OFFSTAGE: Keith Urban: Not Into Soul Crushing on American Idol

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

When Janelle Arthur auditioned for American Idol in North Carolina, she did something Keith Urban called “bold.” She performed his “Where the Blacktop Ends” along with “Walkin’ the Country,” his 1997 song recorded when he was a member of the Ranch. The daring move worked, too, because he loved it, and she’s still in the running. Speaking by phone during a Wednesday (Feb. 20) press conference, I asked if she had a special place in his heart. “Yes, I love the fact that she did that,” Urban told me. “And at the same time, I always think it’s an extraordinarily bold thing to sing one of our songs. Particularly a Mariah Carey song. I’m always just amazed that someone will come on and sing a Mariah Carey song in front of Mariah Carey. But it’s a huge honor.” He also hinted there will be a few more of his tunes performed later this season.

Urban has been so positive and encouraging to this year’s contestants, so I asked if he was going to have to become more critical now that the show is getting down to the semifinals. “I think every person handles critiquing differently. And I’m trying to get a feel for what I think the artist is comfortable hearing and what they’re not going to be comfortable hearing,” he said. “Something that’s just straight soul crushing and not helpful? I just don’t see any worth in that.” Rather, he said he likes to give specific direction, and then the contestants can take it or leave it. But he is always pretty nice about it. “I try to deliver it in a way in which I’d like people to deliver it to me,” he said.

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.