Keith Urban’s mission is to woo Montreal music fans

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Keith Urban came to Montreal this week to help build some hype around the announcement that he will be playing his very first concert here at the Bell Center on August 12th.

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Keith Urban wants to seduce Montreal music fans.

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How serious is he about this mission? The country star flew to Montreal just hours after one of the biggest snowstorms in years to be there Thursday morning to create a little hype around the announcement that he would be the head poster at the Bell Center on Saturday August 12. It’s rare for pop stars of Urban’s stature to come to Montreal to promote and it shows just how determined he and his managers are to smash big here. Urban was all over the media scene here Thursday – on the morning show Global, several interviews with newspapers and magazines and, of course, an appearance on Tout le monde en parle, ICI Radio-Canada’s top-rated conference. TV show which records Thursday evening and airs Sunday. He even went to the Brossard Tricolore training center to meet some of the Canadiens players and record material for the 24CH television show.

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Surprisingly, nearly two decades after Urban’s debut album, he never gave a concert in Montreal. In fact, he told me in an interview Thursday morning at the Ritz-Carlton hotel that he had never set foot in our city before this week.

This is because until very recently, Montreal was considered one of the continent’s worst markets for country music. We don’t have a major commercial country radio station, and most Montrealers have always been known to be cold to the nasal sounds of Nashville. ‘The Western’ has always been a favorite among people living elsewhere in La Belle Province, but Montrealers mostly kept their distance from a genre that we found way too uncool.

But that’s starting to change, and that’s thanks to the crossover sounds of artists like Urban, whose latest album, 2016’s Ripcord, barely sounds country, with its electronic drums, synth lines, and guest appearances from people. like Nile Rodgers and Pitbull. The New Zealand-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter didn’t make his first concert appearance in Quebec until 2015, performing on the Plains of Abraham as part of the Quebec City Summer Festival.

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“It was a shock, the Festival de Québec, in the most beautiful way,” said Urban. “I didn’t know what to expect. We went the day before and watched Skrillex and Diplo play and the crowd was phenomenal. But I never thought in a million years that we would have the same kind of reaction the next night. So it was wonderful. It was one of the greatest concerts I have ever done. Fingers in the nose. I’m serious. Everyone who is close to me knows that this is perfectly legitimate. I have done thousands of shows in my life and it was one of the most magical shows of all time. The stars were aligned. The weather was perfect, the crowd was packed, they were in a phenomenal mood and they knew so many songs. It really took me by surprise.

Urban isn’t the only country artist starting to gain fans here. Luke Bryan sold the Bell Center last year and tickets are selling well for upcoming Florida Georgia Line and Dixie Chicks shows. Part of that is because you don’t need radio to experience music in 2017, said Nick Farkas, vice president of concerts at Evenko. You can stream whoever you want wherever you want.

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Urban admitted he was here precisely because the market was more difficult for artists like him.

“I definitely wanted to make sure that before we came (for the concert) some people would show up,” Urban said. “I’m just glad I can finally come and play.”

Ripcord is the album that takes Urban the farthest from his country roots, but he denies there is a big plan behind the musical change.

“A lot of it is not (pure country), a lot of it doesn’t fit into that typical category,” Urban said. “It’s an evolution from the music I was playing and my music is starting to connect with different people, especially with the last two albums. Going into the studio and creating is a very organic thing for me. I can go on with a very specific idea but I am very open to the muse going in a very different direction, which happens a lot. With that song, Sun Don’t Let Me Down, I wrote it with Nile Rodgers and Busbee, and the song was recorded and finished, and I was listening to Pitbull’s radio station on XM and hearing his voice. over and over again one day, and I was like ‘Dude, he would be awesome on that song that we just did.’ It’s very ironic, that’s what the song was. It’s playful and sexy. So everything was very spontaneous.

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Urban’s latest single, The Fighter, is a duet with Carrie Underwood, and the lyrics were inspired by the early days of Urban’s relationship with his future wife, Nicole Kidman.

“It really came from the conversations my wife and I had when we were dating,” Urban said. “It’s scary to get into a relationship. You want to put all your trust in someone and I wanted my wife to know that I was going to take care of her, try to heal her, and heal each other. It was a quick song and very easy to write because it really came from how I felt about it. Early in our relationship, sometimes if she started to pull away because she was scared, I would get defensive because I felt like I was being blamed for something I hadn’t done. That’s why (I wrote) this line – “If I’m afraid I’ll hold you tighter.” I had a big learning curve in our relationship.

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American Idol has helped introduce Urban to audiences beyond the nation’s fan base. He was a judge for several seasons and has only fond memories of the time.

“I love it,” Urban said. “I loved the camaraderie with Harry (Connick Jr.), Jen (Jennifer Lopez) and Ryan (Seacrest). The four of us together. I enjoyed working with these guys.

Some complain about how shows like Idol accelerate artists to stardom without them having to pay their dues, but Urban, unsurprisingly, disagrees with this view.

“Nobody wants to pay their dues,” Urban said with a laugh. “All of us who have paid our dues, we look back and say we’re glad we did. But if at the time someone had said there was a shortcut, would you have taken it? Hell yeah! “

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