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By Suzanne

Simon Cowell

Interview with Simon Cowell of "American Idol" on FOX

I was invited to this conference call, and I was present, but I did not get the chance to ask any questions. They only gave us 20 minutes, and of course lots of people wanted to chat with Simon!  I do have to say that he seemed very charming and kind, not at all like the persona he puts over on the show. I don't watch American Idol regularly, for various reasons, but I did have some questions ready. Well, maybe next time!

FBC PUBLICITY: American Idol Conference with Simon Cowell
February 18, 2010/7:00 p.m. EST

PRESENTATION

Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to the American Idol interview call with Simon Cowell. Due to the large volume of callers we ask that you please limit yourself to one question and please try to keep it brief. Iíd also like to remind you that todayís conference is being recorded. Iíll now turn the conference over to Jill Hudson for opening remarks. Please go ahead.

J. Hudson Thank you. Thank you for participating in the Simon Cowell American Idol conference call. Due to the limited time on the call, only questions regarding American Idol will be permitted. There are to be no personal questions asked. As a reminder, the top 24 contestants were announced last night and the live performance shows will begin airing next week on FOX. I will now turn the call over to Simon Cowell. You can begin asking questions. Simon?

S. Cowell Hello.

Moderator Thank you. Our first question will come from Daniel Fienberg with hitfix.com.

D. Fienberg Hello, Simon. Thanks so much for doing this.

S. Cowell My pleasure. How are you?

D. Fienberg Pretty good. 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?

S. Cowell It depends what sheís like. I kind of know where youíre going. Weíve 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.

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

S. Cowell When you talk about the landscape, I think youíre absolutely right; you want somebody who represents what is going on at the moment. Iíd love to find a Taylor Swift, somebody whoís relevant rather than just a contest winner.

Moderator Thank you. Weíll go to Natalie Abrams at TVGuide.com.

N. Abrams Hello, Simon. Howís it going?

S. Cowell Good. How are you?

N. Abrams Iím good, thank you. So there were a few interesting decisions in last nightís episode here it seemed like you might not have agreed. How often are you overruled by the other judges?

S. Cowell Well, this was a difficult one because it all happened so quickly. I think in hindsight it would have been much easier, but it couldnít happen this way, that we could have had maybe five or six days to think about it and really review the performances. But we had limited time and decisions were made relatively quickly on the day. Then when you watch it back you think, ďYou know what? I could have made different decisions here.Ē

N. Abrams Is that maybe why youíre moving to your own show?

S. Cowell No, itís not. Look, this happens on the shows I do in other countries. Thereís always a moment when you look at something and think, ďIíve made a decision,Ē but you just have to live with that. Luckily, they can always re-audition the following year.

N. Abrams Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. Weíll go next to Erica Futterman with Rolling Stone.

E. Futterman Hello, Simon. How are you?

S. Cowell Iím fine. How are you?

E. Futterman Iím doing well. Ö touched on youíre leaving Idol. Todayís Ö video Ö your replacement. Weíve also heard Howard Stern and Perez Hilton are people in the running, or think theyíre 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?

S. Cowell Who was the first guy you said Ė Steve Lillywhite?

E. Futterman Yes.

S. Cowell The record producer?

E. Futterman Yes. He made a video this morning.

S. Cowell Okay. Is he handsome?

E. Futterman Heís fairly attractive.

S. Cowell Well, thatís not good enough, is it? You have to be good looking. Secondly, I think you just have to know what youíre talking about. I think more and more now Iím starting to realize with these shows that we have to put people on the shows who actually know what theyíre talking about rather than guessing. They really have to have experience so you donít just criticize, but you can actually offer constructive advice as well.

And Howard, I know Howardís name has been in there for a while, but Iím fairly certain that there hasnít been an approach at any time for Howard to do the show.

E. Futterman What about Perez?

S. Cowell Perez Ė Perez would be funny. You know, he has a good taste in music, heís a personality. I mean, that could work.

E. Futterman Great. Thanks.

S. Cowell Okay.

Moderator Thank you. Weíll go to Shirley Halperin with The Los Angeles Times.

S. Halperin Hello, Simon. 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?

S. Cowell I wouldnít say that we didnít get on well. I donít 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 wasnít a particular problem. But no, there was no fallout. I was trying to guide her through the week and that was about it, really.

S. Halperin What do you miss most about Paula?

S. Cowell Well, Paulaís 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. Weíd 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.

S. Halperin Thank you, Simon.

S. Cowell No problem.

Moderator Thank you. We have Darla Atlas with The Dallas Morning News.

D. Atlas How are you doing?

S. Cowell Iím fine. How are you?

D. Atlas Good, thank you. Weíre feeling pretty proud around here. We have four of the top 12 guys from Dallas/Fort Worth.

S. Cowell Yes.

D. Atlas Iím wondering if you can kind of size up their chances Ė Casey, Todrick, Tim Urban and Alex Lambert. Do you think any of them might be frontrunners?

