Interview with Simon Cowell from American Idol

Simon Cowell
I was recently given the opportunity to interview Simon Cowell and I must say he was amazingly pleasant. I was on the call with the likes of Rolling Stone Magazine and New York Times, which made this TV Blogger feel slightly intimidated yet important. I didn’t get many questions in, but here’s the gist of how the interview went. I’ll include all the interesting questions from my fellow journalists as well. Enjoy.

When you look at the musical landscape of contemporary music at this point, does it seem important to you that a woman win this year?

It depends what she’s like. I kind of know where you’re going. We’ve had a few years now of guys winning the show and I would say there is definitely a better chance of a girl winning the show this year, certainly than last year.

What would be the right type of woman to win, do you think?

When you talk about the landscape, I think you’re absolutely right; you want somebody who represents what is going on at the moment. I’d love to find a Taylor Swift, somebody who’s relevant rather than just a contest winner.

We’ve heard Steve Lillywhite, Howard Stern and Perez Hilton are people in the running, or think they’re in the running, as your replacement. Who of those people would be your pick? What do you think someone who would replace you would need to have?

You have to be good looking. Secondly, I think you just have to know what you’re talking about. I think more and more now I’m starting to realize with these shows that we have to put people on the shows who actually know what they’re talking about rather than guessing. They really have to have experience so you don’t just criticize, but you can actually offer constructive advice as well. And Howard, I know Howard’s name has been in there for a while, but I’m fairly certain that there hasn’t been an approach at any time for Howard to do the show. Perez – Perez would be funny. You know, he has a good taste in music, he’s a personality. I mean, that could work.

[Note from me: I could see Perez Hilton, but please NO Howard Stern. I can’t stand that man, he’s obnoxious and not in the cute way that Simon is.]

I just wanted to ask, could you address the stories about you and Ellen not getting along? Can you also tell us what you miss most about Paula?

I wouldn’t say that we didn’t get on well. I don’t know Ellen that well. It was a difficult position for her because she started work on the Hollywood Week, which is quite a difficult show to do. There was one story I read that I turned up an hour late or something and that she wanted to film. I mean, the truth was I think I turned up 15 or 20 minutes late because I did a press conference earlier in the day and they did start filming, but that wasn’t a particular problem. But no, there was no fallout. I was trying to guide her through the week and that was about it, really.
Well, Paula’s my friend. I mean, amazingly, even though we used to argue a lot, she was somebody I just got very close to over the years. We’d hang out together after the show. She always made me laugh; I always thought she was funny. It was just like not having your friend on the show anymore. I do miss her.

What does it feel like for the whole nation to kind of say, “This guy is pretty much irreplaceable on the show, We don’t know who we would replace him with.”?

It’s very, very flattering. I really do appreciate it. Like I’ve said before, the show goes on. I’m going to feel sad when it all ends, but look, it’s much nicer to be popular than unpopular, so I do appreciate it.

You just made a comment earlier about the qualifications that a judge should have, kind of knowing what they’re talking about. This is something that Howard has been going on and on about, about his qualifications. I’m wondering if you could be a little more specific about how much music experience is really required for the job.

Well, I think it’s really important. It’s interesting that when we first started we had a record producer, an artist and an A&R man, so you’ve covered pretty much everything you need to do. I would say somebody who’s had managerial experience is always very helpful. You genuinely need to know what you’re talking about. I think over the years judges have been replaced by personalities. That, in the long-term, will create problems because you have to be able to spot a star. So whoever replaces me, my advice has always been to find somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about and has actually experienced success in the music business.

How does that apply to Howard?

As I was saying that I thought, “He doesn’t seem to fit any of these criteria.” He’s played records. Maybe that’s a good qualification, that he’s played records. He’s a DJ.

[Note from Me: I don’t think that playing records qualifies one to be a judge on a music show. Just because you watch medical show and know the lingo it doesn’t make you a doctor 😉 ]

Simon, what can you tell us about what happened with Chris Golightly? How did he do? What do you remember from him in Hollywood Week?

I remember Chris’s first audition very well because Kara was completely and utterly besotted with him. I wasn’t quite so keen on him and then the second time we saw him – the second or third time, whatever it was – in Hollywood week he wasn’t as strong as he was on his first audition. I really honestly don’t have a clue why he’s been removed from the competition. I’m guessing it’s some sort of technical reason. It’s a shame for him. He needed this opportunity.

Would you let him audition on X-Factor?

I have to find out what the reason is, first of all. It was something like a technical reason, yes, of course he could.

[Note from Me: After last night’s boys performances, I’m wishing they’d have brought him back because he had to have been better than Tim Urban.]

 Since this is your last year, I’m wondering what mentors are you hoping to work with, if there’s anyone that you haven’t gotten to work with yet or have on the show that you’re just dying to have on?

