It is an unlikely story that a boy born and raised “down under” would grow up to top the country music charts. But don’t tell that to two-time ACM Male Vocalist of the Year Keith Urban, who has defied those odds to become one of Nashville’s biggest stars.
While most fans know about the artist’s unexpected Aussie past, Urban’s background as a skilled instrumentalist remains relatively under the radar. The American Idol judge got his start as a session guitarist, backing legendary Aussie country artist Slim Dusty before moving to Nashville where he continued to back guitar for several artists until the release of his self-titled debut album in 1999.
Beyond an array of major music awards and recognitions, Urban has been listed among the top country guitarists of all time, and voted a fan favorite country guitarist, beating out contemporaries Brad Paisley, Vince Gill and Taylor Swift. He is known for carrying an extensive collection of instruments in his guitar rig, including ’54 and ’64 Fender Stratocasters, a custom Danocaster, a 1952 Gibson Les Paul goldtop and a treasured 40th anniversary Fender Telecaster. Tradition on tour also includes the “camera guitar,” which Urban plays during every performance of “Somebody Like You” to capture live footage of the crowd. Urban recently launched a sell-out collection of affordable guitars for HSN, called The Urban Guitar Collection. In addition to acoustic and electric guitar, Urban plays banjo, bass guitar, mandolin, piano, sitar, bouzouki and drums.
Urban will show off his skills live on stage at this year’s ACM Awards, far from his first notable performance. In 2010, Urban shared the stage with famed guitarist John Mayer for an episode of CMT Crossroads where they traded collaborations of each others’ songs. And last week, Urban strummed his way to a headline show at the inaugural SXSW iTunes music festival alongside Willie Nelson, another of country’s great guitarists. The livestream performance is available free for a limited time from iTunes.
You can also hear plenty of Urban guitar solos on his latest No.1 album, “Fuse,” featuring top 10 single “Little Bit of Everything.”