S. Cowell Yes. I think that guys are relatively equal. Tim was the last audition, wasnít he?

D. Atlas Yes.

S. Cowell Iím not sure any of them are going to win, so Iíd put them all in about an equal position at the moment. Four in and youíve got a good shot. Itís not a bad place to be.

D. Atlas Yes. Really quickly, what does it feel like for the whole nation to kind of say, ďThis guy is pretty much irreplaceable on the show? We donít know who we would replace him with.Ē

S. Cowell Itís very, very flattering. I really do appreciate it. Like Iíve said before, the show goes on. Iím going to feel sad when it all ends, but look, itís much nicer to be popular than unpopular, so I do appreciate it.

D. Atlas Great. Thank you so much.

S. Cowell Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. Next we have John Jurgensen with The Wall Street Journal.

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

S. Cowell Well, I think itís really important. Itís interesting that when we first started we had a record producer, an artist and an A&R man, so youíve covered pretty much everything you need to do. I would say somebody whoís had managerial experience is always very helpful, but in simplistic terms itís not if you judge the ice skating at The Olympics; youíre going to give a score. You genuinely need to know what youíre 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 theyíre talking about and has actually experienced success in the music business.

J. Jurgensen How does that apply to Howard?

S. Cowell As I was saying that I thought, ďHe doesnít seem to fit any of these criteria.Ē Heís played records. Maybe thatís a good qualification, that heís played records. Heís a DJ.

J. Jurgensen Got you.

S. Cowell But he obviously wants the job. Good luck to him.

J. Jurgensen Thanks.

Moderator Thank you. Next we have Brian Mansfield with USA Today.

B. Mansfield 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?

S. Cowell I remember Chrisís first audition very well because Kara was completely and utterly besotted with him. I wasnít quite so keen on him and then the second time we saw him Ė the second or third time, whatever it was Ė in Hollywood week he wasnít as strong as he was on his first audition. I really honestly donít have a clue why heís been removed from the competition. Iím guessing itís some sort of technical reason. Itís a shame for him. He needed this opportunity.

B. Mansfield Would you let him audition on X-Factor?

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

B. Mansfield Thanks.

S. Cowell Yes. No problem.

Moderator Next we have Cary Aspinwall with Tulsa World.

C. Aspinwall Hello, Simon.

S. Cowell Hello.

C. Aspinwall Thank you for doing this.

S. Cowell Thank you very much.

C. Aspinwall Since this is your last year, Iím wondering what mentors are you hoping to work with, if thereís anyone that you havenít gotten to work with yet or have on the show that youíre just dying to have on.

S. Cowell Thatís a good question. Who comes to mind? Weíve had some pretty good people havenít 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. Iíve met her and sheís very smart. I like her.

C. Aspinwall Thank you.

S. Cowell No problem.

Moderator Next is Joshua Maloni with Niagara Frontier Publications.

J. Maloni Hello, Simon. Thanks for your time.

S. Cowell Thank you very much.

J. Maloni 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 whatís good for the TV show with whatís good for the music industry?

S. Cowell Again, itís 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 Ė it happened a few years ago. I remember every blond girl in the competition looked identical; I couldnít tell one from the other. I think itís important that you can recognize talent, personalities, so I think itís good that we have a mixed bag this year.

J. Maloni The sob stories, do those have any impact on the judges?

S. Cowell Not really. Not on me. Iíve heard so many of them over the years. Itís about remembering people. Part of the problem when you do this show, from the auditions to the Hollywood round, is that most people you canít remember. If you can remember somebody, itís a good place to start.

J. Maloni Great. Thank you, Simon.

S. Cowell No problem.

Moderator Next we have Rodney Ho with The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

R. Ho Hello, Simon.

S. Cowell Hello.

R. Ho Atlanta is the home to General Larry ďPants on the GroundĒ Ö

S. Cowell Give him my regards.

R. Ho Yes. I wanted to get your take on the whole phenomenon. It just sort of blew out into this worldwide thing.

S. Cowell You know, itís an interesting thing because when he came on the show, itís one of the reasons why on X-Factor we didnít put an age cap on the show. I always found a lot of these older contestants really funny, interesting, whether itís him or somebody like Susan Boyle. So I have to tell you, for him, Iím absolutely thrilled that all this has happened for him because he needed the break. Iím glad itís worked out well.

R. Ho Thanks.

Moderator Thank you. We have Ed Wyatt with The New York Times.
E. Wyatt Simon, youíve said a couple of times in talking about a potential replacement that they need experience in the music business, someone who actually knows what theyíre talking about and whoís had success in the music business. Are those comments directed at Ellen? Do you feel that she Ė?

S. Cowell Funnily enough, I was thinking that as I was saying this that people are going to misinterpret what I am saying. No. Iíll 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 Iíve dealt with her as a record label. And she loves music and sheís been an artist, so no, it wasnít 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.

E. Wyatt Thanks.

S. Cowell Thank you for the question.

Moderator Next we have Tenley Woodman with The Boston Herald.
T. Woodman Hello. Iím curious what you think two Boston round contestants Ė Ashley Rodriguez and Siobhan Magnus Ė need to do to stay in the running on the show.

