Keith Urban Is A Big Sturgill Simpson Fan
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.
August 4, 2014 @ 9:37 am
Sturgill’s instagram handle is @Kief_Whitley 🙂
August 4, 2014 @ 9:51 am
Interesting tidbit. I started listening to Sturgill last week after reading your https://www.savingcountrymusic.com/7-men-who-could-immediately-make-country-music-better post. Immediately purchased his two albums. Wow; he is amazing! Very Waylon-like.
August 4, 2014 @ 10:14 am
It sounds like he dropped a Sturgill Simpson reference into his concert in Indy too. It would be interesting if there would be some way to tell what impact these types of mentions by wider known artists have. Brad Paisley mentioned Jason Isbell as having his favorite song right now to Rolling Stone with “Elephant” and stated it was “interesting to hear what somebody does when they have no interest in playing by the rules.”
August 4, 2014 @ 10:38 am
Good find on the Sturgill Indianapolis mention.
August 6, 2014 @ 12:09 am
Paisley does mention “you’re not supposed to sing about cancer in a song…but we do,” I believe. I don’t put much stock into his music or that song, but that oughta be right up his alley.
August 4, 2014 @ 10:23 am
The other day, the Highway XM station (mainstream country) played Sturgill’s full performance at the Opry. I thought the satellite waves got mixed up but it was real.
August 4, 2014 @ 10:24 am
Keith Urban has always struck me as a genuine guy. The great irony is that he obviously has a deep appreciation for country music’s past and shows it through actions, not words: he has collaborated with classic artists like Don Williams and Chris LeDoux while he champions the preservation of the city that is the epicenter of the genre. Now he’s come out as a Sturgill fan, which is surprising to say the least. Then, you flip it over to his actual musical output as an artist and the image takes a blow. While I’m not of the opinion Urban’s music is anything but harmless, that’s not to say I think it’s great. Certain songs notwithstanding, most of his music is shallow, toothless love songs that were bubblegum pop before Taylor Swift took it to new heights. Even then, the guy seems so affable that I hate to criticize his music despite my feelings. I will say that he’s one of those artists that a compilation will do justice and unless you’re a big fan, you won’t ever need another of his releases.
August 4, 2014 @ 12:10 pm
Pretty sure Urban took the lead in the re-opening of the Opry several months after the 2010 floods too. His involvement in Nashville affairs and preservation seems genuine to me as well.
And speaking of Sturgill and Isbell…
Their October 26 show at the Ryman has been sold out for a while now (as well as the 24th Isbell/Shires show and the 25th Isbell/St Paul & Broken Bones show). Broke down and paid a “reseller” $350 for 2 Main Floor/Row 9 seats. After seeing Isbell live in June, this is a “dream” pairing for me and worth every penny. Gonna make a long weekend of it and call this my fall vacation.
August 4, 2014 @ 12:20 pm
We are coming to town for the first two Isbell shows at the Ryman–good for him, selling out that venue three nights in a row! It’s going to be amazing.
August 4, 2014 @ 2:26 pm
We’re driving down from Chicago on Saturday, do Broadway that night, Sturgill/Jason Sunday night, and drive back on Monday.
I’m envious of you seeing St.Paul and the Broken Bones! I have their album and love it, and I’ve heard they’re even better live. First act signed to John Paul White’s new label, right?
Anyway, I haven’t been this excited to see a concert since the first time I saw Shawn Phillips in 1971.
August 4, 2014 @ 6:52 pm
I’ve been fortunate enough to see Jason three times, but never as a headliner. Plus, with these shows being in Nashville, you never know who might join him on stage for a random song or two. Every night of the three will probably be a little different. We are driving from the KC area on Thursday and have been looking forward to it since I bought the tickets months ago.
August 6, 2014 @ 1:56 am
I’ll be at the Isbell/Simpson show as well. I’ll be taking my 14 year old son who introduced me to Sturgill.
August 4, 2014 @ 2:59 pm
I think it has something to do with Urban trying not to make the same record twice. His early materials, particularly with The Ranch, borders on traditional country, country rock, and rockabilly, along with the then current 90s country flavor. Then he just kept on evolving the way he knows how. Not everyone will appreciate his music but I think he genuinely love what he did with his music. True,he’s a traditional country fan but he’s also a fan of pop music. He is making pop music with country flavors.
