Hailed as a master guitarist, songwriter and vocalist, Keith Urban is one of the most successful country artists of the past two decades. Since the release of his American major label debut album in 1999, Urban has charted his own unique path in country music and influenced the genre along the way. Everything hasn’t always been perfect for Urban, however. It took him a little while to find his niche in the country world and he has dealt with addiction, which he overcame with the help of his wife, Nicole Kidman. Although Urban has been in the spotlight for many years, there are 10 facts about the singer that may be news to some fans.
- His last name was spelled differently at birth.
His fans know him as Keith Urban, but it turns out Urban’s real family name is slightly different than the last name he goes by. Urban was actually born Keith Lionel Urbahn, with an added ‘h’ in the name. While that small change likely doesn’t change the pronunciation of his name, it may surprise some fans. He was born on October 26, 1967 to his parents, Robert “Bob” and Marienne Urbahn, who owned a convenience store. He has one brother, Shane.
2. He wasn’t born in Australia.
Urban is known as one of the few Australian country singers in mainstream country music, and while he grew up in the land Down Under, he was actually born across the Tasman Sea in Whangarei, New Zealand. Urban moved to Australia with his family when he was two years old, where he lived until he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, USA.
3. He started playing music at a very young age.
Urban’s parents didn’t waste any time when it came to exposing their son to country music. Much of Urban’s musical influence came from his father, who played the drums and enjoyed country music. When he was just four years old, he started playing the ukulele. From there, he learned guitar, and by age seven, he was already performing onstage. Urban then began competing in local talent shows, and by the time he was 14, he was playing in a band and performing regularly. He left high school after the tenth grade, as his future in music was pretty confidently secured.
4. He began his major label career in Australia.
After quitting school, Urban continued working his way up the musical ranks in his home country of Australia. He eventually signed a record deal with EMI Records and released his self-titled, debut album in 1991 in Australia only. The album features 15 tracks and produced three singles, “I Never Work on a Sunday,” “Only You” and “Got It Bad.” The album was released to international audiences in 2005.
5. He was once in an Alan Jackson music video.
By the early ‘90s, Urban was seeing great success in Australia, so he decided it was time to move to Music City, USA to continue making his mark in country music. Urban moved to Nashville in 1992 and worked many music-related jobs to get his foot in the door. Having already mastered the guitar, Urban served as a session guitarist for artists such as Paul Jefferson, Tim Wilson and Charlie Daniels. He also played guitar on tour with Brooks & Dunn, the Dixie Chicks (now The Chicks) and Alan Jackson. A young Urban can even be seen playing guitar in Jackson’s 1993 music video for “Mercury Blues.”
6. He was in a band before launching his solo career in the US.
When Urban arrived in Nashville to continue his country career, he assembled a band called The Ranch with Peter Clarke and Jerry Flowers. The band earned a contract with Capitol Records and released a self-titled album in 1997. This album originally featured 12 tracks, including “Some Days You Gotta Dance,” which was later recorded by The Chicks, “Desiree,” which was covered by David Nail, and “Walkin’ the Country,” which was re-recorded by Scotty McCreery. Urban re-released the album in 2004 under the name Keith Urban and The Ranch, and added two new tracks, “Stuck in the Middle with You” and “Billy.”
7. He credits his wife Nicole Kidman with saving him.
In his early years in Nashville, Urban developed a drug problem, particularly with cocaine, and entered rehab in 1998. After completing rehab, he released his self-titled American debut album and went on to release 2002’s Golden Road and 2004’s Be Here, but his struggle with addiction wasn’t completely gone. In June 2006, he married actress Nicole Kidman, and just a few months later, Kidman helped him through a drug relapse. Urban entered rehab again in October 2006 and has spoken many times about Kidman’s support during that trying time.
“We got married, and I hadn’t taken care of my problems, and so my demons just came and kicked my a– and her a– and blew our world up. But this woman rallied the troops,” Urban told The Boot and other publications at the opening of his Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit in 2016.
8. One of his early gigs was at an airport.
Performing at an airport isn’t too unusual, especially in Nashville where artists regularly play at the bars and restaurants in the terminal. But playing at a tiny regional airport in Australia is a little more unusual. Urban told The Late Late Show with James Corden that this was the strangest place he’s ever played, explaining that he and his band played on the small platform above the baggage claim carousel. “There’s about 15 people kind of getting into it, and I’m like, ‘This is not so bad.’ The next minute all the bags come out and everybody got their luggage and they just all left,” he shared.
9. He enjoys the occasional pedicure — from his wife.
According to Kidman, Urban isn’t very high maintenance, but he’ll take a pedicure every once in a while from his wife. In fact, Kidman enjoys giving her whole family a spa day, including him. “He’s a pretty low-maintenance guy,” Kidman told InStyle. “Sometimes, though, I’ll treat my whole family to a spa day and massage their feet and give them pedicures.”
10. He and Kidman have an important rule in their marriage.
Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman are one of the cutest celebrity couples, and with both of them working all over the world, it would be easy to miss out on time together. Due to this, they are strict about how much time they spend apart and try not to go more than one week without seeing each other.
“Two weeks is still too long for us [to be apart],” Kidman told Vanity Fair. “We like one week. We start to hurt after seven days.”