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Interview with Keith Urban of "American
FBC PUBLICITY: The American Idol Conference Call with Keith
April 2, 2014/11:30 a.m. PDT
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by,
and welcome to the American Idol interview call with Keith
Urban. (Operator instructions) This conference is being
recorded. I will now turn the conference over to Kristen
Osborne for opening remarks. Please go ahead.
Kristen Thank you, everyone, for joining us for the American
Idol conference call today. We are very, very happy to have
with us judge Keith Urban to answer your Idol related
questions. As a reminder, American Idol airs tonight at 8/7
central on Fox with contestants singing their very first
At this time, I would like to turn the call over to Keith
and we will begin taking questions.
Keith Thanks, Kristen. Hi, everybody!
Moderator Our first question comes from Lisa Iannucci with
REELLIFEWITHJANE.COM, go ahead please.
Lisa Hey, Keith!
Keith Hey, Lisa, how are you?
Lisa Iím good, how are you?
Keith Good, thank you.
Lisa I wanted to ask you about the country music being
represented in the show. I mean, I have been watching since
Season One and, of course we had Carrie and we had Scott
McCreery, who has been kind of like a mild success story,
but you know this year you have a lot more country music
being represented, not only in the talent, but in the songs
that are being chosen. Is that like a conscious effort? I
mean, your being a judge too and country music, talk to me
about how it is being represented and if you are happy with
the talent thatís there this year.
Keith Well, I think country has always been fairly well
represented. I think it might be a little more prominent
now. I donít know if thatís because Iím there or what it is.
Last year was good with that too, and this year I like that
weíve got diversity in the country area this year because
youíve got somebody like C.J. who can fit into that genre.
Youíve got someone like Jessica that can fit in that genre.
And I like the diversity that weíve got. I also think that
Idol has always played very, very well in those places,
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.
Lisa Definitely. Do you remember your first audition song
since theyíre doing that tonight?
Keith Do I remember what, sorry?
Lisa Your first audition song, since they are doing that
Keith Oh, I didnít have to sing for my job on Idol. My first
audition song Ė I donít know where that wouldíve been. I
donít know if Iíve ever had to sing an audition song.
Certainly, I did a few of these shows when I was very young
in Australia. I think when I was nine was the first time I
went on, and I think I did a song called, I think I did a
song called ďLights on the HillĒ which is a country song by
Slim Dusty, and that probably would be my first audition
Lisa Great! Thank you so much!
Moderator Thank you, weíll go next to Paulette Cohn with
Paulette Good Morning, Keith.
Keith Good Morning!
Paulette I just recently read in a People magazine article
that you did that you are now bringing your kids to the set
occasionally with you. I was wondering, what kind of music
do they really like?
Keith Well, they love ďLet It GoĒ, of course by Frozen,
right now thatís the number one song, but they like all
sorts of stuff. They tend to just sing to whatever is on the
radio. We play the radio a lot in the car and they respond
to different things, but up-tempo things they particularly
love, both of them. Sunday is 5 Ĺ and Faith is 3, so you
never know what they are going to be cranking in their room.
They have an iPod in their room that they play a lot, so I
love that there is music coming from their bedroom all the
Paulette When you watch the contestants on the show, because
of your background in country, do you find that you have a
preference for them or are you able to be objective and look
at all the different types of musical contestants equally?
Keith Oh, absolutely equally! I just respond to feeling.
Itís not even about genre; itís got nothing to do with
genre. Itís 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 doesnít really fit any particular genre, but I
am just going to react and respond to how it makes me feel.
Paulette Thank you.
Moderator Thank you, our next question is from Valerie Nome
with OK magazine.
Valerie Hi Keith! Who do you think is the front runner this
season and why?
Keith Iíve got asked that question at the end of the show
last Thursday night and I truly canít say, I donít really
know at this stage. I donít have a personal front runner
because weíve already seen, for me, the surprise of who ends
up in the bottom three each week and itís not really been
consistent. So I think what I am liking about this season is
Americaís responding to the performances from night to
night. It doesnít seem like there is such an intense fan
club for any particular artist where those will override the
performance and I like that. I think thatís what makes the
show interesting for me from week to week right now, is
anybody can be the front runner. So itís going to be
interesting to see whoís in the top three, let alone, one
and two. I really donít know who that will be.
Valerie Would you let your kids go into showbiz, and why or
Keith Absolutely! If they are willing to work for it, if
they have an aptitude towards it and a real desire to work
towards really anything, whatever they have a passion for,
they just need to work at it. Thatís the big thing that I
find constantly with Idol even, is that itís not just about
having the talent, itís about having the passion for it.
