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Producer Lillywhite wants Cowell’s ‘Idol’ seat

Grammy Award winner wants to "help America find the next Elvis Presley" and has mounted a full-scale campaign to be considered for the job Cowell will be vacating after this season.
/ Source: Billboard

Steve Lillywhite wants to "help America find the next Elvis Presley." And that's why the Grammy Award-winning producer — whose resume includes work with U2, the Dave Matthews Band, Jason Mraz, Morrissey, the Rolling Stones, Phish and scores of others — wants to be "American Idol's" next Simon Cowell.

The British-born, New York-based Lillywhite has mounted a full-scale campaign to be considered for the job Cowell will be vacating after this season of the hit show to helm the U.S. rollout of his British TV series "The X Factor." Lillywhite has hired an agent and publicist. He also has posted a short clip on YouTube extolling his bona-fides, and he recently filmed "a slightly more professional" video that will be out soon.

"I think I have the right credentials," Lillywhite told "I'm quite effervescent. I'm quite opinionated. I'm funny. I can do this job. If people say, 'Oh, you're just a rock producer,' I'm not. I'm a pop producer, because pop music is popular music. I'd like to think a lot of the things I do are popular. Rob Thomas, Jason Mraz, Chris Cornell, Amy Lee, Morrissey — none of those are rock singers. Bono is a crooner ... Frank Sinatra with electric guitars. I would like to feel I can present the public with 24 contestants that they can really help go on this journey."

Lillywhite also promised that he can "commit 100 percent" to "Idol's" six-month annual tenure. "I don't run a business or anything like that," he said, "so when I'm not in the studio I'm not doing anything. It's not like 'Idol' would be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for me and then on Friday I do a day in the office to run my business. I would be perfect for just putting everything aside for six months. I would really scour the country and find some great nuggets."

Lillywhite said he's an avid "Idol" watcher and, not surprisingly, said that "of all the judges I tend to agree with Simon the most. But I think the difference between me and Simon is my view of what the star could be is slightly broader than his. I see the possibility of a star in wider strokes." Lillywhite met Cowell in the early '80s, and he used judge Randy Jackson as a bassist on Aretha Franklin's 1986 remake of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" for the film of the same name.

Lillywhite, who's producing the next Evanescence album in New York, said he hasn't heard anything from "Idol" production company 19 Entertainment or Fox Television since he started the campaign for Cowell's job.