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[Continued from Part One, which can be found by clicking here.]
Why do you think all of the winners so far have either been from Texas or the south? How come no one can seem to come from one of the bigger markets and win this competition?
Jackson: Well, Iím from the south, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so the south should rise again. The south does it best, man. Come on. What are you talking about?
No, I think that people from the south and Midwest are not as pretentious as some of the other cities. When I was doing A&R what I would always say about New York and LA is everybody watches DET, VH1, MTV, and all of those shows and they become copies of what they see. So when youíre looking for genuine originality and youíre trying to find someone that is just honestly talented and coming in with what they really have and really trying hard, sometimes itís a little tough. I mean I donít think weíre looking for a copy of anything. I know Iím not and I donít think Simon and Paula are either. I think itís just really that; I think itís just a little bit more tried and true in those areas.
Randy, what are we going to do with no Mandisa? Going back to the question that just was answered, I know during one of the promos for the upcoming season Simon said, ďEvery year a southerner has won and I think a southerner will win again this year.Ē Is that just him giving a sound byte to whet our appetites?
Jackson: You know, I think that was just his view of it. I mean I donít know. Iím not going to say itís going to be a southerner or not yet, but there were definitely some good southerners. I represent the south, so you know what Iím saying. Iíve got to keep it real.
Yes. What about a guy like Elliott Yamin, who kind of came out of, letís be honest, left field? What do you think about what his future is going to hold?
Jackson: I think that heís got a bright future ahead of him. I really like this kid. I think that he is the heart of what the competition is really about. I mean this guy loved every moment of it. I mean he rose to the occasion, a really great singer. I mean the fact that heís 90% deaf in one ear and he sings like he sings, dude, I love this kid. I love what he stands for. I think heís the bomb. I think heís got a bright future.
I enjoyed meeting you in San Antonio.
Jackson: Yes. We liked San Antonio.
Really? Did you find anybody special there?
Jackson: Letís see, special is a very big word.
You did mention when you were here that you kind of missed the fact that there werenít that many Latin pop artist from this Aztec country, was your quote. I was just wondering is there anybody in your mind though that has stood out from San Antonio?
Jackson: Yes. I think there were some really good people in San Antonio. I think that we were looking for more of that ... thing since we know that itís, as you say, that whole Aztec country, but I think there were some equally really, really good people there. I think itís the first time that weíd been there, so we had some expectations and I think it turned out really good actually.
So we have some hope, huh?
Jackson: There is hope for San Antonio.
Could you tell me, since we were one of the audition cities, is there an order of audition shows from each city, so I can just tell them, ďMake sure you tune in prontoĒ?
Jackson: That I wouldnít know actually. I donít know. Youíd probably have to check with Fox to find out that or check with the publicist or something.
Is there anything thatís different about the show ... just a little tweak of it?
Jackson: Simon is going to die his hair red.
And youíre going to dress in lime green.
Jackson: No. I think now, since I was going to do the Jedi think like Gnarls Barclay I think Iím going to do something different. I think Iím going to come in scrubs. Iím the new McDreamy.
You certainly look alike. Randy, one more thing: What did you think of San Antonio just as a city?
Jackson: I actually loved it. Iíve been there a bunch of times over the years. A really, really cool place. Iím a Spurs fan.
All right. Even over LA?
Jackson: No, not over LA. Come on. The Lakers rule, lady.
I wanted to know what you thought the contestants have learned from each other over the years and whether the endurance of the show makes them a little bit more savvy and a little bit more prepared or whether they still come in like newborn lambs and very raw.
Jackson: Itís funny you say that because every season I think they get a little bit more savvy. I think thatís what I was saying earlier to someone is that, but somehow the people from the south still keep it honest and real and the Midwest. Theyíre not as savvy, but I think a lot of these people watch and they go, ďWhat did so-and-so do? What did they like that so-and-so did? Iím going to follow that and copy that. You liked it when so-and-so did it.Ē As if this is the way to kind of get through. Do you know what I mean?
