He’s a mu­sic mogul, but Walsh’s lat­est TV move is a gam­ble as shows here never man­aged to find a star

Irish Daily Mail - - News - by Eoin Murphy En­ter­tain­ment Ed­i­tor

‘Danc­ing dogs or maybe a danc­ing nun’ ‘I can’t be­lieve I am get­ting away with it’

LOUIS Walsh nar­rowly missed one nat­u­ral dis­as­ter a few weeks ago as he fled his Mi­ami apart­ment just hours be­fore Hur­ri­cane Irma struck. But now that he’s back to terra firma, is the gre­gar­i­ous pop man­ager about to wade into an­other storm as he takes the helm of TV3’s show Ire­land’s Got Tal­ent?

Louis has long pushed for an Ir­ish ver­sion of his pal Simon Cow­ell’s hit se­ries which brings in mil­lions of view­ers in the UK, the US and coun­tries across the world.

And in spite of the fact that other sim­i­lar for­mats here never man­aged to wield a star wor­thy of the in­ter­na­tional stage, Walsh is con­vinced that this time around things will be dif­fer­ent.

There is no doubt TV3 will add the req­ui­site sparkle to the pro­duc­tion side of things and of­fer up a slick and stream­lined show.

No, the prob­lem is that as a small coun­try, our well of tal­ent has the po­ten­tial to dry up long be­fore enough con­tes­tants are found to make a pro­gramme that will keep view­ers in­ter­ested.

Af­ter all, the pop­u­la­tion of our whole coun­try is prac­ti­cally half that of Lon­don, and even Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent fea­tures acts from abroad to bol­ster the num­bers.

As a na­tion we have had a che­quered his­tory with tal­ent searches. The All Ire­land Tal­ent Show came and went as did the Voice Of Ire­land, You’re A Star and Pop Stars.

But Louis be­lieves that this new for­mat can gen­uinely of­fer some­thing new and unique to draw tal­ent out of ru­ral Ire­land. It does beg the ques­tion though — does Ire­land re­ally have enough undis­cov­ered tal­ent to make a watch­able TV show where con­tes­tants can bat­tle it out over six weeks or more? Or is it the case where we will have a few great acts and some oth­ers who wouldn’t make it onto the show’s coun­ter­part across the water?

‘I don’t agree,’ Louis says de­fi­antly. ‘I think Ire­land has lots of tal­ent. For a small is­land what we have is real, di­verse tal­ent that is unique to us as a na­tion. We have a lot of in­cred­i­ble peo­ple who maybe wouldn’t get a chance to shine any­where else.’

And Louis is in­sist­ing that we can match the Brits with quirky, orig­i­nal and fun acts. ‘On this show I am look­ing for danc­ing dogs but also maybe a danc­ing nun or a singing priest,’ he says. ‘The Priests have sold mil­lions of records so maybe we could find a new one. But we could also get a pop act or a rock act or a choir. We have in­cred­i­ble gospel choirs all over the coun­try and one of them could win.’

And of course, Walsh is also hop­ing for some­one with a few tricks up their sleeves too. ‘Ev­ery wed­ding you go to have a ma­gi­cian now,’ he says. ‘And per­haps the next Dy­namo is out there and just hasn’t had the break. Any­one who has that de­sire in them to en­ter­tain and wants to get to the next level can au­di­tion and will be taken se­ri­ously.’

TV3 has only re­cently canned Masterchef af­ter one se­ries so there is no guar­an­tee that a pol­ished in­ter­na­tional for­mat will trans­late to an Ir­ish au­di­ence. But again Walsh dis­misses th­ese con­cerns and is con­fi­dent in not just the for­mat, but the prize on of­fer.

‘This is go­ing to work be­cause it is so di­verse,’ he says. ‘The other shows in the past maybe weren’t at the right time or maybe didn’t of­fer the right prize. We are of­fer­ing €50,000 but more im­por­tantly a Christ­mas spe­cial. It is real old school fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment brought up to the mod­ern day.’

It’s a big prom­ise but Louis is also cer­tain that view­ers will buy into the fun be­tween the judg­ing panel of him­self, ac­tress Denise Van Outen, co­me­dian Ja­son Byrne and Ru Paul’s Drag Race star Michelle Vis­age.

‘Peo­ple know Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent and they know what to ex­pect. What they don’t know is Michelle Vis­age and Denise Van Outen and Ja­son Byrne and how we will work to­gether and that will hope­fully bring peo­ple in too,’ he says.

