New York (AFP) - Keith Urban led nominations in the Academy of Country Music Awards on Thursday after releasing an experimental album that featured the rapper Pitbull.
The country music veteran was nominated for seven awards, including in the top categories of Album of the Year and Entertainer of the Year. Winners will be announced April 2 at a gala in Las Vegas.
"Ripcord," his latest album, veers outside country formulas with the song "Sun Don't Let Me Down," featuring Pitbull as well as guitar by Nile Rodgers of Chic fame.
Urban said he approached Pitbull about the song after hearing the Cuban-American rapper on the radio.
"On that particular day, I heard his voice and I was like, 'Oh my gosh. That is the voice that needs to be on 'Sun Don't Let Me Down,''" Urban told the site Taste of Country.
Urban -- who was born in New Zealand, raised in Australia and now lives in the United States -- is best known outside the country music world as the husband of Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman.
Another top name in country music, Miranda Lambert, was tied for six nominations with newcomer Maren Morris.
Morris was also nominated as Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards amid the popularity of "My Church," a pop-tinged country song that likens cruising to the radio to a religious experience.
The Academy of Country Music Awards are one of two top honors in the genre along with the Country Music Association Awards.