was involved in a youth acting company that required him to sing, dance, and memorize lines, all of which led to the ease on-stage, which would serve him well in his music career.
With his father deeply interested in American culture and country music, it was also natural that Urban would gravitate toward country music early on, when he was influenced by the singing of Glen Campbell, Dolly Parton, and Don Williams, and the songwriting of Jimmy Webb ("Galveston"). Urban added his own dimension to those influences when he discovered Dire Straits, and became interested in the guitar playing of Mark Knopfler and Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham, embarking on in-depth study and endless practice of their techniques.
At the start of the '90s, Australian country music was primed for a revolution. Keith Urban — young, brash, blonde, rock-ish — was part of that revolution. His first album saw him win several major awards. Throughout his rise Urban always had his eye on Nashville in the U.S.A. That's where the music in his heart was born and still lived. Almost from the beginning he made periodical pilgrimages to Nashville, forging valuable career bridges. In 1997 Urban decided to base himself in Nashville. With his Australian bandmate, drummer Peter Clarke, he formed the three-piece band the Ranch. Their original bass player soon returned to Australia, but West Virginian Jerry Flowers quickly fit in.
Their live shows, featuring Urban's standout lead guitar playing, led to a record deal with Capitol Nashville and a management contract with I.R.S. Records founder/Police manager Miles Copeland. The group's debut album, The Ranch, was released to critical acclaim in 1997. Critics raved about the album's unique take on country music and Urban's guitar playing. Other artists also took notice, and when the Ranch disbanded, other artists called on Urban to add some of his fleet-fingered magic to their records. Garth Brooks asked Urban to play on Double Live. The Dixie Chicks invited him to play on their second album. Matt Rollings, one of Nashville's top musicians, hired Urban as a session player on an album he was producing, and the two immediately clicked.
Impressed by Rollings' knowledge of Nashville's session players, Urban asked him to produce his next record, another solo album. His tour in support of that album included opening for such major acts as Dwight Yoakam, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw, as well as headlining his own shows. Ten years on he was doing to Nashville what he'd done to Tamworth, Australia's country music capital, with a string of successful records that included Golden Road, In the Ranch, and Be Here. The result was American country hits for "It's a Love Thing" and "Your Everything" and a Grammy Award nomination for Best Country Instrumental Performance for "Rollercoaster." In 2005, he released an anthology (Days Go By) as well as a live DVD (Livin' Right Now).
The next year, Urban continued to attract media attention with his highly publicized engagement and June marriage to fellow Australian Nicole Kidman, plus his voluntary entry into a rehabilitation center for alcohol abuse in October. He postponed all his upcoming promotional appearances, but his album Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing was released that November as scheduled.
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