I think we see a lot of that happening, I think, unfortunately. There is a lot of good information given by us three judges on the show and I think people should take that more to heed and listen to more of what we have to say in our comments to the kids. Theyíll learn way more from that than anything, whether theyíre on the show or not.
Whatís the advice that people most ignore that you wish they wouldnít?
Jackson: Song choice, song choice, song choice. Understand who you are, because what you tell me as a judge when you sing a song thatís way too big for you, you tell me you have no idea how good you are and what you sing best, so you just told me you have no idea what youíre doing. Iím going to imagine that almost every time youíre going to pick the wrong song for you. Do you know what I mean?
Randy, I want to come back to the bad singers for just a second. Thatís been a mainstay, but when I spoke with Nigel and Ken they said that they were kind of trying to rid the show of the riffraff, so where are you guys drawing the line?
Jackson: I think youíre still going to get some of that through because we see a cross section of everyone and itís hard to just stamp that completely out, but I think if someone walks in the door and theyíre in this weird costume; there was the gondolier one season in Vegas; you just go, ďOkay, do you believe that you really have talent or are you here just for the buffoonery of it all?Ē Do you know what I mean? I think weíre trying to draw the line somewhat there. Do you know what Iím saying? If you come dressed as a tin man Iím going to go, ďYouíre not a singer.Ē
I wanted to ask you about the concerns too that you may or may not have. Youíve got this song competition going on at the same time, so how do you feel about that? What do you think it will do in terms of possibly diminishing the impact of the actual competition?
Jackson: Right. I donít know if it will diminish the impact or whatever. I think great songs are still hard to find. I wish everyone luck in either writing or whoever is going to submit out there or whatever. I think itís really, really hard. I mean Iím a songwriter myself, so I know how hard it really, really is.
Lastly, I wanted to ask you: last night Youíre the One That I Want premiered.
Jackson: What show is that?
Jackson: No, what show is that?
Seriously? Itís the competition show for Grease where ...
Jackson: Do you mean another kind of copy Idol show? Wow! Another one.
Yes. Well, I was going to ask you about that because, coincidentally, there are three judges, including a snotty English man.
Jackson: You must be kidding. Come on.
Jackson: Isnít it funny? See, this shows you thereís not a lot of originality, is there?
No, not really, but Iím wondering how you feel when you hear about it? I mean it didnít do great last night, but it didnít go bad either.
Jackson: Hereís what I said earlier to someone. I really honestly mean this. Me, being a musician and being a record producer and a songwriter and everything that I do and being up for ... Grammys this year, thank God, for two records that I made, hereís the deal: If youíre the first and youíre original you .... The copies, as there get to be two, three, four, five, six, seven of them, will never be as well. I mean it just never really quite works to me. Thatís just to me. If I were doing a show, I definitely wouldnít have three judges and have an English guy and have it be just like Idol. I just donít know. It just tells me that I guess a lot of networks donít have a lot of originality.
What are you going to be doing Grammy night?
Jackson: Iím going to be praying and hoping that the song that I did with Sam Moore and the late, great Billy Preston, and Eric Clapton, and Zucchero wins. Iím also going to be praying that the song I did with Van Hunt, Josh Stone, and Josh Legend wins.
And youíre going to vote for yourself, right?
Jackson: And Iím voting for myself, man.
Randy, as you know, North Carolina has been really, really well represented on Idol. Like Birmingham, I guess we have that expectation that there will be someone. Can you tell me?
Jackson: Well, listen, I mean I think that area has definitely done America and itself very proud. As I said to the person from Birmingham, I think that you guys will definitely be represented. I donít know if I can say the winner, but itís going to be a little different this season, I think, as far as where the winner comes from.
I wanted to ask you if you will give this opinion: Of all of the people who have been on the show, winners or not, do you have a favorite?
