Simon Cowell and THE X FACTOR team are working diligently to get the word out about the show. Simon wants to see new faces at these auditions and for the very first time will extend auditions to as far as Alaska. Daedrian McNaughton of Premier Guide Media caught up with Simon over the weekend to discuss the newest addition to the auditions.
The X Factor, the highly anticipated singing competition series debuting this fall on FOX, will be using specially built high-definition recording studios, MyStudio, opening Friday, April 8 in Honolulu, HI; and Phoenix, AZ. Additional studios will open in Nashville, TN, on Saturday, April 9; Anchorage, AK, on Tuesday, April 12; Kansas City, KS, on Friday, April 15; and Denver, CO, on Saturday, April 16. The audition studios will remain open until Saturday, April 30.
These studios will give talents who are not able to attend the open auditions a chance to audition for The X Factor.
Visit www.fox.com/theXfactor for the Latest THE X FACTOR News.
What was the general idea behind implementing the MyStudio booths?
Simon Cowell: Well, the idea was that we could only go into so many cities to do the open auditions. When we spoke to Fox and we spoke to Pepsi, they wanted to get a further reach and these booths came to my attention about—just under a year ago. Very reputable company, they work and the idea is that we go into as many cities as we can—give other people a chance to audition. It’s like doing an audition in front of the producers or the guys in the record label as an open audition. They’re officially branded X Factor Audition tapes and they’ll be sent to the producers and everyone, effectively, will be auditioned by a producer. The whole idea of the show was that we’ve invited the whole of America to audition and this is just another attempt to get the reach out, really. All I know is that in some of the places we’re going to, I think it would be physically impossible for some of the people to attend the open auditions, so that’s why we’ve gone to a lot of the places which are far away. I mean, what they will find—it’s professionally done. You can sing whatever you like. It’s a relatively straightforward process. I don’t think it’s probably as fun as attending an open audition, but it is your chance to be seen and heard and that’s why we’ve done this. I’m going to try and put these in as many cities as possible prior to our filming.
Are the auditions going well so far?
Simon Cowell: They’re going great, actually. The numbers are much higher than we anticipated. We started off in L.A. and it was just under 20,000, apparently, actually turned up and everyone was seen. The latest count from Miami is—it’s around 8,000 to 10,000 are expected. The word’s got out; the numbers are up. Apparently, the producers are very, very happy with what they’ve seen so far in Los Angeles and we’re getting the right message out. We’re asking people to come along and audition as if they’re in the real world to compete with people in the charts. I really don’t know what these people sound like until I actually sit in the audition rooms myself, because I’ve been told this a million times, “Everything is going great and then you turned up on the first day and it’s a nightmare.” We’ll see, but people seem optimistic. Most importantly, the numbers are up because the worst thing you can do is that you announce the auditions and no one turns up.
What are the most important things to look for in a contestant?
Simon Cowell: I’ve been trying to get the point out that don’t turn up and do a typical talent show audition. If you’re 16, sing like a 16-year-old. If you’re 12, try and appeal to 12-year-olds. What we used to see a lot of is people prepared to audition by their moms and dads and we said to everyone from the age of 12 to 18, “Seriously, don’t listen to your parents.” Everything’s available on YouTube now or on the Internet. All the clues are out there. Look at what’s happening in the charts at the moment and you’ve got to speak or sing, literally, with your own voice. Try and be original. Try and stand out. Try and do a song or a version of a song no one’s heard before and don’t be afraid to be different now. I mean, we’ve got to be much more open-minded in terms of what we’re looking for. The whole idea of the show is you find the winner and it launches a career, which is going to last for a long time and hopefully, you sell records all over the world. Otherwise, this whole exercise has been a complete waste of time.
Do you attend any of these auditions?
Simon Cowell: No, I haven’t and funny enough, I never have in the past because I don’t really like to see or hear what I’m going to see in advance. When I see it in the audition room like the other judges and the audience behind me, I’ve got absolutely no idea who’s going to come in, what they’re going to sing or what they’re going to be like because if you knew in advance, it would be even more boring than the process is. These are long days and the fun of it is that when you get surprised—I mean like the Susan Boyle clip is a classic example. Everybody thinks that I had seen Susan before. I had never met her in my life. So, when she sang for the first time, I was genuinely shocked and I like that feeling. That’s why I haven’t been to any of the open calls yet, but I get calls all the times from the producers. They let me know how it’s going and when they get excited because they found someone. Everyone seems happy.
Will Fergie be the next judge for The X Factor?
Simon Cowell: All I can tell you is that her name was put forward, but like with a lot of other people we’ve spoken to, we have to check out everyone’s availability. There’s a lot of time you have to put into the show because it’s not a two-day a week job. When you’re in the live show, it’s because you’re mentoring the contestant. You’re working five or six days a week. So, I can confirm that her name is being put forward, yes.
Are you close to announcing the final judges?
