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"A lot of people are so quick to say that's a cop-out, you have to work the pubs and clubs to pay your dues. But if we didn't have to, would we?" he says to Australia's Herald Sun. "Nobody wants to go and starve for 10 years. Nobody chooses that. That was just my lot. That's what it took for me. And if some other bugger comes along and does it in a year, you know what? Fantastic. The fact is, there are no longer as many pubs and clubs to play, so that forum as a means of getting ahead doesn't exist like it did when I was starting out."
Unlike fellow country star, Eric Church, who blatantly criticized reality TV talent shows (and the already-established celebrities who appear on them), Keith staunchly defends the contestants who sing their hearts out in front of millions of viewers. "These guys aren't getting an easy ride," continues the "For You" singer. "I don't know what sort of courage it takes to get up there -- the idea of doing that is something I find so intimidating and nerve-racking. I don't think anyone gets out of paying their dues -- you just do it in different levels. Maybe it's in front of an arena full of people instead of a pub full of people. Wherever it is, you're still learning in the trenches. For me the trenches were tiny little pubs and clubs in front of very few people and it slowly got bigger and bigger and bigger. Nowadays it might be just on television in front of millions of people -- that's where you are going to fall on your a-- or you are going to rise to the occasion."
The father of two little girls credits his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, with encouraging him to appear on the show. "It wasn't so much that she talked me around -- it was more her saying, 'Let's see if we can make the schedule work' because she loved the U.S. version," Keith recalls. "She is the good voice of reason."
Now that he has had his turn at the judges' table, would he sign on for another season? "Put it this way, I probably wouldn't need to be talked around to do it again," notes the Grand Ole Opry member. "I'd love to do it again."
Australia's "The Voice" has been renewed for 2013. No word yet if Keith will join fellow judges Seal, Joel Madden and Delta Goodrem again next year.
Keith will kick off the new year with a tour Down Under. See an updated list of his concert dates here.