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My Soundtrack: Keith Urban

The country-rock superstar on his high school days as a DJ, driving too fast and his pre-show routine.

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Keith Urban will begin his Australian tour in December of 2021.


Country-rock superstar, Keith Urban, runs Rolling Stone through a playlist of the songs that have defined his life, including stories of his high school DJ days, driving too fast and his pre-show routine.

All words below by Keith Urban.

The Song That Reminds Me of School

U2 “Gloria”, 1981
“I quit school when I was 15, that was 1982, and in my last year the school wanted to set up a little radio station, and I volunteered to be the DJ. I think this is the first song I played on air. I just loved the song, I loved the energy, the rawness, the ferocity of Edge’s guitar sound, everything. It had so much of that early U2 punk spirit that really captivated me.”

The Song I Fall Asleep To

Brian Eno “The Ship”, 2016
“It’s not a song, it’s one of his ambient records, and it’s the album I play whenever I get on a plane and it’s time to zone out. I put my headphones on and I put my eye mask on and I will just drift off, and I always have the best sleep listening to this record. And I think that’s a compliment to Brian; I think that’s the intent of the record, ’cause it’s extremely celestial and calming. It’s a really beautiful album.”

The Last Song I Heard and Loved

The Weeknd “Starboy”, 2016
“I’ve become obsessed with that song. First of all I’m a mad car guy and it namechecks more cars than any song I can think of right now. And it’s a real social commentary on celebrity in the best way, and for me, having gone through addiction especially, the song resonates really powerfully on the shallowness of all of it. I love the way they’ve handled it in that song, it’s riveting.”

The Song That Makes Me Sad

Whitney Houston “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, 1987
“I can’t [listen to] this song. There was such a beautiful, gorgeous, feminine joy and innocence in her as a person when she sang that song, it’s just bristling with so much joy, and to know how her life ended, I almost start weeping thinking about it. And partly also the representation of that Eighties’ innocence and joy that isn’t here anymore. There’s a lot of edginess and bitterness and fear [these days], and I didn’t sense a lot of that when that song was recorded. So it represents a lot of things, but there’s a sadness to it for me.”

The Song That Makes Me Homesick

Various “The Christmas Song” 1945
“Any Christmas song, pretty much. [But especially] ‘The Christmas Song’: ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’. That one will get me every time. It even makes you homesick when you’re home! Where’s home for me? Wherever Nic [Kidman] and the girls are. I’ve lived in Nashville 25 years, so Nashville’s very home, but in the centre of my heart it’s Australia.”

The Song That Makes Me Drive Fast

Ricky Skaggs “Country Boy”, 1985
“It’s a pretty flat out, flat pickin’ bluegrass thing. Bluegrass music will always make you speed. [Laughs] And I’ve always been baffled by the fact that every bluegrass guy I’ve ever met, and I’ve met a lot of them, they play at a million miles an hour and they talk at about a mile an hour. It’s this phenomena. They’re usually the most relaxed, chilled [people], and then they’ll play faster than you can blink. It’s insane.”

The Song I Wish I Wrote

The Beach Boys “God Only Knows”, 1966
“A really gorgeous marriage of melody and lyric. You get Dylan songs that are lyrically magnificent but they’re not a song, they’re sort of poetry over music. But ‘God Only Knows’ is a very specific melody, a gorgeous, celestial melody, with extraordinary lyrics. Any love song that opens with ‘I may not always love you’ is going to get my attention. And I especially love the last verse, because I’ve always disagreed with songs that say if you left me the world would end. No it wouldn’t, it would go on, I’d just feel like crap. I love that the last verse says the world would still go on, absolutely, but what good would living do me? That’s the most incredible way to paint that picture of reality when someone leaves you.”

The Song I Listen To Before Going Onstage

Zach Galifianakis ‘Between Two Ferns’
“I don’t often listen to music before I go onstage. I tend to watch more comedy. Like last night I was in the band room and we were watching Between Two Ferns, and that’s an exceptional way to get in the zone. It puts you in a good mood. I find there’s a balance between going onstage too amped up, where the audience are a little affronted by that ’cause they haven’t got there yet. But I just want to be centred and grounded and present and in a really good mood, and Between Two Ferns will do that for me.”

The Song I’m Proudest Of

Keith Urban “Gone Tomorrow Here Today”, 2016
“I had the idea for a song to really capture the way I feel about life, which is be in the moment. It’s very much a strong theme in my music over the years The song falls into that lyrically. And the very last verse I wrote when I was in a plane flying back to Nashville. My father had just passed away, and I was thinking not only about Nic’s dad who passed away, but also my own dad, and some friends of mine who’d died way too early as well, and I rapid-fired this last verse in one pen-to-paper stream of consciousness. It captured my spiritualism, my ideology, in a very short burst of a verse. So if anyone is curious about my religiosity, or my ideology, the last verse in that song pretty much says it.”