Keith Urban is in the midst of his second season as judge on FOX's "American Idol." The Capitol Nashville recording artist took time out of his busy schedule last week to participate in a teleconference to discuss the show – as well as plans for his upcoming tour.
As one of the marquee artists in the country format, the question was posed to Urban about the representation of the format on the show. He said "I think country has always been fairly well represented. I think it might be a little more prominent now. I don't know if that's because I'm there or what it is. Last year was good with that too, and this year I like that we've got diversity in the country area this year because you've got somebody like C.J. or Jessica who can fit into that genre. I like the diversity that we've got. I also think that Idol has always played very, very well in those places, the Midwest and the sort of rural states that have huge country audiences, so I am really grateful to be on the panel because of that, and hopefully we can discover some exceptional country talent this year too."
But, he was quick to point out that he didn't necessarily feel that his voting style had to lean country at all. "I just respond to feeling," he said. "It's not even about genre; it's got nothing to do with genre. It's got everything to do with the sense of believability and authenticity and a feeling. It could be a non-genre. It could be something someone comes in and performs that doesn't really fit any particular genre, but I am just going to react and respond to how it makes me feel."
Does he feel that any of the contestants have taken control of the show as a potential front-runner?
"I don't have a personal front-runner because we've already seen, for me, the surprise of who ends up in the bottom three next week, and it's not really been consistent. So, I think what I am liking about this season is America's responding to the performances from night to night. It doesn't seem like there is an intense fan club for any particular artist where those will override the performance, and I like that. I think that's what makes the show interesting for me from week to week right now – is that anybody can be the front runner. So, it's going to be interesting to see who's in the top three, let alone one or two. I really don't know who that will be."
In other Urban news, the singer is gearing up for his annual "All For The Hall" benefit concert for the Country Music Hall of Fame. Held on May 6 in Nashville, this year's show features Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire, and Ronnie Milsap, among others. Urban said that he tries to make sure that no "Hall" concert is the same. "This will be the 5th year that we have done it and I look for a different theme every year. There are a lot of reasons for that- one is just so that there is something different every year for the audiences coming. This year I came up with the idea for song tellers and it was really just a way for the audiences to get to hear some stories about the songs, because this isn't just about song writers telling the story, this is artists like say Reba McEntire or somebody like that that doesn't write songs, and we've never really heard much about why she chooses certain songs, why did she record a certain song...So this year was just an opportunity for the audiences to hear some of these stories behind the songs."
After "Idol" wraps, Urban will hit the road for his "Raise ‘Em Up" tour. He's in the process of planning that now. "I find the biggest challenge is the same one each year...There is x-amount of songs that people want to hear but we've only got, you know, a couple of hours to play..What I am trying to figure out is which of the songs people would be really, really upset if we didn't do and which of the ones that people who have seen us over and over again would be happy to leave out of the set list and instead replace with something new. I think the set list is going to feature a good chunk of songs off of (current disc) Fuse simply because of the feedback I have been getting from a lot of people on songs on that record they want to hear."