Jackson: I think what comes to mind really quickly is my two favorites probably hands down are Kelly Clarkson and Fantasia.
Are you in touch with either one of them?
Jackson: I see Kelly from time to time and I see Fantasia from time to time. She sang a duet on the Sam Moore album that I produced about six months ago. Yes, I see them quite often. I see all of them quite often. Those two girlsí voices are just amazing and Iím really pleased and happy whatís happened with Jennifer Hudson and how sheís kept her career and her life going and how sheís blossoming now. I think itís great.
One more thing: If you could have been in charge, rather than the voting audience, is there any winner you would have changed?
Jackson: No. I think the public has gotten it right every time. I believe in America.
Thank you so much, Randy.
I was going to ask you: There were lots of records that came out of last season and now Paris Bennett debuted her first single off her new record last week on Twin Cities Radio. I was just wondering if youíve heard her record or what do you think of her future and the rest of all of the records that came out of last season?
Jackson: I think that sheís got a bright future. I mean Paris was a very talented girl on the show. I think she just needed a little bit more seasoning, just a little bit more experience for me. I havenít heard the record. I wish her well. I think sheís definitely got a bright shot at a great future.
Iíve heard some of the records. I havenít heard all of them. I think Chris Dautry made a really good record. I like Rubenís single, the song ďChange MeĒ I thought was good. I heard a little bit of Taylorís record. I think I heard the single on some TV show. I thought that was good. Whether these records will become huge for them, it goes back to how great the songs are. Iím not sure I heard songs that were going to propel them into some great sales stratosphere, which is the measure in the record industry if something is great or not.
Whoís record do you think has been the best so far?
Jackson: Listen, all youíve got to do is you can look at the past idols and you can tell whoís done the best. Kelly Clarksonís done the best hands down. I mean her last record sold ten million copies. What that says to me is that she hit her public square on the bulls eye, so people believed her. They loved the songs. She had great songs. I think that song ďBreakawayĒ is a career record. I think ďBreakawayĒ is the best song ever recorded by any idol to date on any record.
Jackson: To date. That song is a career record. That song is a true copyright in the words of Clive Davis, who is always telling me about copyrights. There are very few copyrights and that song is a real copyright. Kelly has definitely done her thing.
Right. My last question for you is when the Twin Cities watches the Minneapolis auditions on TV are we going to have more to be proud of or embarrassed of?
Jackson: I think it will be a balanced, Zen-like scale. The ying and yang will go back and forth. As many links as you have, you have that many emotions.
Randy, I wanted to know, thereís been a lot of talk on this call about Jennifer Hudson; with Jennifer and with other idols what does it mean to you personally when someone kind of unsung like that totally rises to the top and just goes for it? What does that mean to you personally?
Jackson: It makes me very, very happy because I think that, listen, she definitely is really talented. It shows me that sheís got the perseverance to keep going and keep fighting for her dream. I mean, listen, itís true; if youíve got the talent and you keep your nose to the grind, one day, somewhere itís going to happen for you. Iím just so happy and sheís proof that it can still happen, whether you win or not.
I think everyone is really proud of her, everyone who voted for her and rooted for her. What quality do you think you saw in her that made you pick her for the wildcard?
Jackson: I think that sheís a really, really naturally talented girl. I think for me it was just tough that season. We knew we had those three girls that were amazing singers. We had our own Dream Girls. We had LaToya, who was great, and Fantasia, whoís amazing.
Jackson: So we knew that one of those was going to last the time. I think after Fantasia did ďSummertimeĒ it was all a wrap after that because she just blew the doors off and she was like a young, new Aretha, but the thing to me thatís really interesting that no one has asked on the call is, Iíll tell you what, whoever cast Jennifer Hudson in that role for the film is an absolute genius. Those people know what theyíre doing because itís the perfect, and I mean perfect, role for her. She is a Baptist church girl in a Baptist church girlís role in a movie. She acted amazingly. It was like, ďOh, my God. Talk about perfect pairing.Ē
Like a glove fit.
