Keith Urban Talks 'Extraordinary' ACM Awards Nominations

Singer-guitarist earns seven total nods for material from 'Ripcord' LP, including first Entertainer of the Year nomination since 2010

Keith Urban leads all nominees at the 52nd ACM Awards with seven. Credit: Christopher Polk/Getty

Keith Urban and wife Nicole Kidman were in Nashville, dropping their daughters off at school when the ACM nominations were announced this morning. When they arrived home, Urban was surprised to find that his phone, which he'd left on the kitchen table, was blowing up with congratulatory texts. The singer-guitarist had been nominated for seven awards total, including his first in the top category, Entertainer of the Year, since 2010. He leads all nominees.

"I thought, 'What the hell is going on. I had no clue…," Urban tells Rolling Stone Country. "What a great way to find out."

Urban's Ricpord LP – his most satisfying project in years – earned him two nods, as artist and producer, and the chart-topping single "Blue Ain't Your Color," written by Steven Lee Olsen, Hillary Lindsey and Clint Lagerberg, received nominations for Single and Song of the Year. Urban is also among the Male Vocalist nominees for the first time in three years, but he sees his Entertainer of the Year nomination as an "all-encompassing acknowledgment," especially of the success of the Ripcord World Tour.

"I guess everybody defines that particular category and nomination differently," he says. "Personally, I've always seen it from a touring standpoint. I've always thought it's about, 'Do you entertain? Can you put on a show?' I've always taken that nomination name so literally. Of course, I love touring. I've done it since I was a little kid. To get that nomination is just an extraordinary feeling."

Urban says the Ripcord album was particularly influenced by his father, who passed away in December 2015 after a lengthy cancer battle.

"I always think there's a spirit and a record, there's a particular energy," he explains. "You can call it a million different things. There's a lot of my dad in this record, from a rhythmic standpoint. He was a drummer and I was thinking back to the very first single I had out was a song called 'It's a Love Thing.' The very opening of that song was a drum machine and acoustic guitar. For me, it's not coincidental that it's really like my dad and I represented in song form, and record-making form. 

"Going in to make Ripcord, that very strong rhythmic influence of my dad is what permeated the record," he continues. "Even something like 'Blue Ain't Your Color' is a very, very strongly defined rhythmic foundation – in addition to things like 'Wasted Time' and 'Sun Don't Let Me Down' and some of the more obvious rhythmic, funky things. For me, rhythm and melody and universality and the themes that I gravitate toward, it was all at the heart of making Ripcord as an album, and of course putting the tour together as well."

The 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards, hosted by Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley, air Sunday, April 2nd, at 8:00 p.m. on CBS, live from Las Vegas

Find out five things we learned from Keith Urban. Watch here.