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Keith Urban Ready to Guide a New Crop of "American Idol" Talent Next Season

Capitol NashvilleKeith Urban is set to return to the American Idol judges' table for the show's upcoming 13th season. He's the only judge coming back from last season. Idol producers have expressed their desire for the show to re-focus on the contestants next year, and Keith's approach to judging lines up perfectly with that mission.

He says, "I love trying to help someone and seeing them actually taking those pieces of advice and guidance and then watching them sing next week and seeing if they're actually growing."

Keith's commitment to encouraging the contestants as artists led him to attend contestant rehearsals before shows. He wanted to see how the contestants performed without the pressure of a live audience on top of the millions of people watching on TV. Keith admits what he saw in rehearsals often affected how he judged the televised performance.

"So many times they would perform great at rehearsal, and then just bail on the night," Keith explains. "They just drop the ball completely. Everything got the better of them. So I found myself sometimes feeling like, 'I want to fight for this person. Even though they weren't so great, I know that they're better than that.'"

While Keith knows some of the contestants are just looking for reality TV stardom, he sees a lot of himself in the singers who take the competition seriously. Keith grew up competing on shows like American Idol back home in Australia.

He recalls, "This was, like, a big moment. This was, like, my whole life in this performance and in this moment."

Keith is mindful of that experience when dealing with the Idol contestants.

"This is the break they've been looking for, and it means everything to 'em," he says. "So, I wanted to not forget that."

American Idol's 13th season premieres this January on FOX.

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