By CHRIS TALBOTT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Keith Urban is no different than the rest of us: He has no idea what’s going on with “American Idol.”
“I have no official information of anything,” the 45-year-old country singer-guitarist said. “I’m pretty much in the same boat as everybody else here with the rumors that have been floating around. I don’t know anything more about what’s happening next season. It was like this before I signed on … so it’s not unusual for the ‘Idol’ folks to be in this place of figuring out what they want to do, then they always pull it together.”
Urban’s got plenty to distract him while he waits. The Australian country music star has set a Sept. 10 release date for his new album, “Fuse,” and that means he’s got to finish it.
Urban thinks he’s got a few months of work left to do on the follow-up to 2010’s “Get Closer,” but leaves on tour in mid-July and hasn’t left himself much of a cushion.
These things usually don’t take so long, but Urban is using a new approach with “Fuse.” He is branching out from his longtime partnership with producer Dann Huff. While Huff is still onboard on a handful of songs, Urban signed up Jay Joyce, known best in country music for his work with Eric Church and Little Big Town, and Taylor Swift collaborator Nathan Chapman. He’s also enlisted rocker Butch Walker.
Urban went to their studios, used their engineers and players, and tried to expand and infuse his sound with their energy. He released the first single, the Chapman-produced “Little Bit of Everything,” on May 13, and country radio responded positively.
“It’s just been really creatively liberating to me,” Urban said. “I love collaborating. It’s the thing I’ve always loved doing, whether it’s writing or performing or being in the studio, I love the collaborative process. I think finding people’s strengths is the thing I love the most.”
That sensation is what would bring him back to “Idol,” if asked. It’s one that sustained him through a difficult season that culminated with the Fox singing contest’s lowest ratings and the departures of original judge Randy Jackson and lightning rod Nicki Minaj.
“I did as much as I could in the environment we had,” Urban said of the judges. Yet he was able to find some satisfaction working with the contestants: “I love artists. I love the beginnings of artists when all they’ve got is raw talent and nothing else. They’ve got no star power, just nothing going on but just this raw talent that’s just beautiful to see, and you look at them and just go, ‘All you’re needing is life experience … because you’ve got everything else ready to go.’”