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BWW Interviews: AMERICAN IDOL's Keith Urban Talks Season 12!

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Related: AMERICAN IDOL, FOX, Reality TV

Country music star Keith Urban has joined the judge's panel on the current season of FOX's AMERICAN IDOL. The four-time Grammy Award winner has also won a People's Choice and American Music Award, five Academy of Country Music Awards and has had 14 No. 1 songs, including 28 Top 5 hits. In 2012, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. His latest CD, "Get Closer," comes on the heels of his fifth consecutive platinum or multi-platinum release. It has produced three consecutive No. 1 singles: "You Gonna Fly," "Long Hot Summer" and "Without You." His electrifying concerts have played to sold-out venues in Australia, Germany, England, Canada and the United States, all while receiving high praise from critics.

Urban recently spoke about his American Idol experience thus far and shared who he believes has the greatest chance to nab this year's prize.

Now that the show is in Las Vegas is it harder to be unbiased and not be emotionally invested in the singers?

I don't feel it's any harder. Certainly the audience's reaction to our critiquing or opinions makes for a different kind of energy in the room, but for me I'm just trying to stay in The Moment and just really give my gut reaction, the way a performance hit me. I'm just trying to stay on track with that and give them the best advice I can possible give them and hopefully they get to go through to the next round.

What's it's like to watch the singers find their confidence?

It's tremendous. I never forget the environment they're working in too. That's an extraordinary thing, particularly when you're young, 18 or whatever, and you're standing there in front of us, in front of all about 1,700 people that were in the theater last night and countless millions watching at home, and there you are, right in front of it, but you've got limited time to do your thing. So I have tremendous amount empathy for the environment that they're working in as well and I do take that into account.

Did you and Nicki know each other at all before this and was there a bonding moment where you realized that you were going to really get along?

I'd never met Nicki before the show. We flew up to New York the night before the very first day of shooting and we all went to dinner, Ryan, and Nicki and Mariah and myself, Randy. We all went out and that's the first time I got to meet certainly Mariah and Nicki. I'd met Ryan and Randy before.

But the very next day when we got into shooting what I really liked about Nicki was just her straight shooting directism. For me, growing up in Australia I like being around people that are just absolutely raw and straight and tell it like it is. So I just kind of clicked with Nicki right from the get go.

Why do you think that so far the Girls have shown so much more strength and versatility than the boys?

I think you're right. All I can say is at least from what we just saw last night it's absolutely a girl's year to win, in my opinion. That's not to say the guys aren't strong because they really are. Its really more a testament to how strong the Girls are this year.

I want to see the emergence of great artistry, male, female, it doesn't really matter, but definitely the Girls are stronger. I don't know why that is. It's just one of those things. We saw probably over 270 people all up to get it down to where we are today and the Girls were just incredibly strong this year.

Do you think that having Mariah and Nicki on the panel has had any effect on that?

I certainly think having somebody like particularly Mariah-Inarguably one of the world's great vocalists period. This is a global vocal powerhouse and any girl, I think, would love the opportunity to sing for Mariah and get feedback from her and get direction from her. I think that's been a real plus for the show to have somebody like her on the panel.

Angela Miller did an original song last week. Do you think an original song gives them more of an advantage when they're performing for you?

It's a good question. First of all, I think obviously the original songs area allowed if you've got something that you feel confident with. Certainly in Angela's case she rightly had the confidence in a song like that. I thought it was superb. Her performance was superb.

I think it really helped her, not just because it showed that she can write, because that's not a prerequisite in my opinion, there are certainly an amount of great artists from Frank Sinatra on down who never wrote songs, but I think to see her confidence singing a song that she wrote was very helpful for her.

For me I like getting to see another side of who they are. Obviously, if they write a song, it speaks a lot about who they are as a person as well as an artist.

You seem to be really Out There when you like somebody. Were you like that in Australia when you did the show?

I'm just like that in life. It's hard. It's the four of us up there and in the case of last night, if needed, we also had Jimmy Iovine to be tiebreaker. So there's any amount of people weighing in. I'm one voce of quite a few and it's particularly hard if there's somebody I really like and I vote for them. All it takes is the other three saying, "No," and they're done. There's nothing I can do. And unfortunately sometimes, in the case of last night too, I might have to be the person who delivers the news to that specific person as well. So that's particularly hard for me because I get connected with these artists and I see something in them that I wish got a chance to shine a bit more next week. It's really disheartening to see them have to go.

Whom do you see as the frontrunners, both from the guys and the girls, going into the Vegas round and was there anyone who got eliminated in the Hollywood round that you were particularly disappointed to see go?

The first part of the question I still think it's too soon to tell only because it's just extraordinary what can happen from week to week, positive and negative. I've watched people emerge sort of unexpectedly.

I mean there were some people singing last night that a few of us are going, "Gosh, where did that come from?" That was an unexpected performance last night. And it can the other way too where someone has a lot of expectation from us and we're like, "Here they go. We love this one. She's fantastic," and then they sing and we're like, "Mmm, didn't quite get there tonight."

So I think it's far too soon to get any sort of front-runner ideas. But I will say, certainly the audience reaction last night to Angela Miller and a couple of other Girls was pretty obvious. I think the original song of Angela's that's been floating around the Internet, that you can find, has really resonated with a lot of people. So that's pretty cool to see.

For the other part, there were a couple of people I was disappointed to see go home. I'm sorry to say that their names are eluding me right now, but there were a couple of people that I thought just needed a little more time, in the right way, because that's a particularly tough week for people.

I think that environment is particularly tough. Having to learn songs in a nanosecond, dance steps in a nanosecond. Being with a group that you didn't choose to be in, etc., etc. It's a really tough process. But at the same time, to see what we saw last night emerge from that, it's very possible to get through that and still be incredibly strong.

Does Janelle Arthur have a special place in your heart because she used a song from the Ranch when she auditioned in Charlotte?

I love the fact that she did that. At the same time I always think it's an extraordinarily bold thing to sing one of our songs, particularly a Mariah Carey song. I'm always just ... that someone will come on and sing a Mariah Carey song in front of Mariah Carey. It's a huge honor. I think there are a few more of my songs popping up, apparently coming down the track. I'm looking forward to hearing that.

You were so nice when she sang that and you've been nice for so long. In Las Vegas you have to be a little bit more critical. How are you going to approach that?

I feel like I've been able to do that when I need to. I think every person handles critiquing differently. I'm trying to sort of get a feel for what I think the artist is comfortable hearing, what they're not going to be comfortable hearing. In most of the cases I'm just trying to think if it's something I can say that isn't-something that's just straight soul crushing and not helpful for them, I just don't see any worth in it.



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Caryn Robbins Caryn Robbins is a features editor for BroadwayWorld, covering TV, film and the best of Broadway theater. Her first musical comedy 'Admissions' recently made its New York premiere at the West Village Musical Theater Festival.



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