Simon Cowell: We’re still having nightly arguments with everyone trying to get everyone to agree is the truth. If you asked everyone involved on this show who they’d like as the panel, you’d have about 25 different opinions, and I’m used to this. I’ve done shows in the past where the day before filming we still haven’t agreed on the fourth judge because people freak out. They have different ideas, another name comes into play, I mean, in Miami today, out of the blue, Gloria Estefan turns up and apparently she did a fantastic job and I had no idea she was going to be there. So, I’ve kind of found the whole process really interesting to see who’s enthusiastic about being on the show, and you get to see people’s commitment and enthusiasm. So, I think it’s been fun, but it really does show publicly how complete and utter indecisiveness. She did a great job. I’m all for it, but I mean she’s been a sweetheart for doing it because it made a big, big difference today apparently and she gave everyone a lot of support and encouragement and not a lot of people would bother to do that.
How much pressure are you under to produce a real winner for The X Factor?
Simon Cowell: I’ve said many, many times, when we agree to do the show and we put the $5 million up, that’s with a belief that you’re going to find somebody who’s going to have a long-lasting career, and it does happen. I’m not saying it happens every year. That’s why I’m going to a lot of effort to get the word out, to get as many people turning up as possible. Because, if you get a year where everybody’s hopeless—and it has happened—you don’t have a show. So, with the booths and the open auditions, we’re trying to see as many people as possible. If I can’t make it work after all this effort, I’ll admit that I failed. So, there is a certain amount of pressure. You don’t just want somebody who wins the show and then they’re forgotten about. You want it to be the start of—whether it’s Carrie Underwood or Susan Boyle or Leona Lewis, they’ve got a career. It’s a launch pad. So, we’re working hard at it.
Would you rather to have contestants or applicants from previous talent shows audition or new faces?
Simon Cowell: I would much prefer that we see new faces; otherwise, it’s going to get a bit boring for me and for the viewers. Having said that, if we come across somebody who we think is genuinely talented or wasn’t given a fair chance, I think you’ve got to consider them along with everybody else, but looking at the amount of people who are turning up, I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of people you remember. I think if that’s the case, then I haven’t done my job properly in getting the word out.
Watching you on a recent interview, you seemed much nicer and personable. Will we see this approach on the new X Factor?
Simon Cowell: It all depends who’s in front of you and you’ve got to remember that the audience at home are not stupid. So, if you’ve got somebody in front of you who can’t sing a note in tune, nobody—or certainly not me—is going to turn around to that person and say, “You’re wonderful or take a couple of singing lessons and you’re going to become a mega-star.” I mean, that’s ridiculous. I’ve never believed in patronizing contestants. On this show, we’re going to say to everybody in advance, “You know what the rules are. If you’re hopeless, we’ll tell you. If you’re great, we’ll tell you you’re great.” I mean, you want to find great people, but there’s always going to be times when bad people come along or on the live shows they do something stupid. I think it’s my job to say that. Otherwise, I think these shows become boring or fake and it’s just not my style.
Are sites like YouTube beneficial for finding stars and will it work for The X Factor?
Simon Cowell: Definitely works for it. I’ve had a lot of times in the U.K. where we’ve had clips— I mentioned Susan Boyle and before that, Paul Potts. I mean, they’re really good examples of where you can audition on this show and YouTube and all the other Internet sites pick up on the clip and suddenly, you’ve become a star all over the world. Honestly, we pray for that. You want a moment where something magical happens in the audition room and then outside of people watching the show, they’re interested in the clip. I’m always very, very aware of that. You always hope that you’re going to get that moment. You look at what’s happened to Rebecca. She’s going to be laughing all the way to the bank. That’s what the Internet does to you nowadays. This would never have happened ten years ago. She’d be singing that song in her bedroom ten years ago. Now, she’s known all over the world. So, I think it’s incredibly positive and I’m excited about the fact that we’re in this world when we shoot auditions that you know you’ve got it right when your clip goes viral. So, I’m always looking for that.
Twitter and Facebook are often used for spreading the word, will the The X Factor incorporate these social networks in the show?
Simon Cowell: Oh, God, yes. I love it. I like the fact that people are going to be twittering and watching at the same time or on Facebook. I think we’re in an incredibly exciting time to make these shows because you get this instant feedback. You know whether you’ve made a good show or a horrible show within about five minutes. When I launched Idol, we didn’t have this. So, we’re embracing it. We encourage everyone to be a part of it and I think it just makes it more exciting. Having said that, with the Twitter, when you do something wrong, you know about it instantly. So, you’ve got to watch yourself very, very carefully.
Alaska is one of the cities mentioned, that’s a very new an exciting addition. Have you ever been to Alaska?
Simon Cowell: You know what? I’m dying to go to Alaska one day. I’ve got to go. I would have done it this year. I don’t know why we didn’t do it, but if we’re still around next year, I’m going to make a big push to go there because I love going to places we’ve never been before like you said. Of course, that’s why we’re going there. I think you’re going to get a lot more enthusiasm and I don’t know what we’re going to expect, but we’re going to find out. It’s definitely going to make it more interesting. These are probably going to be the first tapes everyone’s going to watch, is my guess.