MANILA, Philippines – One of the highlights of the 13th season of American Idol—which premiered last Thursday, January 16, Thursday on UHF channel ETC—is the entry of singer Harry Connick Jr. to the reality singing show’s judging panel.
As early as now, the US media dubbed Harry as the show’s possible savior and its “saving grace” after a lackluster “Idol” season last season. The 46-year-old musician-actor, pundits say, worked well with fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban. Major media outfits such as Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and TV Guide all agree that Harry stole the “Idol” spotlight, at least during its first two airings.
Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Harry, where he talks about his journey to being an “American Idol” judge, how he deals with criticism, and what he looks for in a potential “Idol” contestant.
Can you talk about your journey to being the judge? Is it because you did such a great job mentoring last season? What made you want to do it and all that?
Harry: Well, my whole life has been a lot of interaction with people who are a lot better than I am whether it’s in a one-on-one teaching situation or a clinic or mentorship or master class, and as I got older, I started to be on the giving end of those things. I would spend a lot of time talking to kids in high school, college, even professional people about how they can improve. So, I feel very comfortable in that kind of environment.
So, when “American Idol” called a few years ago to ask me to be a mentor, it felt like a very natural thing to do. And, then they called me back last year to do it again and I had a great time. I really, really enjoyed spending time with those talented young performers. Then they called and asked me if I wanted to be a judge, which is different than being a mentor because you don’t really have the intensity of the interaction but you get to share your views with a lot more people and try to help them develop their talent. So, it just felt like a natural thing to do.
Plus I love television, I love being in front of an audience. I love talking about music. So, there are a lot of things about being on “American Idol” that I really, really like. So, it feels really good so far.
How are the relationships going with the other judges and what do you bring to the table that’s a little different to them?
Harry: Well, first of all, I really love being up there with them. They’re extremely bright people, highly successful, have very strong work ethics and very strong convictions about what they do and they’re the best in the business at their respective jobs. We’re completely different. We’re different brains, different personalities, different philosophies.
I think what I bring to it is I have a lot of experience as a player, as a singer and as a kind of an overall entertainer that’s unique to my own life. It’s like the movies I’ve done are different than the ones that Jennifer’s done and the concerts I’ve played are different than Keith’s. So, just by virtue of our own experience, I think I can bring something a little bit different.
Having been on the show before in mentoring capacity and now as a judge, have you found that the experience is different? Is this measuring up to what it was when you were there as a mentor? Is it completely different for you?
Harry: Well, it’s different, but it’s not a surprise. I know what the show is. So, I was really familiar with what it would be like to be a judge, and from the very first contestant that we saw in Boston it just felt very natural. You go sit in that chair, you’re with two people that you respect very much and like very much and people start coming in and singing and that’s—it all gets turned on. You zone in on them and you critique that performance and it’s exciting stuff.
How do you deal with criticism? Are you good with it or not?
Harry: Well, it depends on the source really. As a kid, when my teachers would critique me, and it happened every day for years and years and years, you develop a tolerance for it especially when it’s right and when it’s sincere and when it helps you. Nowadays, if I do something wrong and somebody that I know and love says ‘hey man, that was a mistake,’ I’m at the point in my life where I can admit it almost immediately.
The criticism from the noise out there because somebody doesn’t like the way I look or the way I sing or the way I talk, it just doesn’t even register with me. Some people don’t read reviews, some people do read reviews; if I read one or not, it doesn’t matter. I just don’t—there’s a lot of noise out there; I just don’t hear any of the noise.
As far as Randy Jackson goes, moving inside in-house mentor role, do you think that will help in fostering talent as far as swing and big band and that whole area goes?
Harry: Although jazz and big band aren’t at the forefront of what Randy does today, he is more than capable of coaching that or any other genre. Randy’s an incredible talent. Anybody would be lucky to have him coaching them on any genre really.
So, in previous years, Idol has crowned a lot of artists to fall in categories outside of your own as far as genres go. What are the odds of finding the next Harry Connick Jr. this season?
Harry: I don’t know. Hopefully there’s only one me and you’ll never find the next one, but genre really doesn’t matter to me. I haven’t seen anyone in this entire audition process that really does anything remotely similar to what I do, but I think there are qualities that—even Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban don’t do what I do. We share qualities and that’s what we’re looking for.
We’re looking for work ethic and artistry and being telegenic and creative and just being an artist, and as far as finding the next me, that didn’t cross my mind.
So, is there anything specific that you’re looking forward to as the show goes forward, not necessarily the live episodes but just as it moves further into the season?
Harry: Honestly, as broad as this sounds, I really am just looking forward to being on the show. We’ve worked I don’t know how many days, but if you include like the audition days in different cities, Hollywood week, all of these things, every time “American Idol: is on the calendar, I just bound out of bed with great excitement and enthusiasm, like it’s really, really fun.
It’s extremely intense. The days are long. It’s very emotional, but it’s just the wildest ride and it’s a wonderful ride with great people and I really just like being a part of it. I thought it would be like that but it’s hard to come and speak about the specifics before you’ve actually done it. So, all I had to base it on was my last times mentoring, but I’m telling you, it is a great, great show with great people at the helm and we’re just having a ball.
Catch “American Idol” on UHF channel ETC every Thursday and Fridat at 6PM, with a primetime telecast at 9PM.