Despite a rough start to Keith Urban’s week last week when one of his concerts in Mansfield, Mass. descended into a 55-arrest, 22-taken to the hospital & rape allegations kind of night, you could make the argument the country music superstar won the week.
I’ve always believed that character isn’t defined in people during their great moments, but during their bad ones. Keith Urban wasn’t any more responsible for what happened at his concert than anyone else beyond the troublemakers themselves. Even if you like to draw the parallel between the rash of bad behavior at country concerts and the corrupting nature of country music’s current crop of “Bros”, it’s hard to lump Keith Urban into that category (even if you think Keith Urban’s music is a big “lump” of something else). Still, Keith Urban made it a point to offer condolences about what happened at the concert; something that Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, and others have refused to do after their own recent concert incidents.
“My team and I were horrified to learn of the events reported in Boston this past weekend and our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected,” Keith said in a statement. “This type of behavior stands in stark contrast to the spirit of our shows.”
Then by golly, Keith Urban took of his personal time to write an op-ed in The Tennessean about the preservation of Music Row’s historic places. The topic has been a hot button issue in and around the sale of the Studio ‘A’ building in Nashville and the studio’s caretaker Ben Folds being forced out. So Urban, whose also known for lending his name to preservation efforts like his big fundraisers for the Country Music Hall of Fame, picked up his pen to show support for Studio ‘A’ and other important landmarks in a piece called “Keep Music Row’s Past For The Future.”
Evolution is a constant part of music and life, but for me what’s always been at the heart of country music is simplicity and community. Music Row is where the past, present and future meet, and that’s a vital part of keeping balance. You can feel it as you drive along 16th and 17th avenues and see so many original buildings, including RCA’s Studios A and B; the house where Warner Brothers first opened their doors; Quad Studios, where Neil Young recorded “Harvest”; and Hillbilly Central, where Waylon Jennings and the boys transformed the status quo by revolutionizing the way artists could take creative control. … Not to mention the countless publishing houses where classic songs were and are written, pitched and demoed….
Nashville’s growth is exciting, but not at the risk of losing the creative epicenter that is Music Row and that truly makes Nashville Music City….
And then late last week, a tweet from Keith Urban (actually composed 10 days ago) started making the rounds on the retweet circuit hard and heavy. Apparently Urban is a big Sturgill Simpson fan, and Jake Owen is to blame. “Have to thank @jakeowen for hipping me to the one and only @SturgillSimpson…the new record will knock your #%^â‚¬ in the dirt – SERIOUSLY!!!”
So not only is Keith Urban a big Sturgill Simpson fan, Jake Owen is too apparently, and they’re both willing to proselytize their Stugill Simpson love to others. Then during a show in Indianapolis on Saturday (8-2), Keith Urban gave a shoutout to Sturgill from the stage to the 20,000 attendees, dropping the line “Turtles All The Way Down” into one of his songs. This similar type of peer recognition is how a fellow Kentucky native named Keith Whitley became a big country music player. Whitley was the kind of cool all the other country stars wanted to be, until eventually the Keith Whitely influence could be found everywhere in popular country music. Not saying that will happen with Sturgill, but if artists like Keith Urban and Jake Owen are actively listening to his music, it can’t hurt. And it certainly couldn’t hurt if one of them decided to cut a Sturgill song in the future.
Who knows, maybe we’ll hear Keith Urban singing about reptile aliens made of light in the not too distant future.
Yeah, probably not.
But it does symbolize that Sturgill Simpson is securing his place as a cult icon in country music. And this could eventually lead to bigger things.
***UPDATE (8-12) – Keith Urban has tweeted his Sturgill Simpson love again.