August 7, 2014 @ 12:55 pm
I would actually recommend The Ranch to anyone who maybe likes Urban but isn’t a fan of his recent stuff. That album (which I think is now being sold as “Keith Urban in The Ranch” or something like that) isn’t groundbreaking…but for someone who grew up on ’90’s country like I did, it’s a good album to check out.
There are some fun songs on there, as well as some good stories/ballads. I think Urban’s guitar playing also makes it worth a listen.
August 5, 2014 @ 8:50 am
So he’s the anti-Eric Church? A nice guy who puts out crappy music instead of the asshole who puts out good music.
August 5, 2014 @ 9:24 am
The great irony is that he obviously has a deep appreciation for country music”™s past and shows it through actions, not words
This may be, although between Urban’s music and his constant recycling of the same old arguments about countrypolitan, the Nashville Sound and whatnot, I am left cold on him as a country artist. Like I said on Country California, it’d be nice if he showed as much respect for the music created in the studios he’s trying to save as he does the studios themselves.
And while I’m at it, for all everyone preaches about KU being a master guitar player and deserving respect solely because of that, I find it quite telling that Urban always seems to mention countrypolitan when he gets off on his tangent but never mentions, say, Roy Nichols and his prominent guitar solos on all those old Merle Haggard songs ”” or, for that matter, Ralph Mooney’s steel guitar that was such an integral of the Waylon Jennings AND Merle Haggard sound.
August 4, 2014 @ 10:24 am
Not a huge Urban fan but thought he always at least respected the heritage of Country music. By the way, did you ever hear his album with “The Ranch”? Actually a really good album in my opinion.
August 4, 2014 @ 10:25 am
Went to see Sturgill open for Zac Brown band in Burgettstown Pa…..Sturgill put on a great show.
Glad to see other artist are acknowledging his talent.
Also, good for Keith Urban making a statement regarding the actions of concert goers. I like to drink beer and have a good time, but seriously, country concerts are now officially “amateur night”.
August 4, 2014 @ 10:39 am
Maybe in the future he might ask Sturgill to open for him.
Toby in AK
August 4, 2014 @ 2:39 pm
who knows, maybe he’ll ask to open for Sturgill.
August 4, 2014 @ 11:32 am
they have more in common with miley cyrus than sturgill simson. they are probably trying to steal his fans from twitter and facebook
August 4, 2014 @ 1:14 pm
The lack of gratitude problem strikes again.
It is important to remember that no artist is entitled to fame, regardless of how much the critics praise him/her. We should all be thankful that Keith Urban and Jake Owen are helping introduce Sturgill to a much broader audience.
August 4, 2014 @ 2:35 pm
Sad that you had to say that.
August 4, 2014 @ 11:55 am
I love Sturgill’s music…but I wish people would quit comparing him to Waylon.
August 4, 2014 @ 12:17 pm
I hear a lot of Conway in there too.
But I think it was Shooter’s comparison to Waylon that cemented what you’re criticizing.
August 5, 2014 @ 6:45 am
I suppose if i hear anyone in Stugill’s voice it would be Whitley…which is funny because I hear no comparison between either version of ” I Never Go Around Mirrors”. Sturgill makes it his own. As far as the Shooter/Waylon comparison, I can hear a lot of Waylon in is voice, whether it is emulated or natural, who knows. But I am still a fan of most of Shooter’s music.
Toby in AK
August 4, 2014 @ 2:41 pm
It get’s a little old but it’s most people’s first impression. When I first heard his voice my mind immediately went there, and I hadn’t read the comparison before so I wasn’t influenced.
August 6, 2014 @ 12:21 am
My first exposure was with Sunday Valley and “Life Ain’t Fair and The World is Mean” as first seen here by me–I believe. I showed it to two people, and we all came up with the Waylon thing on our own.
TX Music Jim
August 4, 2014 @ 12:21 pm
There has never been any doubt Keith Urban has real musical chops. For him to give a very proper shout out to someone like Sturghill Simpson does not suprise me at all. Now, if Sturghill can get some cuts, that woud be greatness !
August 4, 2014 @ 12:39 pm
Sturgill will blow up to some level of mass popularity. The forces are gathering. These tweets, his Letterman appearance, etc.
