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Keith Urban talks evolving ‘Ripcord’ tour ahead of Barclays Center show

Keith Urban was nominated this year for the

Keith Urban was nominated this year for the Country Music Association's top honor, Entertainer of the Year. Credit: Getty Images for dcp / Mike Windle

Keith Urban says he never really pays attention to his birthdays.

“I could really care less about them,” says Urban, who celebrated turning 49 in October exactly the way he wanted — at a quiet family dinner at home in Nashville with his wife, Nicole Kidman, and their daughters, Sunday Rose and Faith Margaret. “I always just think of it as now. Everybody’s now. Someone said to me several years ago, ‘How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?’ And I wouldn’t have a clue. I wouldn’t really think about it.”

Urban’s approach to birthdays is a lot like his approach to his music these days. He doesn’t really think about it. He just lets it happen.

And the results have been great. Urban was nominated for the Country Music Association’s top honor, Entertainer of the Year, at the Nov. 2 awards. His album “Ripcord” (Capitol Nashville) landed him nominations for album of the year, male vocalist of the year, and musical event of the year for “The Fighter,” his duet with Carrie Underwood. His soulful performance of the ballad “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” currently No. 2 on the country charts and now climbing the pop charts as well, was seen as one of the awards’ most memorable moments. The album also launched a massive arena tour, which stops at Barclays Center Nov. 19.

“Ripcord” was a departure of sorts for Urban, who incorporated bits of pop, soul and even dance beats into his music. But he says that the album’s eclectic nature was not really planned.

“I tend to think I make records more so like a sponge than focusing on every manner of a thing,” Urban says. “Before I start working on a record, I’m listening to all kinds of stuff. I’m Shazam-ing madly, just kind of absorbing everything. And then I go into the studio and kind of wring it out. I don’t know what has gone in there until it comes out. Then it’s ‘Oh, apparently what’s in there is nothing at all what I thought was.’ ”

The tour, which wraps up its initial five-month North American leg in Brooklyn, has also been evolving. “The show is a living organism,” Urban says. “It’s moving and changing all the time — make arrangement changes, add segues between songs. It’s a living, breathing thing. We have a set list, but there are moments like when the quarterback calls an audible. It’s so much fun musically.”

Urban says he is playing eight or nine songs from “Ripcord” each night and has noticed a change in the audience’s reaction. “The kind of crowd that has come out on this tour is like a whole new audience for our shows,” he says. “It’s not just hard-core country fans. It’s very diverse.”

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The shift became more noticeable after Urban’s previous album, “Fuse,” perhaps in part due to his weekly appearances as a judge on “American Idol.” (“It was a blast,” Urban says of the singing competition. “I had fun and it really fit into my schedule really well. But I don’t miss it. I’m still doing what, at my core, I love to do: playing music for people.”)

His move toward more pop-sounding songs on “Fuse” — including the hits “Cop Car” and “We Were Us” with Miranda Lambert — really shouldn’t be seen as much of a surprise, Urban says. “I’ve always played contemporary country,” Urban says. “It’s more pop-leaning and my own influences have always been pretty broad anyway. I started in Australian pubs and clubs where you have to have a bit of attitude and edge. When I got here in Nashville, it was always a bit of a fusion — a country-rock-pop mix.”

And Urban says country music has always embraced new influences, even when some see the genre moving back toward more traditional roots. “Country is great that way,” he says. “It embraces a lot of newness that keeps it vibrant.”

However, Urban says that labels aren’t always accurate. “I grew up in a city in Australia, so there’s a city-esque thing to the music I do,” he says. “I think there’s a strong universality to that. Melodies are very, very universal. Writers like Billy Joel and Elton John — I’m just as influenced by them as I am by Alabama. I’m trying to get to that place of universal melodies, where it’s more about the artist and their music than what we call it. I wouldn’t know what to call Billy Joel or Elton or James Taylor.”

WHO Keith Urban

WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Nov. 19, Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn

INFO $42.50-$82.50; 800-745-3000,

Urban renewal

For his “Ripcord” album, Keith Urban turned to a wide range of collaborators to find a common musical thread that connects country to other genres. “The point was not about bringing them into this genre,” Urban says. “It was about trying to find something organic, a hybrid of what we do together. . . . You want to find a place that’s unique.” Here’s a look at who helped him out:


COLLABORATION Plays guitar on “Sun Don’t Let Me Down”

BEST KNOWN FOR The distinctive, funky guitar work that drove dance music pioneers Chic and disco classics such as “Good Times” and “Le Freak.” More recently, Rodgers founded the FOLD Festival in Riverhead and has been a perennial finalist for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


COLLABORATION Raps on “Sun Don’t Let Me Down”

BEST KNOWN FOR Rapping in his Latin-influenced dance music in chart-toppers like “Timber” and “Give Me Everything.” “Mr. Worldwide” is expanding his reach as an entrepreneur and as an in-demand TV host.


COLLABORATION Sings on “The Fighter”

BEST KNOWN FOR Turning her “American Idol” win into a massive country career thanks to hits like “Before He Cheats” and “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”


COLLABORATION Co-writing and co-producing “Sun Don’t Let Me Down,” “The Fighter,” “Your Body”

BEST KNOWN FOR Writing pop hits like Pink’s “Try” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Dark Side,” as well as country hits for Rascal Flatts and Lady Antebellum. — GLENN GAMBOA


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