May 04, 2011 12:00 PM


Lounging on a couch in a home overlooking the San Francisco Bay, Keith Urban is admittedly in dad mode. He’s just relocated to the city while his wife of four years, Nicole Kidman, shoots a movie, and his days are currently filled entertaining his young daughters, 2-year-old Sunday Rose and 2-month-old Faith Margaret, when their mom is called to set. “It can run the gamut of going to the park or playing or sitting at the piano and singing, just anything,” Urban says. Even diaper duty? “Yeah, but it’s not instinctual,” he admits, laughing. “I don’t hold her and say, ‘Why is she crying?’ It will take Nic to go, ‘Oh, I think she needs a change.'”

At age 43, the three-time Grammy winner from Down Under has clearly gone through some successful transformations of his own. Long renowned as one of Nashville’s best guitarists, Urban has also established himself as one of country music’s premiere entertainers. Since breaking onto the country scene in 1999, the disarmingly sexy singer with the soulful swagger and tousled locks has sold more than 10 million albums, racked up 11 No. 1 hits and packed arenas from Canada to Australia.

But even as he gears up for a world tour promoting his latest studio album, Get Closer, he is undeniably most proud of his accomplishments at home, as a devoted husband and father. “I’ve finally just found the right everything,” he says. “The woman I’m supposed to be with and the family that I never really was sure was going to happen. For it to come later in life has been a blessing for me.”

Home for Urban and his family is a 36-acre farm just outside of Nashville where he relishes their world away from the spotlight. “We do normal things like go to the grocery store and movies and take our girl to school in the mornings; it’s really nice,” says the singer, who is frequently spotted at Starbucks or Whole Foods with his girls by his side. “Family is definitely a priority in Nashville. And that fits us perfectly.”

So does a house filled with music. Planning to build a “creative space” in their backyard (“I had a little room on the same level as the girls’ bedrooms, but it’s proved to not be the best place for making noise”), Urban is constantly crooning both to and with his wife and daughters. “Sometimes when Sunny is singing in the car, I’ll be able to harmonize with her,” he says, breaking into a grin. “I have to do it quietly because if she hears me, she’ll go to what I’m singing, but it’s the most amazing feeling harmonizing with your 2-year-old.”

Urban even took Sunday to the studio when he was finishing up his album and introduced her to the microphone. “I put the headphones on her and hit ‘record.’ I said, ‘Say hi’ and she went, ‘Hello?’ And then her little face lit up, you know?” he recalls. “She sang ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ so I have this beautiful, pristine recording of her.” And he’s all too aware such moments can be fleeting. “It just goes so quickly,” he says. “Life’s just too short and before we know it, the girls will be grown and gone.”

Out on his own tour, Urban adheres to a strict Road Rule: don’t be apart from Kidman and their daughters for more than three days at a time. “So I travel a lot back and forth, but I’m happy to do that,” he says. “I’d much rather travel twice as much and know that I’ve seen my family.”

Another key to their successful relationship? “Communication,” Urban says. “And always just complete, total willingness to work at it and do what’s required to keep it balanced.” For the couple, that means spending time together watching TV shows like American Idol and frequent date nights to a nice restaurant or a local comedy club. “Nic prioritizes our marriage and puts it first; she’ll drop anything. And I do the exact same thing,” he explains. “You’ve got to both be in it. Because if you’re not, it’s just not going to work.”

Though he still cringes at old photos of himself (“What was I thinking?”), Urban has a newfound sense of peace when he looks in the mirror now. “On my better days, I just see the spirit,” he says. “Much more so than before.” And looking back, he swears he wouldn’t change a thing for the world. “For me, it’s got to be forward. I heard someone say, ‘Forgiveness is letting go of the idea that you could have had a different past.’ And I love that,” he says. “I love where I am today. I wouldn’t want to upset anything in the path on the way to here.”

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