Jackson: Oh, my God. Thatís why itís so great, because itís exactly who she is.
Randy, I canít ask about anybody from this area because I donít think youíve been here yet to good, old, central PA. I think Iím going to take it back to the less talented people, shall we say. Do you find that you get sort of less of that these days or does it seem to always be a consistent?
Jackson: No. Listen, I think you have a great competition that you can become a celebrity overnight and get a huge record contract and become very rich and famous fast. I think youíre going to get a lot of people showing up. You get the good and the bad of it always. I mean the scale definitely tips both directions. Do you know what I mean?
Iím sure. Iím sure. Why do you think those people are willing to set themselves up in such a way? I mean on national television and in front of the three of you. I mean it doesnít get much more scrutiny than that.
Jackson: Iíll tell you, I think William Hung has helped a lot of people. Really. I mean listen, the guy made a career out of being just absolutely one of the worst.
Jackson: I mean I donít know. I donít know how. Itís amazing to me. I donít know. I wouldnít show up if I didnít think that I had the talent, but ... different in their heads. Theyíre hearing something different in their heads Iím convinced.
Randy, thereís a story in AdAge today talking about Fremantle and expanding the marketing of American Idol, perhaps having a theme park ride and candy bars and ice cream.
Jackson: I like that, like the Wonka Bar.
Thatís right. The Randy Bar.
I mean how much of this stuff do you think you can do? Do you ever get worried that thereís a point where itís too much that it takes away from the show?
Jackson: No. I mean, listen, I think Idol is definitely a huge brand. I think that I can see people are trying to leverage the brand. We donít have anything to do with that, but I donít think so. I think Idol is a show about talent finding, so I think as long as we find great talent all of those things will sustain themselves.
So youíre a supporter of the Idol perfume?
Jackson: No. I have my own perfume Iím going to put out and I think Simonís got one coming out called The Stinker.
Whatís yours called?
Jackson: The Love Potion.
I donít think youíve ever been to Connecticut for auditions, although I think somebody from New Brittan might have been at the Seattle auditions, so Iím just going to ask you, you said Kelly and Fantasia were your two standouts from the time youíve been doing this. What makes them standouts? What qualities make them standouts?
Jackson: I just think that they both had the eye of the tiger. I think Kelly has gone on to great success, so I think she has really listened and really figured out who she is, because youíre never going to be successful in the record business unless you know who you are. Therefore, youíre making the right records; I hate to keep saying it; the right songs for your public. That means if Iím an R&B singer I probably shouldnít be doing rock songs because that public wonít be buying that from me because they wonít believe it. Itís not honest and true. Kelly has had huge success because sheís made the right records. I mean I love that.
I think Fantasia, that version of ďSummertimeĒ still rings in my head. I just think Iím not sure sheís made all of the right records personally. I would make different records with her, me personally, but I just think that that performance just is the best Idol performance that I can remember to date.
My only question to you is between Simon Cowell being a go-for-the-jugular type of judge and Paula being a let-them-down-easy judge where do you think you fit in?
Jackson: I will stand that I am definitely the voice of reason.
Definitely. Youíre kind of cool. Youíre laid back, but I always respect your point of view. I canít take bad talent. I just canít take that.
Jackson: I like that.
Randy, Iíve got to agree with that last caller. You pretty much are the coolest judge on the show.
Jackson: Thanks, dude.
Iím not kissing up to you. You were here in Minneapolis for Idol auditions a few months back and you mentioned there was some good and some not-so-good talent. Any one person, good or bad, stand out that we can expect to see a lot of this season?
Jackson: Let me just say this; that Minneapolis was very interesting, I mean it being the home of Prince, Jamminí Louis, all of this great talent, Paul Westerberg. Aside of all of that it was definitely really interesting. I donít think any of us knew what to really expect, but definitely enlightening. Iíll just say that.