Valerie And do they seem to have a passion for showbiz,
singing or anything at this point?
Keith I donít know about that, I mean, Sunday is only 5 Ĺ
so, they both sing and dance a little bit around the house.
But who knows, I mean they might go into acting-thereís a
little bit of that in our house. Thereís a little bit of
music in our house Ė who knows where they will go.
Valerie Thank you!
Moderator Thank you, we will go next to Hunter Kelly with
ABC News Radio.
Hunter Keith, how are you doing?
Keith Hunter, I am good. Good to talk to you.
Hunter I just wanted to ask about the contestants making the
transition to the big stage, have you seen any challenges
with that this year on their part?
Keith Definitely. I think itís one of those places where you
can be very, very young, 15, 16, 17, and have a great voice,
be a great singer, have a good look, be everything like
that, but if you donít have any experience in front of an
audience, it can really throw you and I think we have seen
that a little bit this year. I notice even from rehearsal to
the show that night, itís a particular thing to be able to
perform in front of an audience with the energy and the
cameras on and all that sort of stuff.
Itís been an interesting group, because now I am watching a
lot of them really rise to that. I think the very first show
threw a lot of them, and then the second week got a little
easier for them and I think most of them are in their groove
now and we are seeing that consistency starting to rise.
Hunter As far as the elimination so far, MK and Majesty, do
you think it was their time to go or would you have liked to
have seen them around a little bit longer?
Keith Itís tricky because on one hand, if we donít use the
save, everybody boos us, but you could really answer it also
by saying we agree with America, because thatís why theyíre
singing because they are at the bottom based on everybodyís
votes. I think so far, the three of us havenít agreed across
the board on saving somebody, so in a couple of cases, at
least one of us wouldíve wanted to save that person, but I
think we are really coming down to the wire now, so this
week or next, it will be interesting to see who we have to
use our save for.
Moderator Thank you, our next question is from Allison
Bonaguro with CMT. Go ahead please.
Allison Thank you, Hi Keith!
Keith Hi Allison!
Allison Ok. So tonight, I have been following Dexter Roberts
obviously because I write about country music, so tonight
Dexter is going to do the Casey James ďI Like to DriveĒ and
I think Dexter has made really good song choices all season,
so can you just talk about how much song choice matters when
it gets down to the bitter end like this.
Keith Song choice matters a lot for some more than others. I
mean, I think there are some artists in this group who can
sing most things, and I think their vocal and their artistry
comes through no matter what they are singing. But I think
other ones really have to pick their songs carefully to play
to their strengths. I think we saw that with Ben Briley
choosing a song that didnít quite fit who he was and what he
was doing. So itís tricky, because I know it can seem
contradictory that we ask for everybody to show us something
different, but you also have to know how to be different and
still remain yourself, you know, itís not just different for
different sakes. Itís showing another side of you; not just
this complete other thing thatís got nothing to do with who
you are, so I think song choice is particularly crucial
especially as we go into these last eight weeks.
Allison Right, right. And we are getting so close to the
end, so when you look at all the winners who have come
before, is there anything, like, when you think about what
will happen on May 22nd when itís all over and thereís a
winner, if you were going to give that person advice on how
to move forward, because the post-Idol success is not always
at the Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson level. So what
advice would you give the winner?
Keith For me, itís the same advice across the board. Itís
the same advice for the person who came 8th. You know, itís
the person who goes home tonight. Itís all the same advice
which is itís what you do with this going forward now thatís
going to make it either work or not work, because winning
Idol doesnít automatically catapult you into the
stratosphere. You have to then set about finding the songs
and making a record, then youíve got to go out and do all
the interviews. Youíve got to be able to do all the work. It
can get you to the front of the line a little quicker, but
it doesnít mean that itís going to happen right away.
It has been interesting with this show that over the years
weíve seen just as much success come from the non-winners as
the winners. So I think thatís also testament to the people
that that judges have chosen over the years, obviously the
Chris Daughtryís and the Adam Lambertís and the Jennifer
Hudsonís, etc. who have gone on to have exceptional careers,
so itís really what you make of it after the fact.
Allison Perfect! Thank you so much.
Keith Thank you.
Moderator Thank you, our next question is from Karen Robins
with Broadway World TV.
Keith Hi Karen!
Karen Hi Keith, how are you?
Keith Good thank you.
Karen I was wondering if you think this yearís more open
ended themes have had an impact on performances as opposed
to past seasons.
