As the remaining 12 contestants head to the X Factor studio for the start of the live shows this Saturday, What’s On TV spoke to Boys’ mentor Louis Walsh, who revealed what he’s expecting from his category and their rivals. He also talked about his friendship with Sharon, some secrets from previous series, and what we should expect from last ever autumn of live shows on X Factor.…
Are you excited about your final three boys, Nicholas, Luke and Sam, and how do you think they’ll fare in the live shows?
“I’m very excited because I got a very good category this year and I can work with them. I normally get the overs or the groups – the jokers if you like. But I picked three really good boys. I had four in mind so it was really difficult to pick the right three. I have to work on confidence with all of them because they’re all young kids. They haven’t really performed on live TV before so it’s a whole new world.”
Do you have a favourite among them?
“There’s one who I think is totally a dark horse and that’s Nicholas. There’s something about him, he connects with me and with people when he sings. Even at Judges Houses, when he sang a song it was just so honest and emotional. It got to us all.”
Who would you say is your boys’ biggest competition?
“There’s competition in every category. Nicole has three amazing girls and Sam Bailey is definitely one to watch out for. Gary’s groups are good – the three girls he’s put together are really fantastic. Because there are no males in the Overs, that helps me, so I have a strong category because younger girls normally vote for boys and I’ve got three cute boys.”
Who’s the one to watch from the Girls and Groups?
“Hannah Barrett was amazing at her first audition. Then you’ve got Tamera Foster? If Tamera works, she is the one for me. She’s like a little Whitney…before Bobby! From the Groups, Kingsland Road are good if they get the vocals right. They’re a bit like Take That – they have a good energy. Then the three girls in Miss Dynamix could be great. They’re a bit like TLC meets Destiny’s Child. There’s such an opening for a girl band right now, especially a girl band that can sing!”
How do you think the other judges will deal with their categories?
“Everyone genuinely gets on this year. You’ve got two managers and two artists. Gary and Nicole know about singing, they know what to do. Whereas Sharon and I are managers and we see different things in people.”
The live shows are where things get a bit more bitchy, though?
“Yes, it does. We’re bound to get competitive. We all want to win and don’t forget, Gary’s never won and neither has Sharon. The last time I won I had the boys, and Nicole had last year’s winner. She’s very competitive, in fact Nicole is the best female judge we’ve ever had on X Factor by miles!”
Even better than your mate, Sharon?
“Sharon’s never won, but she’s great fun. For work ethic, Nicole is the best. She’s like an athlete. She comes in every day ready to go.”
Feeling more stressed this year?
“No, I know what the show is going to be like. And this year we all get on so well, there’s going to be no games. And there are no lazy judges. That’s all I’m saying! Everybody is prepared to work. We don’t just show up. I’m already on the phone to my guys today. Song choice is crucial. I’m good at my songs, that’s one thing I’m very confident about – picking the songs to suit the artist. I know what the public likes in songs. That’s the best thing about my role as a judge. I’m not good at styling or whatever else.”
Would you say this is the best line up of judges?
“Yes, absolutely. Simon is the icing on the cake, he always will be, but I think it’s the most honest panel and we genuinely all do get on.”
In the live shows a lot of contestants get overwhelmed, and don’t do as well as you’d hope. Is there any advice you’d give them?
“It’s so hard to give them advice because they’ve no idea what’s going to hit them. When you’re on X Factor it’s a 24/7 job 7 days a week. They probably don’t realise that it’s not a case of just walking out on stage and singing a song, it’s not like that.”
Who do you think has the toughest category?
“I suppose the Overs is normally tough but you’ve got Sam Bailey in there. Sharon will do wonders with her. She’s the one everyone’s been talking about. She came out and did the Beyonce song and she was just amazing. We didn’t think anyone could so she had the shock factor. My boys, I’m very confident with.”
It’s the 10th year of X Factor, so any tricks up your sleeve?
