How does it feel to be back?
It feels good. It’s great to be back with my X Factor family. I’m feeling strong and saucier than ever. I’ve got a vibe!
Did you have any reservations about coming back again?
Whenever I commit to something, especially this show, I give 110 per cent every time. It requires a lot of my time, so every year I do re-evaluate that I’m spending enough time on myself as an artist, on my music and my projects. Fortunately, X Factor is so much fun, it’s important to me that we have the same panel because we all get on so well and have such an undeniable chemistry. The thing this year is that instead of having 10 weekends of live shows, we’ve got six so, I’m not going to lie, that gives me a little bit more time to focus on my music and my projects.
The change in the number of live shows is just one of the ways Simon plans to freshen up the series this year. Are you excited by what he has planned?
I love all the changes he’s making. You have to in this day and age. Things are moving so fast over social media, you have to be changing with the times. You have to evolve. We’re evolving as a show, we want to give the people what they want.
When it comes to the contestants, are you looking for talent or entertainment?
I’m always looking for talent over entertainment. I think talent speaks for itself and is entertaining on its own.
Are there less joke acts this year?
We still have some, shall we say, colourful characters with some Scher-flare! We’ve got a couple of the guilty pleasures! Then we have some characters who have some real talent, there’s a real balance this year.
Why do you think the talent is so strong this series?
I think because of X Factor’s reputation we’re starting to get more people from all around the world coming here because they know that we actually do make dreams come true, as cheesy as that sounds. Our proof is in the pudding. Former X Factor contestants are now artists and they’re dominating the charts.
Simon has been winding you up about the possibility of a romance with a contestant – what’s going on?
Oh, gosh! Danny Lambo. He’s nicknamed himself that because he has three Lamborghinis. He’s a “self-made multimillionaire”, as he says. He’s definitely a very different character. He came to us singing an original song, which really gave me a look into his soul. It was titled Playboys. The lyrics were something like, “Hoes, boats, Gucci, Prada, selfies with the hotties.” I got to know him a lot more after that song…
So no romance then?
Alesha Dixon stood in for you when you were away during auditions – did Simon wind you up about that?
Alesha’s my friend, so I dig her. There was one of the auditions that Mrs O couldn’t make, so Alesha stood in for her too. Me and Alesha were having so much fun, I don’t think Simon liked that because he couldn’t control us. Together we are double trouble, we have too much fun together. Simon tries to wind me up about everything!
The audition tour made a pit stop at Thorpe Park, where you proved to be an adrenalin junkie!
I was super stoked about it because I love rollercoasters and amusement parks. There was one rollercoaster called Stealth, I think I did it five times in a row, I loved it. I’m an adrenalin junkie and that ride was so much fun.
Do you think age impacts artists’ success in today’s industry?
I think it’s harder when it comes to age. I feel like, growing up, my dad listened to people like Billy Joel and Phil Collins. These weren’t teenagers. Now, it feels like so many people on the radio are so young. I think it’s harder with age to make it in the industry, on the radio. But what’s so great is that we have streaming. That’s awesome because once you have a hit, streaming breaks all the boundaries of appearance and age.
How important is social media and are there any pitfalls to an online presence?
Social media is really important, I don’t do it enough! I wish I was better at it. I’m not a big fanatic, as some people are, it’s more for the millennials. I just feel like there’s not as much mystique any more. It’s also a great way to connect with your fans directly, but I think there is a danger that maybe you can overstep your boundaries. You have a responsibility to uphold how you represent yourself.
How much does music impact the mood you’re in?
Oh, 100 per cent it influences me! It’s my everything. It can lift me up, it can be my therapy, it can make me happy and make me feel like I’m on vacation. It’s like part of my blood, it’s in my veins.
Do you have a go-to song if you’re feeling sad?
If I want to be picked up, then I’ll probably put on a Sia album. Turn on Unstoppable real loud. Or I’ll put on Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Honey, you all better be scared when I put on Lemonade – you’re about to get it! You’re about to get the saucy Scherzy! The extra-hot sauce, that extra swag – you know what I’m saying?!
Have you ever seen Simon dance?
Dude, I have seen Simon dance! I think I’ve made Simon dance. It might be just a finger, but it’s dancing! He does the very slow, raise the roof pump. Hey, that counts! I should get a gold star for that! He feels the music. I sit next to him, I can tell when he lights up and feels the music. I think it’s always just a finger or a roof pump. I can’t see him doing something Scher-mazing across his kitchen floor at home. I can definitely feel it when Louis feels it, too, I’m like, “Feel it Louis, let it resonate through your little Irish body!”
What’s your ambition for the next five years?
I came into this industry as a musician, an artist, and that’s the most important thing for me, to get back to that. I have a project that’s my dream project in my heart. I have a vision for it, and I want to create that. It’s something I feel hasn’t been done before, so I want to take some time to really create that and bring that project, that album and tour, into fruition. It always goes back to the music, touring and singing to the fans, that’s my everything. After that, I want to do more movies, more theatre, more charity work. Then, in five years’ time, hopefully I’ll have a family. Touring, singing, creating, movies and a family. I want to be like Sade, J. Lo, Bette Midler – all of them are still killing the game.