Louis Walsh is the undisputed king of the Irish pop scene. He is the man behind some of the most successful bands in pop history, masterminding the careers of Boyzone, Westlife, Samantha Mumba, Girls Aloud and of course Jedward. The fact that he has achieved over a staggering 28 No.1 hits is a testament to his success and is one of the reasons why he is so respected in the music industry. He has appeared as a judge on every series of The X Factor.
You’re back for another series, what are you most looking forward to this year?
Having Simon Cowell back. I think he’s going to be different, I think he’s going to be fun, I think there’s going to be sparks between Simon, Cheryl and Mel B. That’s the best thing about the show – Simon being back.
How does it feel to be reunited with Simon on the panel?
Honestly, Simon just makes me laugh. He just walks in the room and I’m laughing, I can’t explain why, but for some reason he always makes me laugh. He gets the best out of everyone, he makes everyone work. But it’s not as if we sit there laughing all day, he always wants people to give more. He always
says ‘you can do better than that.’ When I used to work with him with Westlife he would always say ‘you can do better’.
How have you found this year’s panel?
This year is fantastic. This was meant to be. There’s good chemistry between all of us. Simon and Cheryl are very funny always annoying each other. Mel is just honest. This is the perfect X Factor panel, it really is.
How competitive are you all feeling this year?
We’re going to be very competitive this year. Everybody wants to win the show. Simon thinks he’s going to win win, Cheryl wants to win, Mel thinks ‘I’m going to show them what I’m made of.’ I’ve been there 11 years, I know what to do. We’re all competitive and we all want to win. But I’m going to win.
Is there a judge on the panel you think you disagree with more than most?
I think I’ll probably disagree with all of the judges on the panel, because I’m a manager. They’re artists and Simon’s an A &R man. I think I’ll disagree with all of them because I always look for different things. I think probably Simon and I would agree more than anybody else. The girls always talk about the vocal but it’s not always about the voice.
You’re the only judge to have appeared across every series of the show – what keeps the show exciting for you?
I think this year having Simon back is the most exciting thing. When he’s around everyone is better. Everyone works harder. We always have to prove why we’re there. He demands more. He’s sitting there looking at everything. He takes everything in. He scans the room.
In all of your years on the show, which of the show’s alumni have made the biggest impression on you in their first auditions?
To be honest, I always remember JLS in their first audition. When they walked in they were the perfect group. Not just vocally, but mentally and the way they worked together. I loved working with a lot of other people – Shane Ward, Jedward for different reasons. But the most perfect act for me was JLS.
What is the biggest audition ‘turn off’ for you?
The biggest audition ‘turn off’ for me is when people talk themselves up. Why they’re here, what they’re going to do, everything, and then they don’t deliver. They can’t sing, they can’t perform. There’s no X Factor. That’s the worst thing. I’m always looking for potential. Potential is the key word. If they’re not a great singer –can they improve? And the likeability. We use that word a lot but likeability is so important.
What are your favourite memories from being on the show across the years?
My favourite memories are working with Simon, because he winds me up. He does it on a daily basis. I love working with him and watching what makes his mind work – always thinking ‘what’s he thinking, what’s he noticed.’ Working with Simon is great, but I also had some really funny moments with Sharon
Osbourne. I’ve enjoyed working with all the judges.
If you could pick one X Factor contestant who you think defines what The X Factor is, who would it be?
Olly Murs – he’s a massive star now. He didn’t win the show but he had the X Factor. He really had it and he has a great work ethic. Also Rebecca Ferguson, when her record comes on the radio you know it’s her, and that’s what the X Factor is all about.
In the past few series you’ve had a bit of a style makeover What’s your secret?
I’m getting older, as is Simon! I have to look after myself. I have a really good stylist called Caroline who looks after me, and I have a really good hair and make up artist called Anna and she works her magic. So the secret? Anna and Caroline.
You’ve become famous over the series for your catchphrases; can we expect any new gems?
I use the catchphrases as a joke – ‘you remind me of a young Lenny Henry or a young Michael Buble’ – and all that type of stuff. But I know what I’m doing and it usually makes the other people laugh on the show. So why not? People expect it.
Is there a particular type of contestant you are looking for this year – a specific genre, category, or music style perhaps?
This year we’re looking for stars. They can’t just be good contestants. We need recording artists. We need people who are going to sell records all around the world.
Which artist out there at the moment best sums up what the X Factor is all about?
I’m looking at the charts every single week and the artist I like most at the moment is Ed Sheeran, because he’s got the songs and he has got the likeability. Maybe Paolo Nutini as well as the singer/song writer thing is really in. But I watch the charts every week – I know everyone in the charts in the UK and America.
What are the toughest things about being an X Factor judge?
Telling people ‘no, you’re not good enough.’ It’s a very hard thing to say to people, because they come in and they think they’ve got it all. Then they perform and it’s just ordinary. We get an awful lot of good people, and good people are the worse because they’re not bad, they’re just OK, and they don’t have the star quality; they don’t have the X Factor.
'The X Factor' begins this Saturday and Sunday at 8pm on itv in the UK and TV3 in Ireland.