That’s a good question. Who comes to mind? We’ve had some pretty good people haven’t we? I think we should have Lady GaGa because she is the most relevant pop artist in the world at the moment. I think she should be number one. I’ve met her and she’s very smart. I like her.

Obviously, there are some really good singers this year. You guys did a good job picking them, but obviously some have less than what you would call Hollywood looks. So how do you balance what’s good for the TV show with what’s good for the music industry?

Again, it’s a good question. I mean, the reason we put a variety of people through is I think primarily on talent and interest in them as people. I think if you just pick everybody because they look the way you think they should look – it happened a few years ago. I remember every blond girl in the competition looked identical; I couldn’t tell one from the other. I think it’s important that you can recognize talent, personalities, so I think it’s good that we have a mixed bag this year.

What about the sob stories, do those have any impact on the judges?

Not really. Not on me. I’ve heard so many of them over the years. It’s about remembering people. Part of the problem when you do this show, from the auditions to the Hollywood round, is that most people you can’t remember. If you can remember somebody, it’s a good place to start.

What’s your take on the whole “Pants on The Ground” phenomenon. It just sort of blew out into this worldwide thing.

You know, it’s an interesting thing because when he came on the show, it’s one of the reasons why on X-Factor we didn’t put an age cap on the show. I always found a lot of these older contestants really funny, interesting, whether it’s him or somebody like Susan Boyle. So I have to tell you, for him, I’m absolutely thrilled that all this has happened for him because he needed the break. I’m glad it’s worked out well.

[Note from Me: One thing I noticed during the interview was that he was really a down to earth, sweet person. Nothing like the persona that the editing portrays. Sure he’s kind of abrasive at times on the show, but he generally seems to want the best for people.]

Simon, you’ve said a couple of times in talking about a potential replacement that they need experience in the music business, someone who actually knows what they’re talking about and who’s had success in the music business. Are those comments directed at Ellen? Do you feel that she is qualified?

Funnily enough, I was thinking that as I was saying this that people are going to misinterpret what I am saying. No. I’ll tell you why I think Ellen was a good choice. She actually is very responsible for people she has performing on her own show. I know that for a fact because I’ve dealt with her as a record label. And she loves music and she’s been an artist, so no, it wasn’t meant to diss her credentials; it was specifically talking about my replacement because my roll on the show was somebody who has run a successful record label. So it was really specifically towards my replacement.

[Note from Me: I thought I was going to love Ellen on the show, and so far I’m not loving her. Maybe it is because of the fact that it’s the first live shows but I think she rambles too much.]

What we’ve seen so far has been a lot of editing and stuff, but with the live show coming up I was just wondering if you’re going to try to maybe take a backseat role this year or if you’re going to stay as visible as you have been.

Look, it’s always frustrating, I suppose, on an edited show because it’s an edited show. That’s why I prefer doing live TV. What I always do when I do these live shows is not go in there with any sort of preconceived idea of what it’s going to be like or what people are going to be like. Be in the moment and always do what I’ve done in my career, which is to hopefully make the right decisions. If that means disagreeing with people, I don’t have a problem with that; I never have. You are there to be honest, truthful and hopefully give constructive advice. Most importantly, say what you think people at home are thinking.

Even when we hear you sort of leaving, you’re still going to stay as visible as you have been and not turn the reins over?

That would be impossible. No, I’ll keep to my seat. I’ll hopefully be the last one to speak. It’s always easier to be the last one rather than the first one. I want to go out on a high. I mean, I’ve said this over and over again, that it’s my last season and I want it to be successful. I’ll do everything I can to make it happen.

You say that you don’t want to say who would like to replace you, but I have one. I’m on a mission. I want to see how you feel about this one. Noel Gallagher from Oasis. He’s crabby.

Noel Gallagher. Do you think people would understand him? If you subtitled him. I know Noel quite well and I like him. He’s very funny and he is a brilliant songwriter. It’s a possibility. Look, the good news for them is there is no shortage of candidates. There are a lot of people. The hardest thing, actually, about finding a replacement is that when you hear people’s names like Madonna, it will never happen because you have to give a massive, massive time commitment. That’s always been the problem when you’re trying to find people to do these shows. You have to find people who are prepared to give up that much time.

We’ll miss you.

I’ll still be around, but thank you very much. I really do appreciate that.

Simon’s closing remarks:

It was very short, but thank you, everybody. There were good questions. I hope it cleared up a lot of the rumours. We’ll do this again soon.

It was a great call and he actually seemed truly sorry that the call was over. Simon was amusing, honest and well spoken, and I agree with all of my fellow TV journalists when we say that we will miss him. It won’t be the same American Idol without him.

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