The judge says finding balance in his criticism is one of the hardest parts of his job
Credit: FOX

Keith Urban agrees with acid-tongued American Idol mentor Jimmy Iovine, who said the show’s judges need to be tougher.

But the country superstar says being an artist critiquing artists is harder than it looks.

“He is right,” says Urban, who sits on the panel alongside Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson. “It is not easy for us a lot of the time because we are just coming from a different place. We’re artists talking to a young artist on camera in front of millions of people, trying to give constructive criticism in a way that doesn’t humiliate them. I don’t ever want to humiliate somebody.”

Urban – who’s going on tour this July – takes his toughness cues from the contestants themselves.

“Sometimes they are in a particularly fragile state,” he says. “You can just see it. They are not ready for [criticism] to be delivered to them and I am going to defer in that situation. Someone else, it might look like they are listening … Then let’s talk about why [the performance] wasn’t so good and they’re receptive to that. I am trying to find balance always.”

Urban, 45, participated in televised singing competitions as a kid in Australia and says Idol‘s format is the toughest out there. “The very first thing you are going to do on this show is walk into a room, see the four of us, and have to sing with no band, no microphone, no nothing,” he says. “No other show does that. That has got to be tough. I don’t know that I could do it.”

And the singer says he gets caught up in the emotion of the show: “I don t know who is staying,” he says. “I don t know how the voting works out. I didn’t know who the top 10 were until they were chosen by America when they read it out in the moment. I prefer it like that. I love the raw energy of it all.”

As the Idol machine moves on in its quest to crown a season 12 winner, Urban – who just added additional cities to this summer’s 2013 Light the Fuse Tour – is busier than ever. He and Vince Gill are hosting their fourth annual fundraising benefit concert for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville on April 16 – and he’s juggling family life with wife Nicole Kidman and their girls Sunday Rose, 4½, and Faith, 2.

“The kids got to play with their friends [in Nashville] they hadn’t seen in awhile and that’s fun,” he says. “My wife is in London shooting a film so we’ve been doing a lot of travel between L.A., London and Nashville in the last couple of months.”