Playing with Keith Urban

What can I say?! What an incredible experience. Keith Urban is as phenomenal as everyone says he is, both as a musician and as an individual. In fact, I can say the same for his whole team and everyone I met involved with the Raise Em Up tour!

When I got to the venue around 2pm, we found our way to the backstage area where my mom (as my biggest supporter, she will forever be my plus one for as long as she can stand it) and I were greeted by KU’s team. Everyone I met was gracious and accommodating and I actually saw a familiar face, KU’s assistant tour manager Dave, whom I met a couple years ago when I lived in Nashville. We had sound check at 3:30pm which was what I was most nervous for. I met Dustin, who was in charge of my in ear monitors and microphone, and then it was time to run through “We Were Us” with the full band. When I first walked on stage, Keith and his band were so friendly, I was immediately put at ease. I’ve played on many stages up to this point in my life but nothing like the set up at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. It goes without saying that the sound would blow anyone away who hasn’t performed on a stage like that before.

Hearing the song start was overwhelming…. in a good way. The flood of sound was staggering. It went by so fast but I listened to everything. That kick drum is really something else when you hear it at a venue like the Verizon Amphitheater. The bass (played by the wonderful Jerry Flowers) traveled and echoed across the empty seats that would soon be filled with the most high energy, kick ass country music fans in this amazing Orange County venue. Of course, Keith’s guitar shredding was another incredible treat to be standing less than five feet away from. After the last note rang out, I wondered if my smile looked as big to the band as it felt on my face. The phrase “smiling ear to ear” doesn’t even do it justice. Keith expressed his excitement for the show and we chatted briefly before he asked who I brought as my guest. We walked over to where my mom was standing, proud as ever, and Keith gave her a big hug. My mom and I headed back to the dressing room so they could go through the rest of their sound check and set up before the show started.

The next few hours would be the tedious ones. Just waiting for the time when everyone would find their seats and my friends would stop by so I could get some hugs in and gush about sound check (haha). I spent a majority of the time backstage although Live Nation hooked us up with great tickets in the “pit”… it just wasn’t the most ideal spot for my mom to watch the concert  Brett Eldredge was a great opening artist and I enjoyed watching his performance from the side stage. Jerrod Neimann kept the crowd excited and I was able to send video from his performance of “Donkey” to one of the songs co-writers I know from Nashville.

The build up before singing “We Were Us” was quite a rush. I was given a set list earlier in the afternoon so I knew when to come back to be ready. Although I wanted to see most of Keith’s performance, I watched “Long Hot Summer” and then retreated to the dressing room to go over the song in my mind 50 more times. I didn’t feel as nervous as I initially felt when I did sound check but there was still a chance of messing up that I really didn’t want to do in front of an audience that large. I mean, I had heard the song on the radio a handful of times but only sang along with the chorus. I was notified of the “We Were Us” contest on that Tuesday, did the video to send into Live Nation that Wednesday and was notified I would be singing with Keith on Thursday afternoon… the day before the concert. So I really only had two days to learn the song!

So the pressure was on… I was over-thinking things quite a bit as Dustin handed me the microphone and helped with my in-ears but as I watched the crowd and the energy on stage, I suddenly felt confident. Keith took some time to talk about the contest then invited me on stage. It was crazy walking out onto that stage again but this time the amphitheater was filled completely. The crazy thing about this venue is looking up… it’s fairly wide but it seemed endless looking up all the way to the lawn seats. What. A. Trip.

It was really great talking before the song as I got the opportunity to share that Billy Alexander, my good friend, fellow songwriter and the guitarist in my submission video, was in the audience! Keith is really quick and funny. It was a great way to laugh and kick off some of the nerves I still had before singing. Like I had previously said, Keith and his band are so friendly, it’s easy to feel comfortable in that atmosphere when you know they’re there to support you and put on a great show. The song began and it was everything I hoped it would be. Thoughts of messing up vanished after I sang the first couple lines and I was so elated to feel so ‘at home’. Watching the crowd was incredible. Everyone I could make eye contact with was singing along, smiling… I felt like it was one big amazing party. Haha Finishing the song was bittersweet. I wanted to stay up for more!

Exiting the stage, I felt like I was riding on a cloud. It was one of those moments where you ask yourself if that really just happened. I was proud. I’ve never been in front of an audience that huge but it made me realize just how much I love being on stage.

It’s easy to succumb to the voices inside us that create so much self-doubt. The ones that say we’re not good enough or we’re absolutely going to mess it all up. It’s so important to breathe and accept that we’re all human. Even if I did mess up or make a mistake, that’s what life is all about. We’re not perfect. It’s about being in the moment, being positive and patting yourself on the back for doing something some people would be absolutely terrified to do. We all have to reach outside our comfort zone and take on a challenge because in the end it helps us grow. It helps us teach others and provides strength for the NEXT challenge.

I will be forever grateful to Keith Urban, his management, the crew, Live Nation, Go Country 105 and everyone else who was involved in such an amazing opportunity. Life is so short and it’s about doing what you love. Don’t be afraid to try. This industry is rough, I’m sure every successful artist can tell you they’ve felt at times like giving up…….

Never give up.
Stevi Madison

Stevi MadisonComment