NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Imagine the rush of singing in front of thousands of fans, then turning around to find Keith Urban and Vince Gill in your band.
That's the experience some of country music's top stars will have at the All For The Hall benefit concert at the Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night. Urban and Gill, as musical directors for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum fundraiser, have merged their bands and are sitting in all night.
"It would be awesome if we could keep it this way forever," Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild said after rehearsals Monday afternoon.
"I don't think we could afford it," bandmate Kimberly Schlapman said. "But it is amazing to be up front singing and turn around and there's Keith Urban and Vince Gill. I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm impressed with myself." Kimberly
"It makes you feel important, doesn't it?" Fairchild asked.
Both Gill and Urban come from band backgrounds and weren't about to pass up the chance to be part of the gang again.
"I love playing," Gill said. "I like being invited to play. I like it when people think enough of my playing to invite me to play. ... You never grow tired of that."
The first two All For The Hall benefits raised about $1 million and this year's installment sold out in a day.
The theme for the fundraiser is duos, vocal groups and bands and the lineup includes Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert's Pistol Annies, Alabama, Alison Krauss and Union Station, The Band Perry and Thompson Square. Urban also said at rehearsals he promises a couple of surprise guests.
"Both titans, definitely," Urban said. "They definitely fit the description of legends and nobody will have an issue with these two guys breaking the criteria this year."
This will be one of his fans' first chances to see Urban perform since vocal surgery late last year to remove a polyp and a nodule from his vocal cords. He's performed a few times and put his voice through a workout with a 90-minute performance recently at the Houston Rodeo.
In a phone interview last week, Urban said he was worried he might lose some of his singing ability. But the Australian country music star actually emerged 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."
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 after the surgery and Urban has been working with a vocal coach to strengthen his voice.
"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."