Dermot O'Leary's television and radio work has made him a household name. He has been at the helm of The X Factor since 2007 and also hosts his own award-winning BBC Radio 2 show every Saturday, which has won three Sony Radio Awards. Dermot has also chaired the debate and interviewed party leaders for First Time Voters Question Time on BBC Three, presents Unicef's SoccerAid, and is host of
the National Television Awards. In March 2014 Dermot hosted the ground-breaking 'Live from Space' season on Channel 4.
What do you think the new panel each bring to the table?
It’s a good panel, it really is. Mel for me is almost like a mini Sharon Osbourne, in that she is kind of un-produceable, which I love. It doesn’t matter what anyone says to her, she knows her own mind. And I think you need someone like that on the panel, you need someone who will make their decision instinctively and shoots from the hip. Cheryl is incredibly insightful, and emotionally engaging, and really intelligent. Simon brings brutal honesty and you need that, because this is an audition process. Louis for me brings an encyclopaedic music knowledge, and say what you want about him but he knows how to put a band together. Also, he’s not afraid of making decisions that won’t make him popular with the people.
How often do you find yourself disagreeing with the judges’ decisions?
I’m a soft touch; I wouldn’t say I’d put everyone through, but you get to know people and you get to know their families and the fact that they do jobs that they don’t particularly want to do and they have a fair degree of talent. So when you see someonewhose audition doesn’t go that well I do feel quite bad for them.
Simon is back on the show and Mel B is known for her feisty opinions – how are you going to keep the judges in check during the lives?
I can’t wait for the live shows, because I like it when the panel has disagreements, and when it kicks off, because that’s what I’m there for. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it when they go below the belt, or they start saying nasty things to each other, or they have disagreements in the press, I’m not a big fan of any of that. But I like it in studio when all’s fair in love and war, and then when it finishes, we have a drink together.
What’s the overall dynamic between them?
It’s really early doors in terms of dynamic; Mel B and Cheryl have a great understanding and get on very well at the moment. But they all work very well as a team – Mel B has a clear definition as to what she wants and Louis is brilliant because you can put him with anyone.
Which judges are you expecting to clash the most, have you noticed any disagreements yet?
I think Simon and Cheryl will clash a fair bit in studio, and I think Mel B will clash with anyone. Louis digs his heels in about the strangest things – it could be an outfit, a song choice, someone’s hair, it’s never something particularly controversial.
How competitive do you think they are feeling this year?
At this stage in the competition it’s about finding the best talent. The ante gets upped when the categories get revealed and especially when we get to studio.
You’re first on hand to console the acts who don’t make it through – would you say that’s the hardest part of your role on the show?
At the moment the hardest part of my role on the show is definitely when the acts come off and they haven’t done too well. But then it’s quite hard because they’re not really listening, all they’re doing is mulling over their audition. Sometimes you can have a good conversation with someone, and try to contextualise it, and other times you could be saying anything to them.
Do a lot of the contestants come to you for advice once the show is underway?
I always do a pep talk before we start. People that get to the last three in this show are the hardest working, the most talented, and the most honest. There’s nothing that drives me nuts more than when someone gives me the answer they think I want rather than how they’re feeling; and people worry about how they’re going to be perceived. There’s nothing worse than being perceived in any other way
than being honest and who you are. The people that do well in this show are the people that are true to themselves.
This is your eighth series on the show –what are your favourite memories from throughout the years?
I get asked that a lot and I could have this conversation in five minutes time and give you a completely different answer because stuff just keeps popping into my head. I love those moments in studio where you’re not quite entirely sure something has happened – it invariably involves more colourful contestants, so Wagner doing Love Shack, Jedward doing Ghostbusters. But then I love the moments
where someone will just pick up an audition song and absolutely sing – I remember Ella Henderson’s first audition was out of this world, James Arthur I remember watching grow, and the same with Olly. The show is about getting people to flourish that, for one reason or another the stars haven’t aligned for. For me, it’s about seeing an Ella Henderson, seeing a James Arthur, seeing an Olly Murs, come on and blow an audience away.
What sort of acts would you like to see more of on the show?
To be honest I think we’ve got it pretty well covered – you always have a hangover from the year or two before. At the moment we’re seeing a lot of boys pick up guitars because of James Arthur or people who are popular at the moment, like Ed Sheeran. You always see that aftershock effect. For me, you’ve got to have diversity, and that’s what Boot Camp’s all about – what’s so interesting is that people
who turn up and have done a great audition, it turns out they’re not the only great person.
Sarah-Jane Crawford is the new host of Xtra Factor, have you given her any tips or advice on how to handle the world of X Factor?
I’ve just said ‘if you need me I’m there’ and she seems to be getting on really well. Eight years ago it wasn’t the show it is now, but I remember coming on then and thinking ‘wow, I’m working on the biggest show in television’ and it’s quite a step up, and it’s a huge circus. You can’t over think it though, you just have to enjoy it and have fun. mbargoed until 00.01 Tuesday 26 August 2014
Which artist out there at the moment best sums up what the X Factor is all about for you?
I love the Lana Del Rey album and I saw her at Glastonbury, I think she’s just got ‘it.’
What’s the hardest thing about being The X Factor host?
It’s a brilliant job and I love it. I guess the hardest thing is that you get a relationship with people, you see them grow, but only one can win. Along the way, you have to say goodbye to people who you have got to know well, and you’ve got to know their families well. You would hope they use the experience wisely and get something out of it, and no matter what happens they can carry on and enjoy singing.
'The X Factor' begins this Saturday and Sunday at 8pm on itv in the UK and TV3 in Ireland.