Can you tell us this? Do you expect to see any Minnesotans make it to the end?
Jackson: I think a couple could actually, yes.
The finale last season was great. You mentioned Prince. Prince was on. That was huge. Can we expect the show to be even bigger and more exciting this time around?
Jackson: Yes. I think, listen, we continuously have fun with it. I think Kenny and Nigel and everyone did an amazing job producing that finale show last year and big ... for them. Prince blew the doors off. He is one of the quintessential ones of our times.
Anything stand out during your stay here in Minnesota?
Jackson: The lack of four seasons. No, Iím just kidding. Actually, we had a good time there. It got colder sooner than I thought though. I had to buy a jacket.
Randy, getting back to Elliott, whoís a local guy from Richmond, he hasnít landed a recording contract yet. I wonder how thatís going to affect his career from this point on. Is that essential? What happens next?
Jackson: Well, thatís what I was saying earlier. You look at whatís happened to Jennifer Hudson. I mean she just landed a record deal, right? This was two seasons or three seasons ago or something. I think itís about finding the right home and the people that really believe in you and that really want to guide your career. I think Elliott is going to be all right.
Stepping back and looking at the whole phenomenon of American Idol, did ever in your mind, when you signed on to do this show when nobody ever heard of it or knew what it was, could you ever have visualized that this would have happened, that it would become what it is today?
Jackson: No, I donít think any of us really did. I mean I certainly did not. I mean I had no idea. I went into it kind of blind as a bat. I went into it saying letís see what happens. I knew that the record industry was in the toilet. I knew the record industry needed something different and having just come out of it, being in it for 15 years in the A&R departments, I knew that there needed to be another, different kind of talent search. But weíre truly happy and unbelievably blessed and really, really lucky to ... success.
I wanted to ask you how do you keep it interesting for you after doing it now going into the sixth season. How do you not get bored with seeing so many of the same types of singers over and over again? What keeps it interesting for you?
Jackson: I think singers are singers are singers. I think Iíve been doing it all of my life. I think itís always interesting to me and Iím always trying to find something thatís unique and different and great out there, so the quest never ends for us because weíre always hopeful that this season weíre finding the next Sinatra or the next huge whatever. Weíre always curious and interested. Do you know what I mean?
Do you have in your mind somebody that got away, that just was voted off to soon and you havenít heard from?
Jackson: I think a lot of people get voted off a little soon, but I think sometimes during the course of the season, especially when it gets down to the top seven or six people, I think America gets a little confused at times. I think when someone goes off every week those votes are going to go somewhere, so you never know where theyíre going to go exactly. I think somebody falls in the clutches there sometimes, but I think, as I said to someone earlier, America has gotten it right every year. I think the right person has won every time.
Is there anyone whoís just not pursued it that you think should try to that you saw during the process, who we havenít heard from and has kind of dropped out of the music business that you think should not have dropped out and should keep trying?
Jackson: Well, no. I mean the thing is that if you really are serious about this and youíve got that kind of persistence and that kind of conviction, youíll still be going and fighting and scratching and biting and trying to make it happen just like you see going on with Jennifer Hudson now. I mean that shows people that you donít know when itís going to happen, but youíre going to keep your nose to the grind until it really does happen for you.
How are all of the judges getting along this season? How are you guys doing?
Jackson: Fantastically, interestingly well.
You and Paula, you and Simon, everyone good?
Jackson: Yes. Listen, itís always interesting because we donít see each other for a while and then we get back together and do the show. Itís always a little bit of a readjusting period and we go a little crazy on each other sometimes, but we each call each other crazy four or five times. Thatís okay. Itís brothers and sisters. Come on.
Moderator Thank you. Do you have any final remarks, Mr. Jackson?
Jackson: I love America. James Brown was definitely the King of Soul.
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen, that does conclude our conference for today.
Many thanks to FOX for the interview!