When American Idol begins its 10th season tomorrow, Randy Jackson will be taking the role of lead judge, offering the last word on every performance in the singing contest. In this conversation with Rolling Stone's Patrick Doyle and other journalists backstage at MTV's The Seven last week, Jackson opens up about getting the hang of working with new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, digs into Idol host Ryan Seacrest and how he plans on stepping into a role in the show previously occupied by Simon Cowell.
Have you guys been hanging out together before you start taping to build chemistry like what you had with Paula and Simon?
Yeah, we’ve been doing quite a bit of hanging and I’ll tell you something, we got on like a house on fire. I admired both of them for a long time. They come from the same side of music Ryan and I come from, so it’s been amazing. I think when you see the show it'll be like, 'Oh my God dude, it's like they’ve been doing it forever together.' So it’s really, really cool. I was wondering that myself and was pleasantly surprised five minutes into our first meeting.
Do you guys grab dinner?
Yeah we grab dinner. I mean, Ryan eats a lot of doughnuts. I keep telling him that doesn’t help his skin, but yeah you know. I think he’s trying to get a Clearasil ad or something.
Have Jennifer and Steven surprised you in the way that they handle being a judge?
I don’t know if I’m really surprised so much, but they’ve become great judges. I mean, we did the auditions and the first city was a little kind of... but dude, a couple hours into it, they were off. What surprised me a little bit is I know artists care deeply, but they actually really care. They actually want these kids to do well. Not that I don’t want them to do well, I do, but only if you deserve to do well. But they’re really passionate people.
Who has a bigger ego – Steven or Simon?
Look, if you really want to talk about egos, you really wanna go there, let's set the record straight right now. There’s a guy that performs some duties on a network that only has one initial. I think the initial is D, G, F, or E. Ryan Seacrest, yes.
I don’t know. I said "Ryan, is it something about your childhood, should we talk about it? Should we all go to group therapy together? Maybe we should do that." I offered.
With Simon gone, who would you say is the toughest judge now on the panel?
Look, he’s irreplaceable, right? Love him. He’s got his own show coming up later I’m sure will be successful. I don’t know if anyone really replaced him. I guess you’ll probably see me be a little bit more assertive, let's say that. That’s a good word. Assertive is a good word, right?