“The studio to me is like a blank canvas,” Aussie superstar Keith Urban recently told Eric Westervelt of Here & Now, describing the making of expansive eleventh studio album Graffiti U. “I go in and just start flicking paint around and start building really an album from there. No preconceived idea, just creating in the moment.”
Graffiti U continues Urban’s unchecked chart dominance – both in and beyond the world of country.
As with 2016’s monumental Ripcord, Graffiti U finds Urban drawing on the world of electro-pop and urban sounds with kaleidoscopic results. It’s also an album replete with more than one nod to wife of 12 years Nicole Kidman – who, Urban has said, is the subject of towering dance-electro high point and album centrepiece ‘Gemini’ (‘she’s not quite a contradiction – she rolls with it…it’s not just one thing, I want all of it. Emotionally, physically, diving right into it’). Kidman herself lends backing vocals to another of the album’s more talked-about singles, thematically loaded rallying cry ‘Female’. Showcasing the album at a recent, Spotify-curated event in Nashville, Urban was joined by Kidman onstage for a duet, the couple performing an acoustic rendition of Graffiti U love song ‘Parallel Line’.
Urban kicked off the 2018 US festival season in typically explosive, arena-sized style. Headlining the colossal Stagecoach Music Festival at Indio, California, Urban invited honkytonk superstar Dwight Yoakam to join him onstage, along with rising hit-makers the Brothers Osborne, for an all-star jam. But proving the singer’s enduring everyman appeal, he’s been all too happy to share the stage with artists at all stages of their careers in recent months – as one fan recently discovered at a spontaneous free show in Hollywood. As Dylan Brekke, an up-and-coming singer, told The Boot last month, upon shouting to Urban at the show that, “You inspired me to pick up the guitar!” Urban responded, “I’m the reason you picked up a guitar, mate?” before inviting Brekke to join him onstage for a rendition of Don McLean’s immortal ‘American Pie’.
True to this spirit of inclusivity, Urban explained the significance of Graffiti U’s unique title, saying:
“Obviously [‘U’ is] the first letter of my last name, but I liked that when you say it, it’s also the word ‘You’. For me, that’s the listener, that’s the audience.”
Urban elaborated further on the driving force behind Graffiti U:
“The last two albums were very energy driven. Fuse and Ripcord, the names were very energy-based and this album felt very artistic, musically, and very pure in its expression. So the word ‘Graffiti’ kept coming to me. I thought it fit really well. And the ‘U’ was simply the listener, the inclusiveness of the listener, because that’s the other part of what we all do. We make music and then somebody, hopefully, wants to listen to it. So ‘Graffiti You’ became Graffiti U…”
…read the rest in Issue 89.