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

Louis Walsh is well known for managing some of Ireland’s biggest pop acts including Johnny Logan, Boyzone, Jedward and Westlife.

This week Louis opens up about the X Factor including the early days, his other judges and his favourite season on the show ever!

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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! 

Louis Walsh exclusively told Ladbrokes Live about what it was like having One Direction on the show:

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.

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.

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.