On Keith Urban’s new record, Graffiti U, female collaborators are featured on many of the tracks, both as songwriters and duet partners. But it’s the New Zealand/Australian country music star’s wife who steals the show.
Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman added backing vocals to her husband’s first single, Female, a song inspired by the #MeToo movement. Urban says Kidman was the inspiration for two other songs on the album that came out in late-April.
On the final track, Steal My Thunder, Urban sings of Kidman: “In every single room/it’s all eyes on you/But baby I don’t mind/You can steal my thunder anytime.”
“She’s definitely the girl in the song, but it’s also very relatable I think,” Urban said with a smile. “Many, many guys will get this song.”
Other artistes featured on the album include country newcomer Kassi Ashton, standout singer and guitarist Lindsay Ell, and pop singer-songwriter Julia Michaels. Urban said that wasn’t a conscious decision necessarily, but just where his creative experimentation led him.
“There’s a strong female presence in a lot of it, and again, all organically,” Urban said.
Urban grew up listening to other crossover country acts like Glen Campbell, Ronnie Milsap and Alabama, and has always followed his muse wherever it led him. His ninth studio album is an extension of his last couple of records that have seen him trying a lot of new styles.
“It’s like putting on a jacket and walking around and see if it fits,” said the former American Idol judge.
Julia Michaels, known as a hit writer for pop stars Justin Beiber and Selena Gomez before breaking through with her own single Issues, met Urban after he tweeted about how much he liked her songwriting.
They started writing together, including another Kidman-inspired track called Gemini, and Urban got Michael to help him finish Coming Home. She said they both have similar writing methods: “He sings the melodies and will start to sing the lyrics that his subconscious wants to write, but hasn’t fully figured it out,” Michaels said.
Urban and Michaels performed Coming Home at the Academy Of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas recently, which meant a lot to her because she’s struggled with anxiety during big televised performances. She had a panic attack on that very stage during the Billboard Music Awards a year before.
“I think it was a big moment for me to face my fears and to do it with him was so special,” Michaels said. “He’s so free and just so nurturing that when it came time, he was like, ‘We’re having fun’.”
Urban says Kidman loves the songs he wrote for her on the new record. She even popped up to sing with him at a recent Spotify event that Urban held for fans in Nashville. “I’ve never had anybody write a song about me, but it must feel pretty good,” Urban said.
Kidman, of course, has sung before. She was the lead in the movie musical Moulin Rogue! and she recorded a duet with pop star Robbie Williams, singing Somethin’ Stupid for his album Swing When You’re Winning. The single went to No. 1 on the UK charts in 2001. – AP