Urban tells Billboard that he's "just starting work on the next record. I'm sort of doing the preliminary work of figuring out what the next record is. It's reaching out and talking with people about working with them in the studio, different writers. It's just lots of ideas and tinkering right now." That's a part of the process Urban says he enjoys too: "I sort of like the unknowingness of it. I get in the studio and don't know what we're gonna do, and that can be enlightening and sort of revelatory, or it can be incredibly frustrating."
No timetable has been attached to Urban's new project yet, however. "It depends on who you ask," he says with a laugh. "I would say I would like to not have a timetable, but we do have to have an opening night" for a tour to follow."
To facilitate making the album Urban has a relatively light touring schedule ahead, focusing on festivals -- starting with an April 24 appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival -- and "some sort of sporadic shows here and there." As for "Raise 'Em Up," which was released during late January and written by Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston and Jeffrey Steele, Urban says, "It was a song I got sent. I just thought it would be something Eric would love as well. I've known him a couple of years and I was hoping we could find something to do together, and this was it."
Urban is also busy, of course, on the 14th season of American Idol, his second as a judge. He says that this year "it just feels like a good energy. With Jen [Lopez] and Harry [Connick Jr.] and Ryan (Seacrest) and I, and Scott [Borchetta] on board right now [replacing Randy Jackson as this season's mentor], it feels like there's a clarity and center to everything that's happening, so hopefully it's coming off that way 'cause it's really fun to do."
The Idol crew was in Detroit on Thursday to tape next week's top 24 episodes, the first time the series has taken a viewer-voted performance show on the road (the live March 4-5 top 16 episodes will air live from the Fillmore Detroit). Urban said he thinks the move "is good. I like shaking it up a little bit," and he's also happy about Idol's move to a single weekly show once it returns to Hollywood. "We just roll with it," Urban notes. "I think people want to get the results quicker. I do too, so I'm glad we get to do that."