Keith Urban on weathering Nashville's flood of 2010
Keith Urban was scheduled to start recording his new album, “Get Closer,” in Nashville on May 5. So, three days before that, he had all his most prized guitars, which he kept at home, moved to the same storage facility where he kept his backup instruments, amplifiers and other gear.
He, his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, and their daughter, Sunday Rose, were in Hawaii, where Kidman was shooting a film, when the torrential storms hit Nashville on May 3 and left the Soundcheck Nashville storage warehouse used by Urban and hundreds of other musicians under several feet of water for nearly a week.
One of the guitars severely damaged was his “Shattered Mirror” Telecaster, custom-made for him at the Fender Custom Shop in Corona by senior master guitar builder Yuriy Shishkov -- a guitar I’d seen in its embryonic stage on Shishkov’s work bench when I visited him at the shop a few years ago.
“I felt like I’d drowned the 'Mona Lisa' -- for Yuriy, at least,” Urban said. “He put so much time into that guitar. But it just swelled up, all the mirrors broke, the neck got all warped. It’s the unfortunate reality of new wood. It’s still very porous, absorbent, it sucked in lots and lots of water. But the 50-year-old Fenders and Gibsons fared fantastic."
Urban took the losses philosophically, but that didn't mean it was an easy experience.
“It was a very weird grieving process,” he said, “because I didn’t know if everything was gone, or if some of it was gone; if the water was up two inches, or five feet. I had weird dreams on the Monday and Tuesday night, imagining that none of it was underwater and that we were going to be fine.”
The equipment, however, wasn't.
But rather than delay starting on the new album, Urban went to work using borrowed, rented or newly acquired instruments, a decision that required a new perspective that he decided to embrace rather than fight.
“I bought a few guitars off EBay, and occasionally we’d have the UPS guys arrive at the studio with a package,” he said. “We’d get the guitar out, string it up, tune it up, plug it in, and off we’d go. I just took to the whole reality of the situation and thought, ‘All right, well, let’s make a record.’ ”
-- Randy Lewis
Photo of Keith Urban with the "Shattered Mirror" Fender Telecaster. Credit: Fender.com