I get asked quite a bit why I'm such a big Keith Urban fan, and I'm now I’m finally going to spill the beans.
Early in April, I got an email asking me to attend a secret listening party to preview Keith's new album Ripcord, which comes out May 6th. The gist of the email was that they wanted us to listen and give feedback on the album before it's released to the public.
Let’s start with the email, the first 2 words were "Thank you." Keith ALWAYS acknowledges his fans, more than any famous person I've ever seen (and I live in LA, so I've seen quite a few). He stops for pictures and autographs even when he's being swarmed by paparazzi, and in the rare moment he can't, he looks devastated. Let's not forget about the tour where he built a ramp from the stage to the seats so there would be no barrier between him and the audience. Just for fun I dare you to YouTube "Keith Urban tells security to back off" and see what pops up. I've always known that he goes above and beyond for his fans, but these simple two words of thanks in an email confirmed it once more.
Now after reading the email, I didn't know if Keith would be at this event. The email didn't say he would, but I didn't care. I was thrilled to be invited because he was asking for input from his fans. As a musician myself, to be invited by my favorite musician to give feedback on his latest work, I would’ve gone for that reason alone! In today’s society of instant-success pop stars, it’s incredibly rare that performers care what people think about their work because most of the time, they don’t even write or produce the songs.
The venue was at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, an intimate space. We were greeted by Keith’s Fan Engagement manager- now let’s stop right there. Keith has a special person on his staff solely assigned to assisting his fans. And we LOVE Annabelle for everything she does for us! She gave us these awesome personalized Ripcord lanyards, fed us Chic-fil-a (my favorite!!! Honestly I would’ve eaten anything they put in front of me and still been on Cloud 9, but the fact that it was Chic-fil-a added several bonus points in my book), and allowed us to get situated. On the tables were pens and a paper with a list of names of the tracks on Ripcord, and place for us to write notes next to each song.
Then we listened to Ripcord. Ripcord is unlike anything Keith has ever done before, and I loved it!!!!! I got chills on songs like "Boy gets a Truck," and "Blue Ain't Your Color." I love that Keith isn’t afraid to take risks musically. He doesn’t care to fit in the narrow “country” box people like to pretend exists.
After we listened to Ripcord, Keith’s Fan Engagement manager, Annabelle, came on stage and asked us about every single track on the album. Then we were told to go around the room and light social media up with #RIPCORDsneakpeek. They had these big beautiful posters all around of the album cover that I simply couldn’t get resist. I wish I could’ve taken one home with me! They also had a camera crew filming our reactions to the album.
It was getting to the point where we had about half an hour left, and that’s when the man himself graced us with his presence! Keith waltzed on stage, picked up an acoustic guitar, and immediately started playing a Merle Haggard song, since it was the day Merle Haggard passed away. This was a secret listening party for Keith's brand new album, and with a limited amount of time the first thing he did was pay tribute to another artist who inspired him. Class Act.
Then he started talking to us. Not at us, but to us. People would ask questions and he would answer by looking them in the eye, even asking questions in return, because he genuinely cares.
The man can play anything, and is an unparalleled performer. He didn’t have anything planned, but he just played anyway. He started with guitar, then switched to banjo, but my favorite part was when he was playing his new single “Wasted Time” while sitting at the piano and holding a guitar in his lap, going back and forth between the two, all while singing and engaging with the audience. That is the mark of a true performer!
He is also a true storyteller. People were asking about the new songs, and there is a story behind each one. Not only are the songs themselves stories, but how they were created as well. He told us how several of them came to be, from creating the melodies to how they came up with certain lyrics, to various collaborations such as Carrie Underwood and several of the producers he worked with. It’s a beautiful process, and you can tell Keith cares about it deeply.
Near the end, when it was time for Keith to leave he said this, “I’m sorry I have to leave now, I have to go to work.” Work referring to judging American Idol. This listening party was an event to promote his new album, which one might assume was his work, but to Keith it was fun. A way to say “thank you” to his fans, and do what he loves. He ended the event by jumping right off the stage into the middle of where we were all standing so he could take a group photo with us. Keith knowingly jumped into a pool of his biggest fans without even a hesitation. I stood right next to him and yes, I was beaming. As he started to leave, I looked at him and said “Thank you, Keith!” He looked right back at me and left me with a phrase and a smile, “Thank you.”
Ripcord is out May 6th, so do your ears a favor and get the album!!! You won't regret it. =)
PS. At the end, as my friend Erin and I were leaving, we practically walked right into Keith's getaway car, and yes we did flip out just a bit! We tried to ask for a ride. ;-)