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  • Writer's pictureDanny Joyce | Editor

Louis Walsh reflects on his time as a judge on The X-Factor

Louis Walsh exclusively told Ladbrokes: LIVE about his time as a judge on The X-Factor as he lifted the lid on his relationship with Simon, Cheryl & Sharon and reveals all on the fights, the fallouts, and his favourite ever contestant.

Here's what Louis had to say..


On the pressure of X-Factor:

"I actually couldn't handle it, at one time. Everywhere I went, people would talk to me about X Factor. Everybody had an opinion; cab drivers, shop workers, people in the street; everybody would talk to me about the show, who they liked, and who they didn't like... and I had no idea it was going to be that big."


"On his favourite contestant: My favourite series would probably be Series Two, when I had Shayne Ward. I knew I had a chance of winning. And then you've got the year with JLS, in 2008. I genuinely thought I was going to win that year. I thought I'd get Westlife to do a duet with them and we'd win. But Simon was mad about Cheryl at the time, so what does he do? He gets Beyonce to duet with Alexandra Burke! And that's it; it was done."


On a One Direction reunion:

“It's like how George Michael didn't need Wham!, Robbie [Williams] didn't need Take That. They might just do it for a TV show or a charity event, or something like that. But that'll be it."


Early X Factor days

"It was all so new to me; I was scared, because I was working with Simon [Cowell] and Sharon [Osbourne] who were just these seasoned pros when it came to television. I knew Cowell really well, obviously, because we'd done Westlife together, so I'd be talking to him all of the time. But I didn't know Sharon. And the thing was, I'd been on Radio 1 a few weeks before filming had started, reviewing songs, and one of the songs that came up was Kelly Osbourne's Papa Don't Preach. And I had said how bad I thought it was, and that this girl should not be making pop music... not knowing that Sharon was going to be on X Factor! And so obviously Kelly hated me. But we all became really good friends afterwards."


"The early days of X Factor are all a bit of a blur, to be honest! I honestly don't remember the first contestant walking through the door. I was just constantly thinking 'how am I going to get through this?' You know, I hadn't done much TV work, and I was alongside Simon and Sharon who just made it look so easy. They were funny, even though they didn't actually like each other very much."


"It just got so big, as a show. Families used to watch it together on a Saturday night, nobody went out, they stayed in to watch it... it was just crazy. I actually couldn't handle it, at one time. Everywhere I went, people would talk to me about X Factor. Everybody had an opinion; cab drivers, shop workers, people in the street; everybody would talk to me about the show, who they liked, and who they didn't like... and I had no idea it was going to be that big."


Working around the clock for X Factor

"We were working around the clock on that show, by the way. I was flying back to Dublin, then to London, then I was around for rehearsals, I was very involved in the song choices for everybody. We were genuinely mentoring the acts; we didn't just show up, we were very much involved."


"Absolutely, I was nervous when the live shows came around, because it was exactly that: live TV. And so I didn't know what was going to happen next... your adrenaline kept you going for the whole night. And when X Factor ended, you had the Xtra Factor, and then after that ended, you were straight into a meeting about next week's show, and what songs were going to be picked."


"I would always go back to Simon's house - Sharon didn't - and we would watch that night's show again, maybe with 20 people. You're on a bit of a high after those nights, so you're watching it back and just thinking 'oh my God.' It was like a soap opera, really."


"Simon would be watching it, finding faults in the choreography, the lighting, the clothes, the songs... all of that kind of thing. I was very involved with the song choice, Simon had me on board for that reason, because I had done that kind of thing with Westlife for years and years. It just worked. Simon is great to work with, he's great fun and he has a good instinct when it comes to music and people."


"We would probably end up going to sleep at 4am on Sunday morning, and then we were up and out again for the live shows the next day. Saturday was the big night, and then Sunday was the night where the votes were revealed. We never knew anything about who was going to be in the bottom two, when those acts stood on the stage. We never, ever knew. We'd guess, between us, but we were wrong most of the time! That's why there was shock on our faces a lot of the time, it's all genuine reaction because we never knew."


Louis' favourite acts & notable mentions

"My favourite series would probably be Series Two, when I had Shayne Ward. I knew I had a chance of winning. And then you've got the year with JLS, in 2008. I genuinely thought I was going to win that year. I thought I'd get Westlife to do a duet with them and we'd win. But Simon was mad about Cheryl at the time, so what does he do? He gets Beyonce to duet with Alexandra Burke! And that's it; it was done. Beyonce was really good, Alexandra was really good, it was a great moment for the show. But we were never going to win after that. Beyonce coming on was obviously one of the great moments of the show."


"Steve Brookstein... we didn't like him very much. He was a pub singer. He was quite a good singer, but there was no likeability there with him. So Shayne coming in and winning the series straight after Steve was so important for us, because he was exactly what we were looking for. He was likeable, he had the talent, and he listened. He worked hard every week, and no matter what you threw at him, he gave it 100%. You can't be part-time in this business, you have to be full-time, and he was just great to work with."


"Another band that was great to work with were G4. They were very successful, under the radar. They were great, they had a lot of success. I think back to people like Tabby [Callahan], he was from Sligo and Sharon ended up with him. He was good, he was different. He came in with his band and then went solo. He definitely had something going for him, but I don't think he listened to Sharon as much as he should have done. She really does know the pitfalls of the music business."