August 4, 2014 @ 3:15 pm
I hope sturgill gets to play some award show and CMA fest next year.. but hard to see that without a big label and Sturgill is not gonna give up any creativity now. He is getting big doing it his way.
August 4, 2014 @ 4:56 pm
I love the willingness Keith Urban has shown over the years to praise good music, but as of right now, I don’t take his SS praise too seriously, because Keith’s making by far the worst music of his career.
August 4, 2014 @ 5:31 pm
Fuse is on my playlist along with a whole lot of traditional and alt country. I’m seeing Sturgill later this summer and I’m very excited about that. So don’t hold the fact I like Fuse against me. I’m not even sure why I like it, but right now the two songs I listen to most are Turtles All the Way Down and Somewhere In My Car. Go figure.
August 4, 2014 @ 6:55 pm
Agree 100%! Been a Keith Urban fan since 2004 and haven’t even bothered to purchase the last two albums–yuck! He is (believe it or not) way more talented than that. And don’t even get me started on him being part of American Idol!
August 5, 2014 @ 1:14 am
The fact is that Keith is praising Sturgill, period. We need to separate our views on that from our views on Keith’s music.
August 4, 2014 @ 7:18 pm
It’s really cool of Keith Urban to give him so much free publicity.
I don’t have much else to add, except to say I wonder what Sturgill Simpson will do next, musically. Dave Cobb commented in Rolling Stone that he and Sturgill have already been working on new stuff, and that it was gonna push boundaries and “make a lot of people mad,” I just hope Sturgill’s not going to be departing the country realm.
August 5, 2014 @ 12:18 am
At this point, I am anticipating Sturgill Simpson letting us all down in one way or another. That way I can just enjoy these moments, and hopefully be pleasantly surprised if he doesn’t.
August 5, 2014 @ 1:31 am
I had to go find Cobb’s exact quote because Applejack scared me!
“And I wouldn’t say we aren”™t going to try and push it further next time. But I don’t think we’re going to push it for the sake of impressing anybody ”” we’re going to do it to amuse ourselves. We’re already starting another one ”” I feel like we could make three records this year. Maybe he doesn’t release all three, but we should make them. We’re already doing something totally different and it will probably make a lot of people mad.”
Hopefully Cobb’s just talking himself up. I think only an R&B album would make me mad. Interestingly, he says he has enough songs for a Jamey Johnson album left over from Guitar Songs in the same article.
August 5, 2014 @ 7:25 am
I’m not worried about Cobb’s comments or Sturgill letting us down. When MetaModern came out, Sturgill was saying it is a little out there, but really, it is pretty hard driven country. Sure, “Turtles” has some “cosmic” lyrics, but I didn’t think it was an album that was crazy out there…sure, it isn’t pop country, but it is country for sure.
The only concern I have is he gets to cosmic…kind of like Shooter gets, a little to Star Treky at times.
Jamey Johnson has a shit ton of songs. He’ll be coming with something new soon.
Lukas Nelson has a new album coming in a few weeks. Buckle up for that!
August 5, 2014 @ 7:37 am
Keith is a true artist and has my complete respect. He pushes the boundaries without disrepecting the genre. He doesnt go around trying to convince us that he is the consumate country boy because he knows the talent will do all talking. It always has and always will no matter how many posers they try to sell us, you just can’t replace the real thing. Keith Urban is the real deal.
August 6, 2014 @ 8:50 pm
I’m going to make a prediction. Within a year, Sturgill Simpson is gonna make it big. I bet on it.
August 12, 2014 @ 6:46 pm
Correct me if I’m wrong Trig, however I do think you have made mention of how international audiences sometimes have a deeper appreciation of ‘Americana’ than many Americans – demonstrated by how popular some of these acts are in Europe where they sell out tours. Remember that Keith Urban was born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, so he’s essentially a part of that international audience too. He didn’t move to the states until he was an adult. We don’t hear ‘Americana’ in the antipodes, infact we don’t hear country music (ie the real kind) at all. It’s not until we either go to America and dig deep for it or are lucky enough to discover savingcountrymusic.com that we find gold!
I don’t like his music, however I do find it difficult to dislike the guy. I watched every single episode of the past two seasons of American Idol where he was judging. Despite that silly haircut he does actually seem like a genuinely nice dude, that actually has some taste. Mad respect for him addressing the rape allegations at his concert too.