Keith Urban on All the Firsts He's Facing With Hosting the 2020 ACM Awards (Exclusive)
By Paige Gawley
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Keith Urban's first time hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards is going to be anything but ordinary. ET's Kevin Frazier spoke with the 52-year-old singer ahead of his hosting gig, and he revealed what's involved when it comes to putting on the 55th annual show amid COVID-19.
"It'll be a first on every level. I've never hosted before," Urban says. "We were supposed to be in Vegas in April and instead we will be in Nashville in September, but first and foremost I'm glad we're doing it. I'm glad the ACMs are going ahead. It's gonna be a really, really good... We're gonna really bring the best in Nashville out to everybody."
Taking place in Nashville for the first time in its history, the 2020 ACMs will feature performances at locations across Music City, something that's intended to help with increased safety measures.
"[We're] doing it in a completely COVID-safe way. The idea, first and foremost, having multiple venues really helps that a lot, so everybody's [not] in one place," he explains. "I don't know how we're doing some of the award ceremony part itself. We're gonna work on that pretty soon."
In addition to hosting the show, Urban will take the stage with Pink to perform their track, "One Too Many," off of his upcoming album, The Speed of Now Part 1, which is due out Sept. 18.
"It was great getting to do a song with her. I've been such a deep admirer of her gift and her as a person her entire career. She's extraordinary. She's got the career to prove it. She's an extraordinarily gifted human being," Urban praises. "That voice. Man, that voice. You know it the second it comes on. You just know it. She's one of the greats. She's literally one of the greats. Getting to do a song with her was amazing. I can't wait for people to get to hear this."
The pair also made a video for the track, which Urban said will be out "very, very soon." Though he kept mum on details of the video, the country crooner revealed that necessary coronavirus precautions influenced the video's plot.
"The fact that we had to do it separate, we tied that into the storyline for this video," he teases.
On top of the collaboration with Pink, Urban also teamed up with artists including Nile Rodgers and Breland for the album, the latter of whom he called "brilliant."
As for his personal favorite on the album, Urban pointed to the "very personal" "Better Than I Am," which he co-wrote with Ed White years ago. Urban also spoke about the track "Say Something," which he thinks will "speak to different people for different reasons."
"It was initiated on a more social conscience level of saying something. But when I got into writing it, I pivoted the second verse towards the other area that I wished I had said something and that's in my family of origin, the family I was raised in, my mom and dad and my brother," he shares. "There were times I wish we'd said things to each other we never did. And times I wished I'd said sorry, or times I wished I'd said I love you, or so many things... This song covers all of that."
"I've never been an openly political person. My beliefs are all very clear to see in my songs, in my albums, in my music, in the way I live my life, my family. It's right there for anybody to see," he continued. "My dad always sort of said, 'Oh, you know, don't rock the boat. Don't rock the boat. Don't speak up.' But there's time when the silence is dangerous and you do want to say something, whatever the situation may be. So this song speaks to that."
When it comes to the title of the album itself, Urban noted how "prophetic" it ended up being.
"It came to me because I just felt like -- this sounds so obvious in hindsight -- but in October 2019 when we were touring around the world, everywhere I went, people were going faster and faster and there were people packed in here and there and there and we were shoved. It felt insane," he says. "For the first time in my life, I looked around and thought, 'Even the now, which is meant to be free of time, even that's going fast.'"
"So The Speed of Now was really a comment about how out of control everything seemed, not even just out of control, but unsustainable... I don't just mean environmentally, I mean as people, as human beings versus the computers in our pocket," Urban continues. "As human beings, I don't know if we can sustain this pace. Fast forward to March of this year and man, what a prophetic title this became."
While fans will have to wait until Sept. 18 to hear the full album, Urban revealed that his wife, Nicole Kidman, and their daughters -- Sunday, 12, and Faith, 9 -- "get to hear everything" ahead of time. That was especially true this time around, as Urban had to finish the album at his home studio amid quarantine, which, he said, "was about being creative and using the talents that we all had."
When he wasn't recording during quarantine, he was spending time with his family, something he considers a bright spot in a tough year.
"I married well. I found that out this season. I knew that anyway, but we're best friends. That's the foundation of everything for us. We're just intertwined and I feel very, very blessed and grateful," he says. "There's obviously silver linings to this period we've been going through, getting to spend more time together of course is a blessing and it's a beautiful thing."
"The reason why we're getting to do that is really heavy. I keep that in context because there's people out there on the front lines 24/7 having a very, very different experience with this time and this year," he continues. "So, as a matter of fact, I dedicated my whole album to all the healthcare workers on the front lines, because, in 2020, there is nobody more deserving of acknowledgment this year than the people who have been sacrificing so much, and their families too."
The 55th ACM Awards will air Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. The Speed of Now Part 1 is due out Friday, Sept. 18.