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X man Louis Walsh says he was scared to join The X Factor but show changed his life

It was confirmed this week Cowell is to end The X Factor after 17 years

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Louis Walsh says The X Factor changed his life Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Louis Walsh says The X Factor changed his life Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Louis Walsh says The X Factor changed his life Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Pop mogul Louis Walsh today looks back on his big break with The X Factor and declares: “It was the best thing ever…it changed my life.”

In an exclusive interview, the Westlife manager admits he was scared of doing the show at the start — and scared of his fellow judge, Sharon Osbourne.

But Louis pays tribute to his friend Simon Cowell for giving him a major role on one of the biggest TV music shows of all time.

This week it was confirmed that Cowell has decided to end The X Factor after 17 years.

“I will miss working with Simon, greatly,” Louis tells the Sunday World. “I knew two years ago that the show was gone. The ratings had dropped. There were too many other shows copying it and that killed it. But X Factor was the best. And there will never be another show like it.

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At its peak The X Factor was drawing in 12m viewers on a Saturday night

At its peak The X Factor was drawing in 12m viewers on a Saturday night

At its peak The X Factor was drawing in 12m viewers on a Saturday night

“It’s a very expensive show to put on and Simon would not cut corners. If it wasn’t the best show, he wasn’t going to put it on. It has had an amazing run, but he did the right thing.”

At its peak, The X Factor, which created major acts including One Direction, Little Mix, Leona Lewis, James Arthur, JLS and Olly Murs, was regularly drawing in 12 million viewers on Saturday nights — and it turned Louis Walsh into a TV superstar, something he never dreamt of.

“I never wanted to be on TV and it was Simon who put me on,” says Louis, who was on the show from the start in 2004, alongside Sharon Osbourne and Cowell.

Walsh spent more time on the show than Cowell as a judge, but says: “When Simon first asked me about doing The X Factor I said, ‘What!’ I really was scared because I was quite happy behind the scenes doing what I did. I never wanted to be front of camera, never, ever. Honestly, I didn’t. No experience, no ambition to do it.

“And then with Sharon Osbourne, I was scared of her because I’d seen The Osbournes show on TV and I thought, ‘Wow! This one is scary.’ And she was scary at the start. It took her a while to get to know me. We’re now best friends.

“Sharon is one of the nicest, most genuine people I ever met. She has one of the warmest hearts. She’s tough on the outside, but she’s very soft on the inside.

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“I was so scared going on TV for the first year or two because I was walking out on stage with these two household names, Simon and Sharon. I had never done TV, I was unknown in Britain, and everybody was asking, ‘Who is he? What’s he doing there?’ And I was the brunt of many jokes.

“But the more I did it, the more I liked it. It was all real, and that was the scary thing about The X Factor. Sharon and I never knew what was going to happen next. We never knew anything about the contestants until they were in front of us.”

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Louis joined The X Factor when it first started back in 2004 PA/Talkback Thames.

Louis joined The X Factor when it first started back in 2004 PA/Talkback Thames.

Louis joined The X Factor when it first started back in 2004 PA/Talkback Thames.

Cowell head-hunted Walsh for The X Factor after the pair struck up a close bond working together on the launch of Westlife.

“I knew Simon from working with him on Westlife,” Louis explains. “I had tried to get him to sign Boyzone and I couldn’t get him on the phone. Then I met him with Robson & Jerome at Kenny Live in RTE all those years ago. And he said, ‘Darling, we’ll work together on something, definitely.’ That turned out to be Westlife, and we never looked back.

“I had the best time working with him and we’d always fight over songs, and that’s how we came to really know each other. We would be talking on the phone every day because he was a brilliant A&R guy. He was the reason Westlife happened.”

How did he handle the overnight stardom? “Well, I knew how to deal with the media,” Louis says. “It was part of my training. Out in public it was fine. I talked to everybody, and I knew that was the secret. I learned all that from the showbands. Whatever I learned in Tommy Hayden’s office (the Irish showband agent he first worked for in Dublin) stuck with me.

“He used to say, ‘be nice to everybody on the way up because you’re going to meet the same people when you’re on the way down.’

“Simon was never ‘Mr Nasty’, ever, behind the scenes. I’ve never heard him use bad language. I’ve always seen him being mannerly to everybody. He had great respect for women. He’d always talk to everybody, and he was charming. He was the best ever. As I said, he changed my life.”

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