And al­though other pro­grammes have tried some­thing sim­i­lar with var­i­ous ranges of suc­cess, Louis is still con­fi­dent he can make a prime time en­ter­tain­ment pro­gramme that will have view­ers flock­ing to TV3.

‘It’s not that the other tal­ent shows were bad, it is just that this for­mat and line-up is bet­ter,’ he says. ‘Plus any­one in Ire­land with any tal­ent can go for it. It is not elit­ist or just for singers and dancers.’

An­other car­rot on the end of the stick is Walsh him­self. The au­di­tions will be­gin in Drogheda this Novem­ber and the fi­nals will take place in front of a live au­di­ence at the Helix Theatre in DCU in Jan­uary.

Louis is cur­rently on the look-out for a new act to man­age and says he would be open to tak­ing a fledg­ling Ir­ish act un­der his wing if they im­pressed on the show.

‘Per­son­ally I would love to find some­one new who can sell records. I would love that. Be­cause I am away a lot with X Fac­tor and the groups I can’t be on the ground con­stantly look­ing for tal­ent.

‘You get lucky some­times and some­times you need a ve­hi­cle like IGT to show­case that tal­ent for you. Am I look­ing to man­age one of the acts? Maybe. Ire­land is wide open for a new young coun­try singer. We only have Nathan and Daniel and there is room for an­other one. It is a great plat­form for some­one to get their tal­ent out there.’

Louis also be­lieves peo­ple will be more in­clined to try their luck in front of a homegrown au­di­ence too. ‘Peo­ple will come to us over BGT be­cause it is lo­cal rather than go­ing to the UK and get­ting swal­lowed up,’ he says.

‘They might not un­der­stand the Crys­tal Swings or the Nathan Carters in the UK. But here th­ese acts can get an in­stant fan base and an au­di­ence who will get be­hind them. If I see some­one who I think is go­ing to be suc­cess­ful then, ab­so­lutely, I would man­age them but they have to have some­thing amaz­ing.

‘I want to find an act that could end up in Las Ve­gas. That’s how big I want to go.’

There is no deny­ing that the judg­ing panel is A list and the one name al­ready im­press­ing view­ers is singer Michelle Vis­age from RuPaul’s show. It is a book­ing Louis him­self is re­spon­si­ble for.

‘I ac­tu­ally got Michelle Vis­age for the show,’ he says. ‘I went to see her in RuPaul’s Drag Race in the Olympia Theatre – I met her and I clicked with her in­stantly. She re­minds me of Sharon Os­bourne. She has a great work ethic and she is funny and she loves Ire­land for some rea­son so she is per­fect.

‘She will bring great bal­ance to my­self and Denise and of course Ja­son is bril­liantly witty. Lucy Kennedy who is pre­sent­ing is very warm and nice and even though we haven’t met to­gether yet, I think we all bring el­e­ments that com­ple­ment each other.’

We will have to wait four months be­fore we get a glimpse of the new tal­ent of­fer­ing but for now Louis is on our TV sets ev­ery Satur­day and Sun­day evening un­til Christ­mas, with the X Fac­tor back on screen. There is no doubt­ing that the rat­ings of seven mil­lion view­ers are a far cry from the hal­cyon days of 14 mil­lion back in 2010.

But Louis says the show is back to its best and that peo­ple are again talk­ing about it as op­posed to the last cou­ple of years.

‘I think X Fac­tor is back re­ally strong,’ he says. ‘Peo­ple are talk­ing about it again. I no­ticed that at the Plough­ing Cham­pi­onships. I am get­ting a great re­sponse wher­ever I go and I think that has to do with go­ing back to its old for­mat. The gim­micks are kind of gone and it is all about the tal­ent. The panel is set­tled and we all get on.

‘And then of course we have th­ese two great Ir­ish broth­ers, the Prices from Bless­ing­ton, and they are bril­liant. They are wait­ing to be signed up and they can travel. They have a sound that could work in Amer­ica. What I like about them is that even though they are so young they are into it and are very in­no­cent but hard-work­ing.’

And that old magic be­tween Louis and Sharon is also back on screen again.

‘I feel like with Sharon I have a friend for life, I re­ally do,’ he says. ‘We talk all the time, at least once a week. Ni­cole not so much be­cause she is all around the world. I have al­ways said this is the best and most hon­est panel we have ever had, be­cause we have been around and we know what is go­ing to work and what won’t. We don’t suf­fer fools any more.’