“There are no tricks. I think we just get great songs and we try and get the boys to go out there and deliver them. There are themes again, for week one it’s 1980s and for week two it’s movies. I’ve been busy picking my songs.”
There’s always pressure to get big star guests on the live shows. Do you know who they’ll be?
“Yes, I do. We have the biggest names in the world on the show this year. The biggest by a mile!”
Do you enjoy the rivalry with Strictly each year? I don’t really care about Strictly, honestly. I think there’s room for both shows but the show that everyone talks about is X Factor.”
Do you think Gary takes it all more seriously – he gets angry about the joke acts?
“That’s good. He believes in the whole thing because he’s in the music business. A lot of people are in the television business. He’s a songwriter and a performer – he knows music. That’s what’s good about him, he’s not interested in making a TV show.”
Which judge is the most fun to go for a pint with after the show?
“Me! Me and Sharon – we are the fun on the panel, without a doubt.”
So do you go and get drunk together after the show?
“We did. The four of us went out on the very last night of Bootcamp and we stayed up all night talking. We’ve never done that before on the show. We were up till 6am. Sharon was going to America, Gary was going to New York and Nicole was going to Hawaii or somewhere. We sat up all night chatting, honest. That’s the bond that’s there.”
“Will that bond come to an end during the X Factor live shows?
No! We’re planning to go out every Sunday night. We’re taking it in terms to organise. I’m doing week one, Gary’s doing week two. I’m not telling you where we’re going! We’ll just eat and chat.”
Does Simon Cowell phone up and chat about the shows when he’s seen them?
“Yes, he keeps in touch with us a lot. He’s always watching the show and any good ideas, he’ll nick and pretend they’re his! He’s doing the bootcamp chairs on the American show now. Simon is the master of making good TV. There’s nobody better.”
Have you got an all-time favourite act?
“To work with JLS. They were incredible. They were just so together, they should have won that year. I know Alexandra Burke won but I think they should have won and they’ve been more successful than her. I loved Shane Ward as well and had fun working with Wagner and Jedward!”
Looking ahead to the live shows, it’s your last series. Will you be suffering withdrawal symptoms next year?
“Probably, yes. I’m probably going to miss it big time but then if Simon came back and asked me to stay I’m sure I would stay. It’s been really great this year because there’s a whole new energy to the show with Sharon and she’s made Gary Barlow laugh.”
Do you think the show can survive without you and Sharon?
“Of course, the show is bigger than anybody. This show is always going to be the best show on TV. It’s the fact that it’s real and it’s live. Things can happen, and we never who’s going to show up. Then you watch them grow. It’s like a soap opera, some of them survive and some of them don’t.”
Are you worried Sharon’s going to be throwing more water over you?
“Not at me, she can throw it at anyone else. Sharon’s the best. She’s fun. I look forward to going in to the show every week. I go into her dressing room and we have a good laugh. We slag everybody off and then we do the TV show. How good is that? Simon usually gets a bit of a lashing but in a good way.”
Who was a nightmare to work with on X Factor?
“Oh there were loads, loads of people who let me down. The big girl from Wales, she was a nightmare. She was a cruise ship singer! She was a nightmare. We put her in by default. Sami Brookes. That’s the one. She was an absolute nightmare.”
What do you watch on TV?
“Everything. Homeland is top of the heap, The Good Wife and Dexter, plus Nurse Jackie, Boardwalk Empire. I have them all on Box Set. I watch a lot of movies.
Do you feel proud you’re the only judge to have been there in every series?
“No, I think I’m lucky. But I genuinely say what I think and I genuinely love it. I give it 100% and I’m on call 24/7 for the ten weeks of the show. I’ll do whatever it takes, I don’t mind.”
What do you usually do after each series has ended?
“I go to Miami, always. I do nothing but eat, sleep, drink, watch TV, go to movies, everything. And I think about the next year.”
So what will you be doing after X Factor?
“I want to manage one or two really big acts. I’m putting a new boyband together at the moment in Ireland and I’m picking the right people. I’m managing Shane Filan and I have great hopes for him.”