With America’s most controversial DJ Howard Stern stepping aside, the door is wide open for other names to fill Simon Cowell’s seat on American Idol. What most Idol fans don’t know is two of the shows current judges have ties with one of those names reportedly in the running.
Enter uber music executive Tommy Mottola who is the former boss of Idol judges Randy Jackson and Kara Diaguardi. Mottola’s accomplishments include 14 years at Sony Music Entertainment and currently the co-owner of Casablanca Records. Mottola has worked with and established acts that include Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony.
Back in July of 2009, former Sony executives Chris Apostle along with Cory Rooney spent one hour discussing Michael Jackson’s contributions to the music industry and his life. The interview was heard in numerous countries and continents across the globe and translated into numerous languages. It is still reaching new people every day.
Apostle spent time at Sony as Tommy Mottola’s right hand man delivering records to him early in the morning the minute they were completed among many other tasks. The two are still in contact today and were recently together at the Premio Lo Nuestro show in Miami. He reveals that Mottola and him spoke about Idol, but couldn’t reveal anything further.
Apostle argues that Tommy would be perfect for the job because of his track record of hit music, his knowledge of talent, songs and longevity besides past relationships with Jackson and Diaguardi. It makes him the perfect fit to have good chemistry with the other judges when evaluating talent on the show.
Listen to the Chris Apostle CYInterview:
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Chris Yandek: Before we get into anything else, looking back on that interview in July with Cory Rooney about the subject of Michael Jackson, the conversation picked up a cult following of some sorts beyond many wildest expectations, translated into numerous languages and seen by people by across the world. Why do you think people were so fascinated by what you and Cory had to say about Michael Jackson and secondly, how has this death now impacted the music industry many months leader?
Chris Apostle: “I imagine the response was what it was because we actually were, we weren’t being what everyone else was. I think we were asking people to look at the good side of him and they’ve disregarded his musical genius and all they discuss is the extra curricular things in his life. I think we were presenting Michael as the way we really believed Michael to be, a genius musician, probably one of the greatest of all time, arguably the greatest of all time. I think that kind of took people back a little bit and it certainly, the fans of Michael I think appreciated it.”
CY: And how has it impacted the industry now looking back on it?
CA: “To be honest, I feel that Michael Jackson, he’s not forgotten but it’s just over. It’s almost like he’s kind of gone. As sad as that is, I feel somewhat sadder that we’re not even up on a year on this thing and people have just sort of put it aside. Sales, of course sales have improved for Sony. With the family, all you read now about is the doctor on trial and the family squabbling over money and stuff like that. And once again it’s gone back to all the side issues, not the music.”
CY: What did you think of This Is It as far as the portrayal of everything that happened with the death of him? Did it basically clear up some thoughts for yourself that maybe what we thought was reported wasn’t really there after seeing that movie?
CA: “I think that movie was just an epilogue to what he was. I think there was just a commercial exercise to put something out there. I don’t think it clarified anything. I think it certainly showed people that Michael was still extremely capable of performing and he was still the genius that we all knew he was. I really think it was just a commercial exercise because it was just rehearsal tapes and they made a lot of money off of it.”
CY: This past week you were at an event with Thalia and Tommy Mottola. Why don’t you tell me about that and what new is going on in your career and your life?
CA: “Well, I did the Premio Lo Nuestro show in Miami last Thursday at the American Airlines Arena and I was the tour manager for Thalia and obviously always worked closely with Tommy as I have for close to 20 years now. Chayanne opened the show and Thalia was on second and she got a very special award later on presented by Gloria Estefan. It was a great show. It’s as big if not bigger than the Latin Grammys.
The production’s as big as the American Grammys. It’s just a lot of great artists. I got to hang with them out on tour. I know those guys well. Angelo Medina is an old friend. He use to handle Ricky Martin. I got to see him. A friend of mine Chris Rodriguez did the Paulina Rubio musical segment. I just saw a lot of friends. It’s funny when you walk around these shows after 26, 27 years in this business you know a lot of the people. It was great. It’s a huge show.”
CY: Recently Tommy Matolla was brought up again as one of the people that could possibly fill Simon Cowell’s seat on American Idol. Simon said recently that the person to replace him should be someone who has a music industry background. Given the fact that you were recently with Tommy at an event and have worked closely with him for many years, did you get a chance to talk with him about American Idol, anything else and do you think he would be a good fit?
CA: “We talk about it. I’ll keep that discussion private, but I think he’d be a tremendous fit. Are you kidding me? And first thing, I think I’d be kind of funny if you have Tommy Matolla who was Randy Jackson’s boss for a long time and was very instrumental in Kara Diaguardi developing her songwriting career as part of that panel. People forget about Tommy.
The thing that people don’t seem to know about, they don’t talk about enough is the hit records that he makes, how he makes them, how smart he is, how much he knows about performers, songs, musicians, etc. That goes back decades. I think he’d be perfect. Tommy’s actually is a very, very pleasant man to be around.
He’s, I’ve never found him difficult to deal with. He’s demanding. Demands perfection. I think he’d be terrific. I think it would be funny too because Randy also played base with Mariah Carey when I was working with Mariah and obviously Tommy was responsible more than anything with Mariah’s success and I remember when Kara first started. I was in the studio with Cory Rooney.