"There's a good few names who I think about and wonder why things didn't quite work out for them after the show. Louisa [Johnson] who won a few years back... I thought she was going to do well, and she didn't. The show is a launchpad for these artists... after the series finishes, that's when the serious work starts. They think they've made it, but it's just the start. You've got to make great records, you've got to work 24/7, you need a great record company, you need a great producer, you need a whole team around you. And most of all, you need the public to like you. And if they don't like you, forget it."


"Leon Jackson didn't have the personality, Eoghan Quigg was another one. But what a moment he gave us, when he ran to Diana Vickers after she got voted out. You couldn't make this sort of thing up, honestly. We were just watching them thinking 'oh my God... is there anything that doesn't happen on this show?' And it was all live, of course, and so the public were seeing it at the same time as us."


"Shayne Ward and JLS were definitely my favourite acts. Alexandra Burke, too, she was just a workhorse. Leona Lewis just sang anything and it was great, no matter what it was."


Sharon v Dannii & other fallouts

"The Sharon [Osbourne] and Dannii [Minogue] fallout was very real. I was in Sharon's camp, I have to be honest. Dannii, she was good, she was tough and she was a very good judge. I always thought she should have been more successful as an artist, to be honest with you, because she was as good as her sister. But, yeah, that feud with Sharon was very real. It lasted for as long as the two of them were there on the show."


"That's just one of the fallouts, though. Of course, you've got Sharon throwing water over me. She didn't like me at the time, and I actually thought it was also kind of dangerous, what she did there. And, remember, none of this is staged at all... what could I do? I couldn't throw it back at her!"


"The time I did throw water over someone, though, I have to say I don't regret at all. That contestant, she was horrible. She was going to go for me, by the way, and I wasn't going to let it happen again, so I just threw it over her. And I know I shouldn't have done it, but I did. Am I sorry? No!"


"I have no regrets at all from my time on the show. I had a great time because I just went with the flow. It did take over my life, because I was constantly flying between Dublin and London. There were 15 seasons of the show, I was there for 13 of them. I don't regret anything."


"I miss the fun of the show. I miss the idea of not knowing what was going to happen next. You're constantly thinking you've seen every kind of drama, and then something else hits you."


X Factor return?

"Every day with him [Simon Cowell] was funny. It was always interesting. He never sat back, either; he was always looking at ways of improving things."


"It should come back, but everyone wants to be woke now, and everyone wants to be PC. You know, we wouldn't be able to tell people what we think of them now. What made that show great was that it was honest, it was real, these people wanted to be famous, and we were the ones who were going to tell them yes or no. You wouldn't get away with it now; you wouldn't get away with laughing at people. But that's real life; that's the business and the way it is."


"It was always a brutal show for its honesty, but it's a very tough business that we're in. The longer the show went on, the more people would come on and they'd try and do what they thought we wanted... when we just wanted them to be themselves. We never knew who was going to be walking through the door next, whether they were going to be good or bad, or ugly."


Would I want to be involved if they brought it back?

"I would like to be involved if it was me, Simon and Sharon. That's it. Absolutely. I wouldn't mind guest judges here and there, I think that kind of worked. But the three of us just clicked for some reason, even though Simon and Sharon didn't really speak that much outside of the show."


"But that was what made the show so good in itself; she had her own opinions, and she certainly wasn't going to change them for him."


"My proudest moment on the show was getting the job in the first place... closely followed by Simon having to bring me back after sacking me!"


"It's funny, when he got rid of me, I had a contract in place already, so I knew I was going to get paid, but then Sharon tipped me off that things weren't working, and that they were going to bring me back. i think they'd just done a couple of shows with Brian [Friedman], who was a great choreographer. But he just didn't understand the English and Irish culture."


"There was no crawling back from Simon, or anything like that... he just wanted what was best for the show, and that's why he brought me back."


One Direction

"I don't keep in touch with any of the guys from One Direction. They were great for the show, and Simon [Cowell] very much made them what they were. They were very raw at the start, but he made them good, and he gave them great songs. He gave them a lot of time, and then he signed them to his label."


"It's all about the songs, and they had great sons after the show. It's the same reason why Take That and Westlife are still as big as they are today; it's the songs."


"They've come so far from their first live performance. That's down to confidence. Nobody is good at the start... look at The Beatles in Hamburg at the start of their careers, playing all night, every night. You have to work at it. Look at the early Boyzone clips. You have to build confidence, you're given great songs and then you become showmen. That's what happened with One Direction."


"Harry [Styles] was always going to be this pop star. He doesn't need a reunion. He's a star in his own right. He's bigger than the band ever were. I'm surprised Zayn [Malik] hasn't brought out more music, because I thought he was very talented. Maybe in time we'll see them get back together, but I don't see it. I wouldn't recommend it, actually. Harry Styles doesn't need it. It's like how George Michael didn't need Wham!, Robbie [Williams] didn't need Take That. They might just do it for a TV show or a charity event, or something like that. But that'll be it."


"If I could only go and see one of the boys perform now, it would be Harry or Zayn. Harry is a pop star. But Zayn's first song was so good, and he has the potential to do it all over again and be a huge success. He ticks a lot of boxes. He should make more music."


"Niall [Horan] is a great worker. I put him through in Ireland and Simon would joke with me, and the fact that I was going to put everyone through in Ireland. But I really liked Niall, I wanted to give him a chance and he took it, and he worked really hard. He's a worker. That's why he'll always do well."


Louis Walsh spoke exclusively to Ladbrokes: LIVE, visit Ladbrokes website for more.


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