Keith I think that at the end of the day, youíve still got
to choose the right song and no matter what the themes are,
each one of these guys and girls has to figure out how to
choose something within the theme that still works for them
and plays to their strengths. Some can do that better than
others. I think that is what we have seen.
Karen And do you feel that now that you are sitting on the
panel with Harry Connick and Jennifer Lopez, has that
changed your own approach to judging in any way?
Keith Not at all, no. I mean, I respond to what I feel, what
I see. I donít overthink it. I respond to something. The
only time for me it gets sort of into the thought is like if
I can then pinpoint what it is that I am missing in this
performance and how they might be able to fix it. I mean in
some cases youíve got people that just hit a wall, you can
just see theyíve hit a wall where they now need to go and
live life. And they need to keep either writing songs or
they need to keep performing live; they need to do
something, but now they just need all the experience. And I
find that there is not a lot of advice that you can give
other than youíve just got to get out there and live life
and itís just going to take some time now.
I think that is what happened to Majesty last week, is that
we felt like we were starting to see the same thing. And
sheís got and extraordinary talent, she really is gifted,
but she now needs life. She just needs to get out there and
really define who she is and find herself as an artist.
Karen Okay, thank you so much.
Keith Thank you.
Moderator Thank you, our next question is from Becca Walls
with Envision Radio.
Becca Hi, Keith, how are you?
Keith Good, Becca.
Becca I wanted to know, switching gears a little bit, your,
[indiscernible] tickets go on sale this Friday, can you talk
about this yearís theme and concept storytellers and how
that came about or who helped in selecting that and the
people that you chose to be a part of this.
Keith Yeah, 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. But also it
helps me figure out a guest list, if you will, because every
year my dream list is way too big for what we can actually
take on the night, so trimming it down is always difficult.
So 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 isnít just about song
writers telling the story, this is artists like say Reba
McEntire or somebody like that that doesnít write songs, and
weíve never really heard much about why she chooses certain
songs, why did she record a certain song. Maybe she had to
fight some other artist to record it, I mean I think there
is a lot of cool stories about why artists cut songs, why
they record them, why they choose them, what the songs mean
to them. So this year was just an opportunity for the
audiences to hear some of these stories behind the songs.
Becca And on a different note, we have heard you talk a
little bit about your upcoming Raise Ďem up Tour and it
sounds to me like things are pretty wide open when it comes
to you being able to choose a set list because youíve
mentioned album cuts and obscure tracks, so talk about the
challenge of putting together this set list and what are you
using as sort of a guide to decide which of those songs are
going to make it.
Keith I mean, I find the biggest challenge is the same one
each year. Thank God itís a beautiful problem, is that there
is x-amount of songs that people want to hear but weíve only
got, you know, a couple of hours to play within, you know 2
or 3 hours whatever it is. What I am trying to figure out is
which of the songs people would be really, really upset if
we didnít 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. So thatís
what I am in the midst of right now, is figuring out which
of the older songs do we absolutely, positively have to have
in there regardless, and then from there, threading in some
sort of obscure ones and certainly a lot of songs off Fuse.
I mean so far, I think the set list is going to feature a
good chunk of songs off of Fuse simply because of the
feedback I have been getting from a lot of people on songs
on that record they want to hear.
Moderator Thank you, and next we will go to Jerry Mumm with
the Windy City Times. Go ahead please.
Jerry Hi, Keith, hey how are you?
Keith Good thank you.
Jerry So I wanted to see your opinion on MK and her story
is, because she is the first LGBT contestant, you know been
in the competition before, you know while they are in the
competition. So what did you think of her and what do you
think of her story and is the story more important than
Keith Well I mean the story is beautiful and itís very
inspiring. I think she is, as far as a singer, she has a
really beautiful voice and I think where MK hit a wall with
the show was simply in regards to the performance and the
fact that it is a visual medium too, itís not just audible.
And some sort of visual way of performing is really
important. It doesnít mean running around the stage, it just
means performing in such a way that it sort of like goes
through the camera and connects with people. I think she is
obviously going to keep working on this because she is
really, really gifted, so I will be interested to hear more
Jerry Great! Well I hope you will be coming to Chicago on
this tour because we would love to see you and we would love
to see you perform.
Keith I hope so too. I know we are putting all that together
right now but I hope we get to come back.
Jerry Great. Thanks so much!
Keith Thank you.
Moderator Thank you, and next we have Alisa Shulman with US
Weekly. Go ahead please.
Alisa Hi, Keith!
Keith Hi, Alisa!
