In the past two years, Harry Connick Jr. went from an “American Idol” viewer to a mentor and now a judge.
This year, Connick joins Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez on the panel of judges who will help select this year’s newest pop star. Randy Jackson, who has passed judgment on singers since the reality competition series started, is shifting his role to a mentor.
We talked to Connick about taking on the role of judge for “American Idol XIII,” which kicked off its season Wednesday and continues with the second half of its season premiere Thursday.
Q: What made you feel comfortable enough to agree to be a judge?
A: 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. 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.
Q: Is it the same being a judge as being a mentor?
A: 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.
Q: How are you different from the other two judges?
A: 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 from the ones that Jennifer’s done and the concerts I’ve played are different from Keith’s. So just by virtue of our own experience. I think I can bring something a little bit different.
Q: Does the overall male talent look stronger this year?
A: There’s some crazy guy talent. For real. No joke. There are some guys that are really good, some great young women, too. So it’s hard to say if it’s a 50/50 split. It’s impossible to know and we certainly would never try to reach any kind of quota because that would be biased, I think. We just respond to the people that we see. I guess the feeling is that it’s about half and half; maybe two more girls than guys, but I think it’s about even.