NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Worried he might lose some of his singing ability, Keith Urban actually emerged from his surgery to remove a polyp and a nodule from his vocal cords with benefits he never imagined.
"I think if a footballer in their 40s was given their knees back like they were in their early 20s, that's kind of how I feel right now," Urban said. "It's an extraordinary feeling of freedom."
Thousands of fans will get to hear the results for themselves when the Australian country music star takes the stage during the All For The Hall benefit Tuesday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. It's one of the handful of times Urban has sung in public since his surgery late last year.
Urban says he had issues with his vocal cords for years, but they were never serious enough to address. When a polyp developed, though, he began to have troubles with his voice. He had to push hard to reach the notes he used to hit even just a few years ago and he began to lose his falsetto, a key ingredient in his best songs.
All that changed almost immediately after the surgery and Urban has been working with a vocal coach to strengthen his voice. He recently performed a 90-minute set at the Houston Rodeo, putting himself through a successful workout that showed no ill effects from the surgery.
"I don't have to push the pedal down to 70 mph to reach those notes anymore," Urban said.
The surgery also freed Urban in other ways. He found that his songwriting changed with his voice and he began imposing limits, something no writer wants to do. For instance, on his last album "Get Closer" he eliminated those falsetto hooks at the ends of choruses that drive his fans crazy.
"I already feel that this next album, the thrust and the pull as a songwriter is to talk more about some of my stories, personal stories, beyond my relationship with my wife (actress Nicole Kidman) and subjects that I've never really tapped into that much," Urban said. "So I think getting my voice back has sort of been a metaphor for finding my voice more so as well as an artist, broadening it, really, to the things that I want to write about and I feel ready to write about that I guess I haven't in recent years. "
This year's benefit, which features Vince Gill sharing musical director duties with Urban, sold out in a day. The theme for the fundraiser for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is duos, vocal groups and bands and will include Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert's Pistol Annies, Alabama, Alison Krauss and Union Station, The Band Perry, Little Big Town and others.
Urban also coyly promised a couple of surprise guests who don't fit the theme.
"I don't think anyone will mind these solo artists though," he said with a laugh.