Keith Urban reveals his dream collaboration
Country king Keith Urban and pop queen P!nk are a crossover hit dream team.
Urban is already imagining the crowd karaoke reception for their smash duet One Too Many, his highest-charting single on the ARIA pop charts, when he performs it live at The Speed Of Now world tour concerts in December next year.
Honorary Aussie P!nk will be at the shows, albeit virtually, having filmed her performance of One Too Many for the concert production.
Urban has had the American pop goddess on his wishlist of collaborators for years now and could "totally hear her singing this" after writing One Too Many in late 2019.
"When she got her vocal recorded and they sent me the files to it, I was in my studio at home in Nashville. I'll never forget it," he recalls.
"I hit play and I just went, 'Oh s …, she sounds amazing.' She had added all these extra bits … she just owned it, she made the song hers.
"I just love her voice and getting to actually hear our voices together was a dream come true for me."
The pair first met at the American Country Music awards in 2017 - the adorable photo of that moment, the pair beaming along with Urban's wife Nicole Kidman in the front row looks like they'd been friends for years.
P!nk said while they had been "vaguely" trying to work together since then, "I really didn't see this song coming."
The What About Us chart-topper responded to its "feel-good" vibe and believes it has connected with their respective fanbases because it makes "you do a little dance around the kitchen."
The duet opportunity also gave the 40-year-old artist a chance to flex her self-taught skill of home vocal recording as thousands of singers have done during the pandemic lockdowns.
"Music is a balm for the soul and there has never been a more important time to just stop trying to be cool and just start having some fun, and this song was exactly that," she says.
"It is fun, it's catchy, kids love it, it's fun to dance around to, it's simple, it's cute and I'm all about simple and fun these days.
"And also, Keith is the nicest human being you would ever want to meet in your entire life. He is heart-on-your-sleeve, what you see is what you get, talent for days - he is kindness personified."
With Urban, Kidman and their daughters Sunday and Faith based in Australia since July, and P!nk locked down with her family in California, the singers were forced to film the One Too Many video separately using green screen technology.
He was already up to speed with quarantine shoots having filmed the video for the album's previous single Superman as an animated flip-book look, reminiscent of A-ha's seminal Take On Me clip.
But the One Too Many shoot was a first for P!nk, which she describes as a "bizarre connected yet separate experience."
The distance between them served as a creative advantage, highlighting the song's narrative about two people trying to reach other and both artists' innate talent for musical storytelling in videos.
"One of the things that I've always loved about P!nk is she's a storyteller," he says.
"I'll put her up against any vocalist in this generation, period, she's f … ing phenomenal. There's a lot of really cool sounding voices and cool singers around … but being able to actually tell a story with humanity is what sets her apart from so many others."
While Kidman filmed the Nine Perfect Strangers series in Byron Bay, Urban was finishing off his 11th studio record The Speed of Now Pt 1 and figuring out how to usher it into a locked-down world from down under.
Instead of the obligatory promotional tour of television and radio studios through Europe, the US and here, he was filming interviews and recording chats from NSW.
"I've gotten used to so many things this year. And I think the two phrases for 2020 are 'you're on mute' and 'you're not on mute'," he says, laughing.
The welcome surprise of his extensive promotional schedule in the months before The Speed of Now's release in September, was the addition of territories who hadn't jumped at releasing his previous records.
Labels and fans in Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Latin America got behind his dizzyingly eclectic album, which fused country, pop, rock and electronica into what he calls a "genre-fluid" sound.
It's a combination of his restless musical curiosity and the innate instinct for songs which will transform a sold-out concert into a screaming, sweaty community which was sharpened in the unforgiving Australian pub circuit he started playing at 15.
Urban said The Speed Of Now is the biggest international release of his 30-year recording career.
"When we started sending the record out to all our international labels, the feedback was immediate, like 'This is going to work here' and I've never had that with an album before," he says.
"It's just one of those serendipitous situations where I made a particular record that seems to be very global, much more so than previous records.
"The songs, the themes, the energy and the spirit … are really strong on this record and I think those things supersede genre labels and that sort of thing."
As 2020 dawned, Urban planned to start the world tour for his new record in Australia this month.
But that tour schedule was shelved in March, when the pandemic ushered in the global shut down of live entertainment.
Instead of playing shows in Australian arenas this week, he finally felt confident about the return of the big gigs here to announce he would be back in December next year with his The Speed of Now tour.
Urban shares the frustrations of millions of artists and industry workers navigating what a gig looks like in a post COVID-world.
Will arenas be back to their full, sold-out capacity, typically above 10,000 people, by the second half of 2021? Could vaccination be mandated for concert and festival goers?
Are we allowed to dance?
"It's obviously going to be the venues who drive so much of this" Urban says.
"I thought to myself that I probably liken it a bit to air travel, pre 9/11 and post 9/11.
"We still want to fly. We're still going to fly. We're still going to pack in planes. But there'll be measures in place that didn't used to be there.
"And I think going to concerts will be the same kind of thing."
He will kick off the tour at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on December 1 and then head to Sydney's Qudos Bank Arena on December 3 and 4, the WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong on December 6, Adelaide Entertainment Centre on December 8, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne on December 10 and 11, RAC Arena, Perth on December 14, Brisbane Entertainment Centre on December 17 and 18 and Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre on December 19.
General tickets are on sale from December 8.
Originally published as Keith Urban reveals his dream collaboration