We were doing Marc Anthony records and Jessica Simpson and stuff like that. She would hang out to do some co-writing and she would put long hours in to get the opportunities. She’s a great musician too. Randy’s a monster musician, a great base player and Kara was a singer for a long time. I think I’d be perfect.”
CY: Can you tell me a little bit about how Tommy helped out Kara earlier in her career? I think many people would be curious to hear that story.
CA: “I don’t know. I guess the world helped her out was – I know she came in. Tommy was what I consider to be the quintessential executive in the way that he – if someone was out there that was new and undiscovered or coming up, he would find these people first. Perfect examples are – I worked with Puffy long before he was the brand name that he is now, Jermaine Dupri, someone that Tommy worked with God 15 years ago at least and established him, helped build Jermaine’s studio in Atlanta, built that whole thing up. Kara Diaguardi, obviously Tommy got some inkling that this was an incredibly talented songwriter so naturally he wanted her on his team.
My first meeting was she came into my office, we spent about 30 minutes and we were just chatting, just casual conversation and basically we were working at Sony Studios and the hit factory. I’m pretty sure it was the Marc Anthony record, the first pop album so that goes back to 1998 or so and she was getting together with Cory Rooney and Marc to do writing and they would sometimes go up to, Marc had a cabin in upstate New York.
They would go up there and write and she’d write lyrics, she’d just write a chorus, write a hook whatever and she pined her time in there. Tommy from my viewpoint can’t say that he or anyone should take claim for saying they founded her, but I know he was very, very responsible for really getting her out there. Let me tell you something, then we did some Jessica Simpson stuff and let me tell you something, she is a monster songwriter.
My last experience working with her was on the first Lindsay Lohan record that she did with John Shanks who arguably is also one of the great songwriter, producers in this business and the record was spectacular. I can’t say the artist was up to the task of following up the record, but the songs that John and Kara wrote were spectacular. Kara would go and record Lindsay’s vocals when she was on a movie set and stuff like that. I have high regard for her and I like the fact if I still send her an email today even with all the success she’s having now she’ll still respond.”
CY: And how about Randy Jackson? Someone you’ve worked with earlier in your career. What do you make of his longevity on Idol? He’s been there as long as Simon and is only one of the other permanent judges. Why do you think he enjoys working on Idol?
CA: “Well, I’m sure the financial considerations are extraordinary. Randy’s an all around. I’m going to use a word and it’s going to be misconstrued, Randy is a very jovial man, he’s jovial in a way that he’s very, very, very endearing to be around. He’s pleasant and the way he talks with the dog and the o’s and all that stuff, that’s really how he talks. He didn’t make that stuff up. They all have their certain personalities. Paula had her personality. Simon has his. Randy has his and Kara has his.
Now Paula’s out and they have the Ellen factor in there which is interesting. She’s probably my favorite talk show host, but I’m not sure how that pans out in the end and there is also the rumors of Simon getting Paula on The X Factor, the new thing he is going to do. Randy Jackson survives because he’s respected in the business, everyone knows him in the industry, all the label heads know him. He’s a talented musician and it’s very obvious. He’s a producer. A huge A&R guy at Columbia Records and he speaks the truth and he speaks very honestly in a very nonabrasive manner. You gotta like him.”
CY: As you mention with Ellen, now all the other discussion comes with Howard Stern besides Tommy Mottola to fill Simon Cowell’s seat Howard Stern, another guy not from the music industry. Another outsider. Ellen again, good talk show host, comedy, actress, but what do you make of the fact that people like Howard Stern being rumored to possibly being rumored to be possibly someone to replace Simon Cowell and again Ellen filling the spot. Should we really have these people judging not being from the music industry?
CA: “Well, you know, again, you gotta remember something, we are talking about TV here. It’s made for sale. It’s made for the public to buy and watch and consume every entity of it. I think they cover their demographics very, very well and obviously they’ve built quite a franchise with this thing that has lasted a lot of years and they have happened to turn out thee to four major, major stars that are legit stars back from Kelly to Carrie to Daughtry.
These are real players in the music business. I wasn’t sure that it would take off that way because I really was kind of like well, there’s musicians that go through the trenches and stuff like that. As for the Howard Stern thing, Howard Stern, he’s probably one of the biggest DJs in the world of all time. I don’t think it would make much sense.
I think when you’re critiquing people, a speaking voice, how you speak to people is very critical and I think it might be a little percussive. It could be construed as a little aggressive. Personally I don’t think it’s a good fit. I think you should have a music person there. If you put Tommy Mottola there it be a brilliant move, probably the only executive that was really, truly in the trenches every day.
He would go to the studio every night on his prime records all the time, leave the office, have a bite to eat. It wasn’t like he would come in for two minutes. He would stay and I would deliver CDs to him at one, two, three in the morning when records were done. I did that for 12-13 years. Personally I think he’s the best fit.”
CY: And what else is new in your life?
CA: “Well, what is new is I’m still working with this Texas cowboy. His name is Bleu Edmondson. He’s doing fabulous. Charted out at number five on CMT’s online video last year which is unheard of for an unsigned artist. He’s just completed a record. Working with an incredible singer out of Las Vegas. Her name is Sarah Thiele and I think she’s spectacular. Still doing work with Alexandra Taveras on things with her. Just did a couple of dates production managing this kid Matt Morris who is on Justin Timberlake’s label and bouncing around doing some consulting and doing that stuff.”