Louis Walsh is definitely leaving The X Factor at the end of the 2013 series – but he has told RadioTimes.com that he might make a comeback one day if Simon Cowell returns to the UK version of the show.
"I’ve been doing it ten years," Walsh said. "It’s an awful long time to be on the show. I don’t want to be pushed. I’d prefer to leave than be pushed. To leave on my terms.
"Now if Cowell came back, I might come back. The two of us, we would not stop laughing. If Simon called me up and said… but, oh well. Let’s see what happens."
Walsh, who revealed X Factor bosses didn't try to persuade him to reconsider and remain on the show – "They haven’t said anything to me. Because I announced it without really telling them" – said he wanted to return to managing pop bands: "I wanna be a manager, because that’s my day job. It’s my real job. I love doing X Factor, I absolutely love it. It has its highs and lows. Sometimes I love it more than other times. It is the best job in the world though. I’m like the cheerleader. But I do take it seriously, even though it may not always look like that."
With Cowell tipped to return to The X Factor UK as soon as 2014, perhaps fans won't have to face the prospect of a Louis-less series after all. But whatever happens, Walsh won't be dancing on the programme's BBC1 rival, Strictly Come Dancing. "That was a joke! We had a warm-up comic on. He said, ‘Oh, you’re leaving, where are you going?’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to Strictly,’ and Sharon said, ‘I’m going with him,’ just taking the piss at the live show. And it was really funny. But I’m not doing it. No way. I wouldn’t do it for all the money in the world. No, no, no. I couldn’t. I can’t dance. I cannot dance."
How about being a judge on a different talent show? "Maybe judging, if the right thing came up, yeah. Because I love doing the job. It’s never boring, because it’s so different every single year."
"It’s been an amazing ten years. I really like Gary, Sharon and Nicole. They’re really on their game this year. Honestly, they are the best judges ever. Nicole works 24/7. She’s the hardest-working female we’ve ever had on the show. By a mile. Some of the others didn’t give it what she gives it. People used to show up and look fabulous, and cry a little bit. But Nicole always delivers.
"She has this American work ethic. I so admire her. She always looks fabulous even at 9 o’clock in the morning. Every day of the week, she just works it. She’s earned everything she’s got, as has Gary."
Does Gary play it a bit too straight on the show, though? "That’s what he’s like. He’s all about the music. He’s all about the songs and singing. I love the three judges this year. For the first time ever."
Was there previously always one Walsh wasn't sure about? "Always."
So is Walsh missing Tulisa Contostavlos? "I miss the fun, I do miss the fun, but Sharon is the icing on the cake for me. You have two managers versus two artists. Sharon’s a manager. She’s seen it all and done it all, and she kind of invented the reality TV stuff, and managed loads of people down the years, and we’re looking at it from a different point of view. Gary and Nicole will often talk about the actual vocal, and the technicalities of being a great singer and stuff, and blowin’ and puffin’, things I don’t really understand. I think of a good voice or a bad voice, in tune or out of tune."
Despite the famous incident in 2005 when Sharon Osbourne threw water in Walsh's face during a live show, he says the pair are now good friends. "Of all the judges on the show over the years, even when she wasn’t on the show, we’ve kept in touch all the time, we talk every few weeks. She calls me at three o’clock in the morning. I’ll see my phone flashing, and she’ll know I’m up watching TV, because I’m always up late, and we have a chat about everything. We became really good friends at the end of it all. And she’s very loyal."
Walsh's best X Factor buddy is, however, the big boss. "Simon. Those two, in that order: Simon and Sharon. They’re two self-made people. Both of them understand that I love music, and that’s why, I think, they like me. And they’re both very loyal to me. They know I absolutely love what I do.
"I always send Simon funny texts. The last one was about the baby. I always send him funny texts about the baby, and getting married, and all that kind of thing. I’m always doing that. I think he’ll be a great father. Because he’s a big child.
"He's nocturnal, yes, like me, and Sharon. I can’t wake, I can’t get up til 12 o’clock any day. But I can’t sleep – I’m always up late watching TV. I’m up til 3, 4 every night. Sometimes 5. I buy all the box sets. I have 20 to catch up with. I’ve just finished House of Cards, with Kevin Spacey. It’s fantastic. I love it. I’m on The Good Life now, series three. It’s okay. I’m not jumping up and down about it. It’s a bit fluffy. Boardwalk Empire, Dexter. I love Dexter. I’m on the seventh season. Damages with Glenn Close is fantastic – I’m on the final season. I watched In Treatment, that was good. I finished that. I’ve got so much stuff.
"There’s a brilliant Irish series called Love/Hate. I’d recommend it. And I watch an awful lot of CNN and Fox and Sky. I’m a news junkie. Anderson Cooper, I watch him every night. I watch Piers Morgan a lot as well. Hasn’t Piers done so well! For someone with so little talent – he’s fooling everybody."
As a connoisseur of novelty acts, what would Walsh say is Morgan's secret? "Very simple. Neck. He’s got great neck. And he’s just so ambitious, and so full of it. He’s brilliant. Who created him? Oh, yes, Simon created him. Simon gave him his break."
The X Factor returns to ITV on 31 August