ACM Awards 2020: How Keith Urban broke free from addictions and carved out an iconic music career
Now sober for 14 years, Urban's story of overcoming his demons is just as inspirational as his musical career
Keith Urban has been one of the most prolific and successful country musicians in recent times. With nine American solo albums, the 52-year-old country superstar has delivered a string of hits since his solo debut in 1999. Not only that, Urban is also known for his relationship with actor Nicole Kidman. However, despite all the personal and professional success that Urban has amassed, his beginnings were mired in drug addiction & alcoholism. Now fully sober for over 14 years, Urban's story of overcoming his demons is just as inspirational as his professional musical career.
Urban isn't a southern American like most other country stars. He was born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, After releasing his very first album in Australia, titled 'Keith Urban', the singer moved to the US in hopes of making it big as a musician. A while after finding a job as a sessions guitarist, Urban formed the country band 'The Ranch' and released an eponymous album that performed fairly well. Then, after deciding to go solo, Urban released his American debut record, once again titled 'Keith Urban', to great success. This record was followed by a much more successful 'Golden Road'. Two years later, 'Be Here' was released. This was followed by 'Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing' and, finally, the number one US Billboard 200 album 'Defying Gravity'.
After releasing more albums, Urban had numerous hits to his name like 'Somebody Like You' which was Billboard's biggest country hit of the 2000s. The song 'You'll Think of Me' featuring Rory Gilliatte earned him his first Grammy Award while tracks 'Days Go By', 'Making Memories of Us' and 'Better Life' all reached the top position on Billboard Hot Country Songs. Urban won another Grammy for the song 'Stupid Boy'. The song 'Blue Ain't Your Color' became his longest-reigning number one on Billboard Hot Country Songs after spending 12 weeks at the top. Urban then won his third Grammy Award for the song 'Sweet Thing'.
Battle With Addiction
As Urban's fame peaked, so did his substance abuse. Urban started to rely on alcohol and drugs like cocaine and ecstasy to deal with his newfound fame and success. Soon, as Urban himself said, he was habituated to drinking heavily and consuming drugs on a daily basis. According to Rolling Stone, Urban said, "It's something I needed because I'm alcoholically wired. I wish I'd gotten sober many years earlier than I did, but it is what it is. I knew I wasn't at my full potential, and that's what was starting to get to me. I was enslaved... I was living a very, very small life."
Urban entered the rehab twice before his relationship with Nicole Kidman began. Despite his stints in the rehab, the country star continued to relapse until he met Kidman. In 2006, after the couple got married, the actress staged an intervention and Urban finally got sober for good. Talking about his addiction days, Urban, in the same Rolling Stone article, says, "I didn't seem able to stop. There was no stopping this time. I'd go to sleep, wake up a couple of hours later, go at it again, drinking to take the edge off. I remember thinking, 'I'm probably not going to make it until tomorrow.' And then I thought, 'F**k it. I really don't care. It'll be a relief to not have to. I'll take an Ambien and at some point I'll pass.' I was taking everything. I remember thinking, 'Oh, good, this is the end of it, yahoo'. I was quite happy about it."
Recovery and sobriety
It was his wife, Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman, that dragged Urban out of the self-destructive path he was on. Talking about Kidman's contributions in his journey to sobriety, Urban said, "I was spiritually awoken with her. I use the expression 'I was born into her', and that's how I feel. And for the first time in my life, I could shake off the shackles of addiction."
Now 14 years sober, Urban is all set to release his eleventh studio album titled 'The Speed of Now Part 1'.