S. Cowell I think you have to be original. I remember David Cook. The reason he did so well and suddenly came into the front when he competed was that he managed to find interesting versions of well-known songs and did them in his style. I remember the first time he performed a Lionel Richie song, Hello, and turned it into a rock song. Or he found the Chris Cornell version of Billie Jean. He was smart. I would say the same thing to these two contestants: donít always do the obvious; try to find something which is more unique and interesting to you.

T. Woodman Good. Thank you.

S. Cowell And suck up to me. That always helps.

Moderator Thank you. Next is Sandra Gonzalez with Entertainment Weekly.

S. Gonzalez Hello, Simon.

S. Cowell Hello.

S. Gonzalez What weíve seen so far has been a lot of editing and stuff, but with the live show coming up I was just wondering if youíre going to try to maybe take a driving instructor role this year and sort of just take the wheel when needed or if youíre going to stay as visible as you have been.

S. Cowell Look, itís always frustrating, I suppose, on an edited show because itís an edited show. Thatís 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 itís going to be like or what people are going to be like. Be in the moment and always do what Iíve done in my career, which is to hopefully make the right decisions. If that means disagreeing with people, I donít 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.

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

S. Cowell That would be impossible. No, Iíll keep to my seat. Iíll hopefully be the last one to speak. Itís always easier to be the last one rather than the first one. I want to go out on a high. I mean, Iíve said this over and over again, that itís my last season and I want it to be successful. Iíll do everything I can to make it happen.

S. Gonzalez Thank you.

S. Cowell Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. Next is Brook Anderson with Showbiz Tonight at CNN.

B. Anderson Hello there, Simon. How are you?

S. Cowell. Iím good. How are you?

B. Anderson Iím doing well, thank you. Simon, there has been tremendous speculation about who could possibly replace you on American Idol. My question is has anybody contacted you personally about wanting the job? And, if you could choose, if you had your pick, who would be your dream replacement?
S. Cowell Well, youíre never going to pick anyone as good as you, are you?

B. Anderson Of course not.

S. Cowell So thatís why I donít think anybody really asks me that question. I mean, I can give general advice, as I said before on this conference call. I think the important thing is what I said earlier on - and youíve seen this on a lot of shows, you cover a lot of stuff Ė you see people put in a role to play a certain role, which has become quite tiresome, when people always describe that person as the mean judge or whatever it is. You just have to find somebody who can actually make a difference to the contestants, whoís not afraid to speak their mind, whoís prepared to be honest and occasionally blunt, but not to be gratuitously rude. Iím really getting tired of all of that now. But look, thereíll be a lot of people, as you know, who want the job. I think ironically, itís going to help next season because I think thereís going to be a lot of interest as to who replaces me.

B. Anderson Who could do it, in your mind?

S. Cowell Who could do it in my mind? If I really knew the answer to that question I wouldnít tell you.
B. Anderson Has anybody contacted you about wanting the job? Iím sure youíre getting a lot of calls.

S. Cowell No, I havenít actually. Iíve had a couple of calls, but they were quite boring people and never stood a chance. No, theyíll be contacting FOX, I think, if they really want this job. Or do what Howardís been doing Ė just basically talking about it on his show I think is brilliant.

B. Anderson Thank you, Simon.

S. Cowell Thank you.

Moderator Thank you. Due to the time constraints, our final question will come from Lynzie Parker with Yahoo!

L. Parker Hello, Simon. How are you?

S. Cowell Hello. How are you, Leslie?

L. Parker Iím wonderful. Leslie is actually my momís name; Iím Lynzie, but Iíll tell her you said hello.
S. Cowell Letís start again: how are you, Lynzie?

L. Parker Iím good. So I know you say that you donít want to say who would like to replace you, but I have one. Iím on a mission. I want to see how you feel about this one. Noel Gallagher from Oasis. Heís crabby.

S. Cowell Noel Gallagher. Do you think people would understand him?

L. Parker If you subtitled him.

S. Cowell If you subtitled him. I know Noel quite well and I like him. Heís very funny and he is a brilliant songwriter. Itís 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 peopleís names like Madonna, it will never happen because you have to give a massive, massive time commitment. Thatís always been the problem when youíre trying to find people to do these shows. You have to find people who are prepared to give up that much time.

L. Parker Donít you feel it has to be a British person? It seems like you set the trend that it has to be a British person, like a Piers Morgan or someone like that.
S. Cowell Again, Piers works for me and does a great job on Americaís Got Talent. This person specifically has to have a lot of experience in the music business. It is the most important thing. Thatís what I think will happen. I think theyíll find somebody who has that kind of experience, whether itís a manager, artist or Ö somebody like that, Iím sure.

L. Parker Weíll miss you.

S. Cowell Iíll still be around, but thank you very much. I really do appreciate that.

L. Parker No problem. Thanks for your time.

S. Cowell Look after yourself.

Moderator Thank you. Simon, do you have any closing remarks?

S. Cowell It was very short, but thank you, everybody. There were good questions. I hope it cleared up a lot of the rumors. Weíll do this again soon.

Moderator Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and for using AT&T Executive Teleconference. You may now disconnect.

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