Keith Urban Details New Album 'Graffiti U,' Announces 2018 World Tour Dates

Keith Urban
Kevin Winter/WireImage

 Keith Urban performs onstage during "Stayin' Alive: A Grammy Salute To The Music Of The Bee Gees" on Feb. 14, 2017 in Los Angeles. 

The writing on is on the wall. Keith Urban’s next album will be called Graffiti U and will be accompanied by the Graffiti U Worldwide Tour 2018, a 59-date schedule that starts June 15 in St. Louis.

Urban made the news official Wednesday night (Jan. 17) with a surprise pop-up show at Nashville’s fabled Exit/In. He expected to play for two hours at the venue, live streaming the first half-hour and unveiling the full set of dates with the participation of fans who were only partially in on the plot.

Fans were asked in advance to send in pictures of themselves holding white cardboard squares. Urban’s team Photoshopped details of the individual shows onto the placards, aligning each tour date announcement with someone who lives in or near the city their card represents.

The audience involvement was essential to Urban in getting the word out. Fan voting propelled him to four wins at the CMT Music Awards last June and to three more victories at the American Music Awards in November.

“That’s what we tour for,” he tells Billboard in advance of the tour announcement. “If they don’t show up, we’re screwed.”

Kelsea Ballerini, who released her sophomore album, Unapologetically, on Nov. 3, will open most of the dates, giving ticket buyers a one-two punch from artists who freely blend influences from other genres into their expansive brands of country. “I think our music’s gonna have a broad compatibility,” Urban predicts.

That will likely lead to nightly collaborations during his headlining portion of the concerts. He repeatedly brought former support act Maren Morris out during his last tour to cover Miranda Lambert’s vocal part on the 2013 duet “We Were Us,” but how the Ballerini pairings will work is not yet known.

In fact, plenty of details are still in flux for both the tour and the album, a reflection of Urban’s penchant for living and creating in the moment. He rarely plays a solo the same way twice, improvising parts on the fly during his concerts. And while all the songs have been recorded for Graffiti U, he’s not entirely certain which ones will make the album, which he hopes to turn in to Capitol Nashville at the end of the month or in early February. Urban is currently juggling the material, revising songs in conjunction with his production team and trying to focus on the nuances of each track on its own.

“It’s very much air-traffic control mode,” he says with a laugh. “I’m listening to mixes, giving my notes and getting a revised mix. It’s a lot of back and forward on all kinds of things right now. I’m not very good at multi-tasking, but that’s exactly what’s happening right now. It’s multi-tasking on steroids.”

But not nearly as challenging as the process for his last two projects, 2013’s Fuse and 2015’s Ripcord, both of which were finalists for the Country Music Association’s album of the year. Urban was a judge on the last four seasons of FOX’s American Idol and wedged recording and production for those two albums into his schedule, which also included trips to his native Australia and visits to other locations where his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, was working.

“Somehow I managed to make it work when I did record, but it was very straining on my time because I can’t make my records any other way,” he says. “I relished the space to make the record this time around.”

Fellow country artist Luke Bryan steps into the role of American Idol judge as the show returns in March on its new home, ABC. The two artists have discussed the new season only briefly, though Urban praised Bryan as a cohort for new judges Katy Perry and Lionel Richie. “He’s a perfect fit for it,” Urban says of Bryan filling his shoes.

Meanwhile, he remains engrossed in the final touches for Graffiti U, a title that represents both his creative approach and the special relationship with his fan base. Compared to the energy implied in the titles of Fuse and Ripcord, the “Graffiti” piece of the new album’s name has “more of an artistic expression connotation, a purer artistic expression, which is really what record-making is for me,” he suggests. “It’s going in and starting with a blank canvas in the studio that’s just white. It’s like, ‘OK, what are we going to paint on this today? What are we gonna do? What colors are we gonna use?’ I love that unknowingness and that real free expression of artistry.”

The last part of the title is there for the same reason that Urban included the fans in the tour announcement. “The first letter of my last name is ‘U,’ and I like the double play on that, that it’s a letter but also when you say it, it’s ‘you,’” Urban noted. “We’re in such the ‘I’ generation right now with iPhones and iThis and iThat, and I thought it’d be nice to flip that, and for me remind the audience, the listener, that this is about you.”


