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By Suzanne

Keith Urban

Interview with Keith Urban of "American Idol" on FOX 4/2/14

Final Transcript
FBC PUBLICITY: The American Idol Conference Call with Keith Urban
April 2, 2014/11:30 a.m. PDT

Kristen Osborne
Keith Urban


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 audition songs.

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 theme tonight?

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 song.

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 time.

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 why not?

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.

Hunter Thanks.

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 singing?

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 from her.

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 now on?

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 enjoy watching.

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!

Keith Hi.

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 contestant.

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 far?

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 week.

MJ Thanks, Keith.

Keith Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. And Mr. Urban, did you have any closing remarks?

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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