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Published: Sunday, 7/24/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

At long last, Keith Urban finds balance

BY BRIAN DUGGER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Recording artist Keith Urban arrives at the 2010 BMI Country Awards in Nashville, Tenn. Recording artist Keith Urban arrives at the 2010 BMI Country Awards in Nashville, Tenn.
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"Get Closer."

That’s the name of Keith Urban’s latest hit album. The reason for that is open to interpretation since there is no cut by that name on the album.

It’s no secret that it’s a directive to connect deeper with the people you love, something that Urban had the hardest time doing for so long.

It could also be about connecting and getting closer to his fans. He’s on the Get Closer 2011 World Tour, and fans at the Huntington Center on Friday will see that he has come up with a variety of ways to interact and get physically closer to them during his show.

But probably the simplest explanation for the title is that Urban is getting closer to the man he wants to be.

"Something that has changed in my life is that I’m creating and performing from a place of much more clarity and authenticity, and there’s much more balance in my life than there used to be," he says in a telephone interview with The Blade.

Despite living in the United States for nearly 20 years, the New Zealand-born Urban still speaks with a thick accent. He talks honestly, and somewhat reluctantly, about his emotions, but it’s a difficult topic to avoid since he’s spent the majority of his life battling them. He’s endured struggles with substance abuse and, by his own admission, had trouble maintaining meaningful relationships for much of his adult life.

"It was just the fear of giving myself to someone. It takes a lot of courage to really love someone, to let someone into your life, and I spent so much of my life alone," he says. "My professional life required most of my attention and focus. For me, I put all my efforts and energy into my career and consequently put relationships at an arm’s length."

The commitment to his career has obviously paid off. Starting with "But for the Grace of God" in 2001, Urban has hit the top of the charts with close to a dozen singles. His last five albums each sold at least 1 million copies, and his current album has been certified gold and is quickly closing in on platinum status after being released in November.

It took much longer for the personal growth. He was living a rock star’s life, complete with the vices and emotional detachment. But that changed in 2005 when he met Australian actress Nicole Kidman at a star-studded event in Hollywood.

Keith Urban's latest album release is titled "Get Closer." Keith Urban's latest album release is titled "Get Closer."
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"She was the one" is his simple explanation as to how one woman was able to settle him down. "Anyone who has found the one knows that it defies everything and doesn’t need an explanation. It’s at the right time, and your life changes."

The couple married in June, 2006, and their first daughter, Sunday, was born in 2008. Her sister, Faith, joined the family on Dec. 28 of last year. Urban schedules regular off days during the tour to return to Nashville, and those breaks are spent "doing simple family things" like swimming, getting up early for family breakfast, and even going to the movies with Nicole.

"It’s made everything bigger, deeper, and more purposeful," Urban says of what his growing family has meant to him. "My passion and hunger for playing live and making records and putting on intense shows is just as much as it ever was."

Urban has always been an amazing entertainer. His guitar playing is probably only rivaled among Nashville artists by Brad Paisley. For this tour, he wanted to take it to the next level and make it a more fan-interactive show. A sponsorship with AT&T and Samsung allows fans to capture "virtual" photos with Urban at his shows, and there are multiple stages that Urban walks among during his more than two-hour set, creating an intimate feel in an arena environment.

Those walks go right through thousands of enthusiastic fans.

"I have lots of cuts, bruises, torn shirts, crazy things like that, but to me, that’s what the live experience is all about — that bordering-on-chaos kind of energy that’s unpredictable and electrifying."

Urban mastered the success equation long ago. The formula for happiness proved to be a much more vexing problem, but he seems to have that down too. Combining success and happiness has made for an amazing ride.

"I think there was a time when I wanted to come out and tour because I didn’t have a life at home. This was my life. That’s not a great way to be on stage and playing because there’s a little bit of desperation in performing like that," he says.

"Now I’m coming from a place where I love being at home, love my family, but when I come out on the road, I want to be here. My life at home feels just as joyous as my life on the road. I’ve got a lot more balance, and I feel the shows have benefited hugely because of that."

Keith Urban and special guest Jake Owen will perform at the Huntington Center on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Only limited tickets remained at press time.

Contact Brian Dugger at: bdugger@theblade.com



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