Keith Urban left his cell phone at home while he and wife Nicole Kidman took their daughters to school on Thursday morning. He came home to learn of his field-leading seven Academy of Country Music Award nominations, and suffice to say there was some responding to do.
“We got back and I looked at (the phone) and it was just overflowing with texts and calls, and I’m like, ‘What the hell is all this?'” Urban told Billboard later in the day. “It was a terrific way to find out. I felt quite giddy.”
The winner of six previous ACM Awards — starting with Top New Male Vocalist in 2001 — Urban is up for Entertainer of the Year for a seventh time along with Male Vocalist of the Year, and as both artist and producer in the Album of the Year (“Ripcord”), and Song and Single of the year (“Blue Ain’t Your Color”) categories. It’s a mark of the impact he made in the country world with 2016’s Ripcord, the Australian native’s fifth No. 1 country album, even with its abundance of contemporary pop stylistic and production touches.
“I’m not too cerebral about it. I just get in the studio and I create from just a reactionary place,” Urban explains. “It’s the mid-part of the 2010s, and I’m absorbing music from everywhere just like every artist is, and that’s going to find its way into the studio when I go in to create. So I think it’s more about a modern snapshot of the musical influences that I have in my life now.”
The ACM nominations come in the wake of Urban’s Grammy Awards performance of “The Fighter” with Carrie Underwood, who’s featured on the track on Ripcord. “It was grand,” Urban reports. “I was thrilled we got to do that song. It was really cool that Carrie and I had just finished a tour through New Zealand and Australia, getting to do that song every night, so we felt more comfortable performing on the Grammy sets.”
And, Urban adds, “My mic worked, and Carrie’s mic worked,” referring to Metallica frontman James Hetfield‘s malfunctioning microphone later in the show. “We were lacking in the fire department, but you’ve got to save something for next time.”
Urban also got to take part in Grammy host James Corden’s all-star Carpool Karaoke segment. “I got given a microphone and jumped in the car — who doesn’t want to jump in the car and sing ‘Sweet Caroline?'” Urban says. A harbinger of a “Carpool Karaoke” appearance of his own? “I don’t know — (Corden) hasn’t asked yet. I would jump at the chance.
Urban is planning to perform at the ACMs on April 2 in Las Vegas, though he says that “We don’t know quite what we’re doing to do yet.” He also has a handful of festival dates booked for the spring and summer but isn’t planning another full-scale tour until 2018.
Meanwhile he’s getting to work on his next album, though with no timetable or deadline in mind. “I’m always in the studio tinkering as soon as I come off the road, anxious to get in and start making new music,” Urban says. “Record-making to me is a lot of R&D. Ripcord was very much like that — we discarded a huge amount of work to get to the place I was trying to get to, which is heartbreaking sometimes but that’s the way I work. That’s how we ended up with a strange cycle for [Ripcord]… It’ll be interesting to see how it goes this next time.”