Keith Urban: Ready For The Big Time

Excerpted from Billboard for

If you had asked people in the country music industry during the past few years which artist they believe is primed for top-tier success, more often than not their answer would have been "Keith Urban."

Clear Channel Communications regional VP of programming Clay Hunnicutt calls Urban "one of the top candidates for the next level of superstardom. He has the complete package -- looks, style and the music to go with it."

It's no surprise then that executives at Urban's label, Capitol Records Nashville, are hoping his new album will finally propel him into the stratosphere, alongside Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney. The album, "Be Here," is out Sept. 21.

The past few weeks have been good indicators of Urban's success.

The album's first single, "Days Go By," is in its second week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. And in August Urban was nominated for a Country Music Association award for male vocalist of the year, alongside the format's A-listers.

Urban says he was awestruck by the CMA nomination. "I still somehow feel like I should be [carrying] a little hand towel and a tray, asking [the other nominees], 'Can I freshen your drink?'"

The new album follows his double-platinum "Golden Road," which remains in the top 15 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart 101 weeks after its release.

"Be Here," produced by Urban and his "Golden Road" collaborator, Dann Huff, features nine songs written or co-written by Urban, including one he penned with Richard Marx. The album's choice covers are Rodney Crowell's "Making Memories of Us" and the Elton John/Bernie Taupin song "Country Comfort," previously recorded by John and Juice Newton.

The album's title reflects Urban's focus on "the importance of living in the moment."

Urban will support the album with his first headlining tour. Dubbed CMT on Tour: Keith Urban Be Here '04, the outing kicks off Oct. 8 in Muncie, Ind., and will span 20 shows in five weeks, including stops in Dallas, New York, Detroit, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.

Universal South newcomer Katrina Elam is also on the bill. Urban plays electric guitar and ganjo (a guitar/banjo hybrid) on Elam's current single, "No End in Sight."

Urban has been busy promoting the album in his native Australia, where it is issued Sept. 20. During stops in Melbourne and Sydney, he packed 36 interviews into five days.

Despite a stellar recent past, Urban says he didn't feel any pressure to top his previous successes. And he doesn't view himself as a superstar in waiting. "When I look at myself, I see the guy that's still struggling," he says.

Noting that he has spent most of his life playing in clubs and trying to establish himself, Urban says, "When [success] starts happening, you keep viewing yourself as the guy trying to get there. I don't think that will ever change, because there will always be new horizons."

Excerpted from the Sept. 25, 2004, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to subscribers.

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