One week into 2016, Keith Urban is back inside a Nashville recording studio, his holiday vacation brought to a close by the need to wrap up his ninth album, Ripcord.
He's been working on the project for 12 months, taking breaks whenever other commitments — including a packed production schedule for American Idol, which recently kicked off its final season — pull his attention elsewhere. On this January afternoon at Nashville's Ocean Way Recording Studios, though, Urban is focusing on the music. There's a deadline now, and it's a big one: Urban has announced his upcoming Ripcord World Tour, his widest trek in nearly two years.
"It's all amphitheaters and arenas," Urban says of the tour, which launches June 2nd in Kansas City. "Last year, we were doing mostly festivals and that sort of thing. It wasn't a conceptual production, really. This is us getting back to that world."
With production design from Roy Bennett (Lady Gaga, Beyoncé), the Ripcord Tour will visit more than 50 cities during its first leg. Brett Eldredge, a returning face from 2014's Raise 'Em Up Tour, will open every show. Newer name Maren Morris is also on the bill, personally added by Urban after hearing an unmastered version of her song "80s Mercedes."
"I thought, 'Holy shit, who is this?'" remembers Urban, who received a sneak preview of the song while Morris was still recording her recently-released EP for Columbia Nashville. "I couldn't believe how much I loved it. I asked, 'Who's this girl? Where's she from? Who wrote the songs?' And they said, 'She did.' And I said, 'Jesus!' Her full record might not be out by [the tour's opening night], but I don't care. I just want my audience to hear her. I just want to give a stage to someone who's the real deal. Not just someone who's popular — someone who can really sing and really write."
Even before it leaves the country, Ripcord World Tour will take Urban and company to a handful of new markets, including Lincoln, Nebraska, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. More familiar tour stops like Atlanta, Nashville and Los Angeles also fill the schedule. Until additional legs are announced, the last date of the Ripcord World Tour is a November 19th blowout at Brooklyn's Barclay Center, the unofficial headquarters for country chart-toppers in New York City.
Meanwhile, though, there's still an album to finish. As the Ripcord Tour quickly takes shape, so does its namesake record, a genre-jumping project that finds Urban working with collaborators from the rock, pop and even disco worlds.
"A lot of last year was spent experimenting with people like Rick Rubin and Nile Rodgers," he explains. "People I hadn't worked with before. People who could bring different things to the album. With Nile, it was the guitar playing that drew me in. I had a real simple desire to play with him, to see what kind of fusion we could create together. I've got a six-string banjo, and I've played along with records Nile played on, and they just paired up beautifully. I wanted to see if we could rhythmically click like that in the studio. So we got into the studio, and he had a guitar and I had a banjo, and we just played to a loop. It was great."
There are a handful of songwriting sessions still scheduled for the coming weeks, as well as production meetings with Bennett, who helped design the Light the Fuse Tour in 2013. Urban is gearing up for his soon-to-be weekly trips to Los Angeles, too, where American Idol will film its live episodes. It's a lot to juggle, but Urban is used to the circus act.
"I'd love to dedicate an entire year to making a record, and doing nothing else," he admits, "but that's not the way life is for me. So I make records within the life that I have, and that's got its own advantages, too. You're not so myopic. You can do some work, get away from it for a bit, then come back. There's an advantage to that."
Here are the announced dates for Urban's Ripcord World Tour:
June 2 - Kansas City, MO @ Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
June 3 - St. Louis, MO @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheater
June 4 - Indianapolis, IN @ Klipsch Music Center
June 10 - Myrtle Beach, SC @ Carolina Country Music Fest
June 11 - Alpharetta, GA @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park
June 16 - Orange Beach, AL @ The Wharf Amphitheater
June 17 - Tampa, FL @ MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheater
June 18 - West Palm Beach, FL @ Perfect Vodka Amphitheater
June 23 - Clarkston, MI @ DTE Energy Music Theatre
June 24 - Canandaigua, NY @ Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center
June 25 - Mansfield, MA @ Xfinity Center
July 2 - Gilford, NH @ Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook
July 9 - Toronto, ON @ Molson Canadian Amphitheater
July 14 - Cincinnati, OH @ Riverbend Music Center
July 15 - Cleveland, OH @ Blossom Music Center
July 16 - Holmdel, NJ @ P.N.C. Bank Arts Center
July 21 - Salt Lake City, UT @ USANA Amphitheater
July 22 - Greenwood Village, CO @ Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater
July 23 - Albuquerque, NM @ Isleta Amphitheater
July 28 - Mountain View, CA @ Shoreline Amphitheater
July 29 - Lake Tahoe, Stateline NV @ Lake Tahoe at Harvey’s Outdoor Amphitheater
August 18 - Charlotte, NC @ PNC Music Pavilion
August 19 - Raleigh, NC @ Walnut Creek Amphitheatre
August 20 - Virginia Beach, VA @ Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach
August 25 - Syracuse, NY @ Lakeview Amphitheater
August 26 - Philadelphia, PA @ BB&T Pavilion
August 27 - Washington, DC @ Jiffy Lube Live
October 6 - Bismarck, ND @ Bismarck Civic Center
October 8 - Lincoln, NE @ Pinnacle Bank Arena
October 13 - San Antonio, TX @ AT&T Center
October 14 - Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center
October 15 - New Orleans, LA @ Smoothie King Center
October 20 - Los Angeles, CA @ Staples Center
October 21 - Las Vegas, NV @ Las Vegas Arena
October 22 - Phoenix, AZ @ Talking Stick Resort Arena
October 27 - Grand Rapids, MI @ Van Andel Arena
October 28 - Rosemont, IL @ Allstate Arena
October 29 - Toledo, OH @ Huntington Center
November 4 - Milwaukee, WI @ BMO Harris Bradley Center
November 5 - Minneapolis, MN @ Target Center
November 11 - Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena
November 12 - Bloomington, IL @ U.S. Cellular Coliseum
November 13 - Youngstown, OH @ The Covelli Centre
November 17 - Hershey, PA @ Giant Center
November 18 - Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
November 19 - Brooklyn, NY @ Barclays Center