Country star and American Idol judge Keith Urban has really got the cross-promotion thing down pat.
Wednesday night is not only the launch of Idol’s 13 season (FOX, CTV Two, 8 p.m.), with Urban joining returning judge Jennifer Lopez and newbie Harry Connick, Jr., but the start of the Canadian leg of his ongoing Light the Fuse tour. The trek - named after his 2012 album - began last July and kicks off in Vancouver the same night as Idol’s premiere.
“It’s really a blessing,” said the jovial 46-year-old New Zealand-born, Australian-raised, Nashville-based singer of being on tour and television at the same time.
“The simplistic thing for me is I make music and I play music, and there are so many ways for people to discover new music these days so anyway we can get somebody to check something out is a great opportunity.”
We caught up with Urban - who caused a stir on the Internet when he chopped off his famous long locks - down the line from L.A. Tuesday afternoon.
Q. What has the reaction been to your new short hair?
A. I haven’t even noticed it at this point now. Throughout the Christmas period there was a bit more chatter about it. I wanted to get it cut last year and we were right in the middle of the doing all the Idol stuff and I’m like, ‘Well, I probably can’t do it in the middle of all the audition cities. Maybe when we’re finished all the audition cities before we get out to Hollywood week, I’ll cut it all off then.’ So it was just really timing.
Q. And are you enjoying shorter hair?
A. Oh, God absolutely. Much easier.
Q. You say you do about a half-dozen Fuse songs in your current live show that runs about two hours every night. How have they been going over with audiences?
A. These (new) songs are so built for that environment and so I think that’s the place they seem to make such fluid sense, not just on the record, but when we play them live. And I think the way we’ve threaded them into the set list and the production we have on this particular tour, all the songs off the old records fit perfectly with these new ones.
Q. Your joy at playing live comes through. Is it your favourite thing about being a musician?
A. I just said to Harry Connick, ‘You know it’s called PLAYING music. It’s not called WORKING music.’ It’s meant to have a joy. And for me, I’m one of those guys, I started playing when I was six so I didn’t pick up the guitar to pick up chicks, not at six years of age. I started playing because I loved music. And that joy’s there as much as it’s ever been in my whole life. So this tour it is that. And I think the audience feels that. And it’s a really reciprocal energy.
Q. Speaking of good energy, has the tone on the new season of Idol changed after last season’s bickering between judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey?
A. It just feels clear, fluid and real. It’s so obvious that the three of us are there for the same reason. And I think that’s the reason why it’s working for me. And I know the first night that we all met properly, we all met at this dinner that FOX organized so we could all get to know each other. And (former judge, now mentor) Randy (Jackson) and (host) Ryan (Seacrest) and Jennifer and Harry and I all went. Like literally from the second that I said ‘Hi’ to Jenn and Harry and sat down and we started talking, it was like we had known each other forever. It was immediate. And I knew right then, I thought, ‘This is really special. The kind of ensemble that you hope to be a part of.’ And, I don’t know, the stars just line up when that stuff happens.
Q. Judging from the Idol promos, you and Harry seem like brothers from another mother?
A. We really come from that same place. Very, very serious about music, but total goofballs as well. Really bizarre, weird, stupid, twisted, sometimes juvenile senses of humour. Just always on the same page. I think talking with him and working with him like we do, it’s like we’re playing instruments. We’re riffing, we’re jamming with each other, except we’re just doing it verbally.
Q. So the mood on set has lightened up considerably I’m guessing after last season?
A. Yeah, yeah. Because it’s supposed to be fun! Idol’s always been, ultimately, a fun show. When it was really flowing and humming on all cylinders, it had great singers, and there was just a good feeling about it. And that’s back in spades.
Q. And will your wife, actress Nicole Kidman, and your two daughters, Sunday, 5, and Faith, 3, visit the Idol set?
A. I’m sure they’ll be coming to the set at some point. My wife’s in Morocco shooting a film right now (Queen of the Desert) so she’ll be finishing that in another couple of months so I’ll be going back and forward from Morocco to L.A. shooting the live shows. And then when she wraps I’m sure her and the girls will come and visit daddy on the set.
Q. Are you daughters musical?
A. They both have a musicality about them so it’ll be interesting what they do with it.
Jan. 15, Vancouver, BC, Rogers Arena
Jan. 17, Calgary, Saddledome
Jan. 18, Edmonton, Rexall Place
Jan. 20, Winnipeg, MTS Centre*
Jan. 23, London, ON, Budweiser Gardens
Jan. 24, Toronto, Air Canada Centre
July 13, Craven, Saskatchewan, Craven Country Jamboree