Alisa Your wife recently told Jimmy Kimmel that you started
teaching Faith to play the guitar. I was wondering how her
lessons are going and if you critique her like you do the
Idols or if you are easier on her since she is so young.
Keith I donít know if I really am teaching her to play
guitar, but she can sort of mimic a little bit of what I am
doing strumming-wise. Thatís really what I am trying to
teach her, sheís only 3. But what I love is how she
gravitates towards the guitar. Sheís got a little pink
guitar, she will go get it and hold it and she sits with it
right, and she strums with it right, and I hope she keeps
going with that because it does seem to be something that
she reaches for.
Moderator Next we will go to Susan Yager with Entertainment
News. Go ahead please.
Susan Hey, Keith, thanks for talking with us.
Keith Thank you.
Susan I wanted to backtrack a little bit and ask you, when
Idol approached you about being a judge, what did you
consider as the pros and cons and what was the most
important thing you wanted to give to the contestants?
Keith Well I mean, the most important thing I wanted to be
able to do was help them, because a lot of the times I see
artists struggling with something that is very simple to fix
and Harryís the same. In my case, itís things that Iíve had
to figure out how to do, how to perform properly, how to
choose songs properly, just a myriad of things and I think a
lot of that can be taught. You have to have an intrinsic
talent to start with, you really just do have to have a sort
of a gift and then hopefully the work ethic that goes with
that is crucial. If you are interested in growing and
learning and listening, then I think a show like this
particularly can be extremely helpful.
I love that part of it more than anything and then watching
it from week to week to see if theyíre listening to some of
the advice that works for them, because itís not about just
listening to every piece of advice. Itís about listening and
registering the ones that feel right and discarding the
rest, because itís not all truth, itís not all accurate for
each person. Weíve all got our opinions of what they should
be doing, but theyíre an artist and theyíve got to decipher
what that is. But I love watching from week to week seeing
that growth. Itís really extraordinary.
Susan Well itís really funny because my followup question
was what skills do you think theyíre taking away from this
experience, but given that you know the recording process,
you know the live process, what do think is maybe the single
most important skill that they can apply to their music from
Keith I donít know if thatís a blanket sort of piece of
advice. I think itís always different for each person and
everybodyís in different places on their artistic journey.
And itís a contradiction in terms too, because we can be
offering all this advice, but they also have individualism
and originality about them, which can defy every single
thing we are saying. They could go against every single
thing and create something extraordinary. So, you know,
thatís the beauty of art, thereís no rules to it. Thereís
just the creation of the art and then thereís the response
from it. And thatís the only thing thatís true, is how
people respond to it.
Susan Right. Well you guys have done a great job. We really
Keith Well I love doing it so thank you.
Susan Great, thank you!
Kristen Ladies and gentlemen, we have time for one more
quick question, thank you.
Moderator Thank you, that will come from MJ Santilli with
MJS Big Blog.
MJ Hi, Keith!
MJ I was wondering about the save and youíve had to
deliberate on several contestants so far, and I was
wondering what your personal criteria is for using it on a
Keith Well thereís a lot of them really. One of them is do
we think this artist is growing and this was just a
particularly ill-chosen song or an unfortunate performance
and theyíre much better than that. In which case, we feel
like there is much more to them yet to be seen, we should
save them, we think we think the audience will like them
next week if they get the right song.
I mean, the other one is that other people left in the group
who weíre worried might end up being in that bottom and
weíll have to save them. So part of that factors into that
too, and thereís just that reality of the person performing
and if they just do an absolutely, knock it out of the park
performance, weíre all going to deliberate really quick and
probably change our minds and I think itís a little bit of
what was happening last week with Majesty. We really
couldnít decide on that, so I am looking forward to us
hitting a unanimous decision before too long.
MJ Also what do you make of only one guy being voted off so
Keith I donít know what to make of it, I mean, itís just the
way people are voting. Everybodyís performing and
everybodyís responding and voting accordingly, so what I
find interesting more so is the fact that nobody seems
immune to being in the bottom three. I mean youíve got
somebody like Sam that seems to have an absolute army of
devoted female fans and yet he can end up in the bottom
three as well if he does a sort of subpar performance. That
part has been interesting to watch this year from week to
MJ Thanks, Keith.
Keith Thank you.
Moderator Thank you. And Mr. Urban, did you have any closing
Keith No, but thank you, everybody, for phoning in and for
having this chat this morning. I appreciate it.
Moderator Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, that does
conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your
participation and choosing ATT Executive Teleconference. You
may now disconnect.
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