Jun 15 -- St. Louis, MO @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Jun 16 -- Indianapolis, IN @ Ruoff Home Mortage Music Center
Jun 22 -- Clarkston, MI @ DTE Energy Music Theatre
Jun 23 -- Pittsburgh, PA @ KeyBank Pavilion
Jun 27 -- Saratoga Springs, NY @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Jun 29 -- Toronto, ON @ Budweiser Stage
Jun 30 -- Toronto, ON @ Budweiser Stage
Jul 5 -- Gilford, NH @ Bank of NH Pavilion
Jul 6 -- Gilford, NH @ Bank of NH Pavilion
Jul 8 -- Canandaigua, NY @ CMAC
Jul 13 -- Salt Lake City, UT @ USANA Amphitheatre
Jul 14 -- Denver, CO Fiddler's @ Green Amphitheatre
Jul 15 -- Albuquerque, NM @ Isleta Amphitheater
Jul 20 -- Mountain View, CA @ Shoreline Amphitheatre
Jul 21 -- Lake Tahoe, NV @ Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys
Jul 22 -- Lake Tahoe, NV @ Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys
Jul 27 -- Raleigh, NC @ Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek
Jul 28 -- Charlotte, NC @ PNC Music Pavilion
Jul 29 -- Alpharetta, GA @ Verizon Amphitheatre
Aug 3 -- Philadelphia, PA @ BB&T Pavilion
Aug 4 -- Mansfield, MA @ Xfinity Center
Aug 5 -- Bangor, ME @ Darling's Waterfront Pavilion
Aug 10 -- Cleveland, OH @ Blossom Music Center
Aug 11 -- Bristow, VA @ Jiffy Lube Live
Aug 12 -- Virginia Beach, VA @ Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater
Aug 15 -- Rogers, AR @ Walmart AMP*
Aug 17 -- Kansas City, MO @ Sprint Center
Aug 18 -- Chicago, IL @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Aug 19 -- Cincinnati, OH @ Riverbend Music Center
Aug 24 -- Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena
Aug 25 -- Orange Beach, AL @ The Wharf Amphitheater
Aug 26 -- Tuscaloosa, AL @ Tuscaloosa Amphitheater
Sept 7 -- Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
Sept 8 -- Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
Sept 14 -- Ottawa, ON @ Canadian Tire Centre*
Sept 15 -- London, ON @ Budweiser Gardens*
Sept 19 -- Winnipeg, MB @ Bell MTS Place*
Sept 21 -- Saskatoon, SK @ SaskTel Centre*
Sept 22 -- Edmonton, AB @ Rogers Place*
Sept 23 -- Calgary, AB @ ScotiaBank Saddledome*
Sept 25 -- Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena*
Sept 27 -- Eugene, OR @ Matthew Knight Arena
Sept 28 -- Boise, ID @ Taco Bell Arena
Sept 29 -- Missoula, MT @ Adams Center
Oct 4 -- Phoenix, AZ @ Ak-Chin Pavilion
Oct 5 -- Laughlin, NV @ Laughlin Event Center
Oct 12 -- Peoria, IL @ Peoria Civic Center
Oct 13 -- Minneapolis, MN @ Target Center
Oct 14 -- Grand Forks, ND @ Ralph Engelstad Arena
Oct 18 -- Toledo, OH @ Huntington Center
Oct 19 -- Grand Rapids, MI @ Van Andel Arena
Oct 20 -- Louisville, KY @ KFC Yum! Center
Oct 24 -- Youngstown, OH @ Covelli Centre
Oct 25 -- Hershey, PA @ Giant Center
Oct 27 -- Brooklyn, NY @ Barclays Center
Oct 28 -- Charlottesville, VA @ John Paul Jones Arena
Nov 1 -- Little Rock, AR @ Verizon Arena
Nov 2 -- New Orleans, LA @ Smoothie King Center
Nov 3 -- Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center

* Supporting performer to be announced