After working on The X Factor for months, new judge and mentor Natalie Bassingthwaighte has been excited for the show’s return (tonight, 7:30 p.m. on Channel Seven) for ages. Along with fellow new recruit Mel B, she joins Guy Sebastian and Ronan Keating in searching for Australia’s next musical sensation. We caught up with Natalie this morning to talk about her involvement in the show, meeting Simon Cowell and her gorgeous 1-year-old daughter, Harper.
Were you a fan of The X Factor before you got involved?
The first time that I saw the show was in the UK — I think it was the year that Leona Lewis won — and I definitely loved the format of the show. I loved the fact that the judges weren’t there just to judge but also mentor, so I really enjoyed the whole concept of it.
Did you have any hesitations about taking on the X Factor role?
A little bit — only in the way that I’m a new mum and I just wanted to make sure that it would fit into our family. It’s different now; you can’t just go here, there and everywhere, you have to really discuss it as a family. So that was a really big priority for me, to see if that worked first. My partner [Cameron McGlinchey] was really up for me taking up that challenge. And also at the beginning of the year I was doing a play at the Sydney Opera House — I got that little acting bug back, and I thought that I was gonna go down that path. It was different, but I’m so, so glad that I said yes, ’cause I’ve never had so much fun doing anything, ever. It’s just been awesome.
What’s the camaraderie like between you and the other judges?
We have such fantastic chemistry; like I said, I’ve never laughed so hard for so long, we have so much fun. But we all have our own opinions, too — we’re not afraid to disagree with each other, which is just as important as to support one another’s decisions as well.
Keep reading . . .
What was it like for you to meet Simon Cowell?
It was incredible. I was nervous, definitely, just because I admire him as a person — I feel like he’s really intelligent and he has a lot to say. I love what he’s done, I love that he’s made his own fortune really, then lost it and made a comeback. He’s a very powerful man so to be in the same room as him was quite intimidating, but at the same time he was lovely [and] definitely told us what he wanted from the show.
Are you feeling the pressure from him?
Well, you know, you always wanna do a good job if Simon Cowell is the big boss. So, yes! [Laughs]
Do you think being a mother helps with the mentoring side of The X Factor?
Probably. I think more than anything it’s my experience in different facets of the industry that is probably gonna help me even more so — I did musical theatre for seven years, I acted, I’ve music myself. Just having worn different hats I know how the industry works, and I can’t wait to give that to my contestants.
Are you worried about how attached you’ll get to the group you’re mentoring?
I already am! We’ve exchanged phone numbers, we’re talking to each other like, ‘How’re you going in rehearsing?’ It’s pretty hilarious but I didn’t think I’d be anything less than that. I always dive into these things. But I’m loving it.
What are you most looking forward to when the live shows start?
Probably seeing the contestants that we have really come to life, really standing up there and owning the stage. I feel like that will just be so rewarding to see all the work come together.
I remember reading that Kyle Sandilands said last year he wasn’t prepared for how much commitment the show needed, not just choosing songs but also the lighting and helping with styling. Are you looking forward to that aspect?
Oh, I’m already loving it, and this is just the beginning, so yes, absolutely. We’ve got a team of people helping us but we do have the final say. We do bring the songs forth and say, ‘This is the song that I think this person should sing,’ and usually they’ll sing it unless the producers say one of the other judges has taken it. It’s first in best dressed! So it can be quite frustrating at the same time.
Which song popped up most during the audition stage?
I must admit Adele came up quite a bit. I’m not sure if they’re gonna show a lot of it because everyone’s been saying, ‘Will they play Adele over and over again?’ There’s definitely some, but it’s always edited in a way where it’s not too overwhelming.
How is Harper?
She’s definitely a big smiler. Every day now her personality is getting bigger and bigger. It’s the best thing, it really is.
Have you been able to bring her on set?
Yeah, she’s pretty much a frequent flyer now! She’s travelled here, there and everywhere. It’s nice to be settled in one spot — we’re in Sydney now for the show.
And do you think she’s made you clucky for more kids?
Not with the travelling! [Laughs] It’s way too full on. I have to admit she’s a pretty good baby, but it is hard being a working mum and travelling all the time. I have a new appreciation for all mothers.
The X Factor premieres tonight at 7:30 p.m. on Channel Seven, and continues Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.