Hav­ing just wrapped on the au­di­tion stages of the X Fac­tor, Louis boarded the de­but di­rect flight with Aer Lingus from Dublin to Mi­ami, look­ing for­ward to two weeks of sun and re­lax­ation at his apart­ment just off Ocean Drive on South Beach.

How­ever, the havoc wreaked by Hur­ri­cane Irma saw him evac­u­ated from his build­ing in a scene that was akin to a Hol­ly­wood dis­as­ter movie.

‘I was in Mi­ami when the storm hit and hon­estly you had to be there to be­lieve it,’ he says. ‘It was so scary. We were all told to evac­u­ate the

build­ing and all the roads were full so you couldn’t get any­where or to Or­lando air­port. ‘I was so lucky that Aer Lingus had just launched a di­rect flight and they got me on the last one leav­ing,’ he says. ‘But had that not been the case I would have been trapped. Ev­ery TV chan­nel was cov­er­ing the storm and we were be­ing told that Mi­ami was go­ing to get a di­rect hit.

‘Be­cause it is such a low place ev­ery­one was ter­ri­fied and there were queues for gas and the su­per­mar­kets were sold out. It was like some­thing from a dis­as­ter movie, I was gen­uinely scared. Luck­ily I got back and now it seems like a bad dream.’

With X Fac­tor’s live shows on the hori­zon, Louis is en­joy­ing his time on the show. And even if it does all end to­mor­row, he will still be grate­ful for all the fun he has had.

‘Simon can change things at a whim but we are signed up again for next year so I feel se­cure,’ he says. ‘If that was to be the end of it then yes, that’s ok too be­cause I have had an un­be­liev­able run. I can’t be­lieve I am still do­ing it to be hon­est.’

One of the con­tra­dic­tions that fol­lows Walsh around is that even though he prefers to sit in the back­ground and let his acts take cen­tre stage, Louis is gen­uinely more fa­mous than any of them. This celebrity is some­thing he does not en­cour­age but it is also some­thing he has learned to live with. And he can­not un­der­stand why any­one would want to be fa­mous for fame’s sake, with­out the pay cheque at­tached.

‘I am not fa­mous, I am well known’, he says. ‘I agree that there is a thin line but it makes a dif­fer­ence. I am lucky to be a small part on a big show and I know that — and that keeps you grounded. In Ire­land it is parochial when it comes to TV work. You have peo­ple who just want to be lo­cal celebri­ties and they will work for free to get there which is wrong, be­cause you are tak­ing a pay­ing job away from some­one who re­lies on that to pay bills or a mort­gage.

‘It is show­busi­ness. I do it be­cause I get paid and I know that might sound cold but this is my job. I have a value on what I do and I don’t think there is any­thing wrong with that. I am not in the fame game; I never was and never would be.’

And he in­sists that, like or loathe Louis, what you see is what you get off screen too. ‘I am the same off screen as I am on it,’ he says. ‘I think peo­ple are sur­prised that I am quite as nutty off cam­era but it means I am not fake. There are too many fakes on TV and they are all be­ing nice to the cam­era and the au­di­ence but as soon as they are off the set the mask slips and they aren’t nice. I see it a lot.’

At 65 years young, Louis has hit statu­tory re­tire­ment age but he says that he has no in­ter­est in slow­ing down. If any­thing, Louis thinks be­ing em­ployed keeps him young so he is very much in favour of the push­ing the age for the state pension to 70.

‘I love work­ing but I am do­ing some­thing I love,’ he says. ‘I am still with Shane Fi­lan and that is boom­ing at the minute, es­pe­cially in Asia and he has a sold out tour in Ire­land and Eng­land. I might find some­one new this year to man­age — maybe from X Fac­tor or IGT, but they have to be good.

‘I think they should raise the re­tire­ment age to 70, I have a good few years to go yet but I think that is a great idea.

‘Look, I’m not Vin­cent Browne or Gaybo, I don’t want to work for­ever but I just do what I do, it hap­pens to be on TV and if they let me do that for an­other ten years, then amaz­ing. But work keeps me young and I still can’t be­lieve I am get­ting away with it.’

X Fac­tor: Louis with fel­low judges on the show Celebrity whirl­wind: Louis Walsh

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.