Keith Urban: 11 Things to Know About the Country Music Hitmaker

Keith Urban is one of the reigning hitmakers in country music, and has been for more than 20 years. In honor of his 56th birthday, we rounded up 11 facts about his life and career, including his favorite food, biggest pet peeves, and more.

1. He wasn’t born in Australia.

Urban is known as one of Australia’s biggest celebrities, but he was actually born in Whangārei, New Zealand. Still, his family soon relocated to Queensland, Australia, where his father owned a convenience store.

2. He lost almost everything in a house fire as a child.

Urban is a big supporter of disaster relief organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, since his own family was once forced to rely on them.

“Our own family went through a house fire — when I was 10, our house burnt down — so I’ve experienced first-hand what it’s like to lose all that sort of thing,” Urban told CMT. “I mean, our whole house went down. Everything we owned went with it. Fortunately, my mom and my dad, and my brother and I were OK, but in that moment, organizations like the Salvation Army, Red Cross and Goodwill all came to our aid, as did the people in our community.

“It was amazing at that age, at 10, to see that kind of instant support, and for no other reason than just a neighbor helping a neighbor,” he added. “It really affected me.”

3. He dated supermodel Niki Taylor.

It’s hard to imagine Urban with anyone besides his wife, Nicole Kidman, but he did have a few other girlfriends, including supermodel Niki Taylor. Although they were both quiet about their romance, they did reportedly have matching tattoos at one point, with Urban covering his up and Niki choosing to have hers removed.

4. He has been a judge on American Idol, and a coach on The Voice in Australia.

Urban might be most comfortable behind a microphone, but he has spent plenty of time in front of a TV camera as well. In 2012, Urban served as a coach for Season 1 of the Australian version of The Voice, alongside Delta Goodrem, Seal and Joel Madden. He also served as a judge on American Idol from Season 12 to Season 15. For his first season, his fellow judges were Randy Jackson, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. For the final three, he was joined by Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr.

In 2021, Urban returned for Season 10 of Australia’s The Voice, reprising his role for Season 11 in 2022. He did not return in 2023.

5. He didn’t finish high school.

Urban was so enamored by his love of music, that he quit high school at 15 to focus on it full-time — something he admitted while his daughters, Sunday Rose and Faith Margaret, were forced to do their schoolwork from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I decided I’m not very good at homeschooling,” Urban told Australia radio station 101.9 Fox FM Melbourne during the lockdown. “I should leave that up to the professionals. The kids have been good. We travel a lot anyway, so they’re used to that kind of thing. But I’m glad I’m not in charge of it, because I quit school at 15, and failed every subject, including music, which is really embarrassing but it’s true.”

6. He was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry in 2012 at Bridgestone Arena.

Urban was on stage at the annual All for the Hall fundraiser, which he helped organize, to raise money for the Country Music Hall of Fame. Vince Gill joined him on stage, along with the Oak Ridge Boys and Rascal Flatts, to give him a present: a black duffel bag, with an Opry microphone and stand inside.

“I’m shocked,” Urban said at the time. “It’s a huge honor and how beautiful to have this happen tonight …I will always remember the first time I played the Opry, seeing this stand and standing in the circle was an extraordinarily surreal moment. So this right here is just a whole other stratosphere. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

7. He met his wife at G’Day LA, but waited four months to ask her out.

Urban definitely took his time asking out Kidman. The two met at G’Day LA, a Hollywood event promoting  Australia, and although sparks flew, it took the singer four months to work up the nerve to ask Kidman out.

“You didn’t love me at first sight. You didn’t notice me,” Kidman recalled telling her now-husband for the Daily Mail. “He’s like, ‘Yes I did but I just didn’t let on,’ but we kind of met, and then about four months later he called me.”

8. His favorite food to eat during a writing session is a fried pimento cheese sandwich.

Urban’s frequent collaborator Monty Powell revealed that when Urban has an afternoon slump, his favorite pick-me-up is a fried pimento cheese sandwich.

“We’ll hop into his old pickup truck, drive into Leipers Fork [outside of Nashville] for fried pimento cheese sandwiches,” Powell told People. “There’s a hit song in every fried pimento cheese sandwich!”

9. He has two major — and unrelated — pet peeves.

Urban might be super-famous, but he still appreciates good manners — and apparently does his laundry as well.

“People who don’t look you in the eye when they shake your hand and leave lint in the lint filter of a dryer,” Urban said of the two things that bug him the most.

10. His former drug and alcohol addiction almost cost him his life.

Urban went to rehab three different times to control his addiction, with the final time — shortly after he married Kidman — the time that finally stuck.

“I had plenty of stuff,” Urban told Rolling Stone. “I didn’t seem able to stop. There was no stopping this time. I’d go to sleep, wake up a couple of hours later, go at it again, drinking to take the edge off. I remember thinking, ‘I’m probably not going to make it until tomorrow.’ And then I thought, ‘F––– it. I really don’t care. It’ll be a relief to not have to. I’ll take an Ambien and at some point I’ll pass.’ I was taking everything. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, good, this is the end of it, yahoo.’ I was quite happy about it.”

11. He wanted to be a radio DJ, but was fired from his first job.

It’s true! Urban originally thought he wanted to work as a radio DJ, but was quickly fired when he made a major mistake on-air.

“I put on the music, and I couldn’t hear it, and I flipped this button. “Next thing, I see this guy running,” Urban recalled during the annual Country Radio Seminar in 2017 (via Taste of Country). “What happened was, in the next room there was a very serious news report being read, and right in the middle of the news report, it goes [singing the opening line], ‘Just a good old boy ….'”