• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

'American Idol': Keith Urban on His 'Authentic' Judging Style

Mr. Nicole Kidman says "it's tricky when someone's just murdered a song and everyone knows it."

The Critics’ Choice Awards | Los Angeles, Jan. 14
Christopher Polk/Getty Images for VH1
Keith and Nicole.

As a rookie to the American Idol judges' panel, Keith Urban vows to take a less Simon Cowell-ish approach to evaluating aspiring pop stars.

The Australia-born, Nashville-residing country music star -- who's married to Nicole Kidman, nominated Thursday morning for a Golden Globe -- describes his style as "fair" and "authentic" but also empathetic.

As the season-12 competition was whittling down Hollywood Week contenders, Urban told reporters Wednesday that he credits past experience with helping him to step into contestants' shoes.

STORY: Mariah Carey 'Had Reservations' About Joining Judges' Panel

"I think the fact that when I was 9-10 I did one of these shows in Australia and I was really, really crucified by one of the judges and it was devastating -- and so [I'm] trying not [to] absolutely destroy somebody in front of millions of people," he said, adding that "it's tricky when someone's just murdered a song and everyone knows it."

So what makes a hopeful stand out in his eyes?

"For me it's just the connection," Urban observed. "I just feel a connection, there's something authentic about the way they speak to me and, for me, if there's any emotions present -- the joy, the vulnerability, the insecurity, the uncertainty, the anger, the whatever it is. If I could feel that in them then I'm interested no matter what they do. They could be out of tune but if you feel the genuine emotion and humanity [from] them then I'm interested."

The 12th installment of American Idol returns to Fox Jan. 16 with Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and original judge Randy Jackson at the table. (When asked to describe Urban in a word, perennial host Ryan Seacrest uttered: "Whiskering." Huh?).

As for how he maintains his marriage to Kidman, with whom he has two daughters, Urban said: "It's always keeping in the moment ... prioritize our union and that's what we do."

With reporting by Michele Amabile Angermiller.