Ninety minutes after the conclusion of one of this season's last episodes of " The X Factor," about a dozen people of different ages and races are packed into Antonio "L.A." Reid's dressing room. The most recognizable face in the crowd is Live Nation CEO Irving Azoff, having a pow-wow with Reid in a corner of the small room in the backstage area of Stage 36 on the CBS Television City lot in Los Angeles. Four or five other meetings are occurring simultaneously; the environment very business focused. No one, though, is dressed as well as Reid, still in the suit and tie he wore on the broadcast. (Unfortunately no photos were allowed backstage.)
One of the many publicists associated with "X Factor" and its talent notes, in the hallway, that "the best music is always coming out of L.A.'s dressing room." On Wednesday night the gentle R&B playing is a collection of tracks being considered for the soundtrack to "Think Like a Man," the Screen Gems/Columbia Pictures film based on Steve Harvey's book that Tim Story is directing. Epic will release the soundtrack for the film, which is pegged for the spring.
Reid, who took over the Epic Records Group earlier this year, gets a few of his associates to leave the room and lowers the volume to do an interview with Billboard.biz.
"You see all those people that were just in this room?," Reid asks. "Every one of those people works for Epic Records. What we do is, in the mornings we work before the show, we work after the show -- we just haven't stopped. We probably signed a good dozen artists or so since I've been doing the show. We've completely staffed our company while doing the show and we're even finding our groove as a company putting records out. You wake up and do the work in front of you. I don't even think about."
Epic's latest signing has an "X Factor" connection: Cher Lloyd's debut album, "Sticks and Stones" (released by Simon Cowell's Syco label in the U.K.), will be released through Epic next year. In a separate interview, Cowell referred to Reid as "my rock" on the show. Reid offered a few thoughts on the "X Factor" process and how it will affect anyone on the Epic roster.
Billboard.biz: At what point do you start thinking about what type of album these singers might make?
LA Reid: I started to think about that in the very beginning of the show. You start to think who they are as artists. Do they have their own identity? Are they copy artists who can do karaoke, or are they artists we can find a lane for in the actual recording world?
BBB: It seems that would be more true for some than others at this point, with five contestants left.
LA: Tonight (Dec. 7) was an important night for Chris Rene. He certainly stood up as a recording artist by doing his own material. He entered the contest doing his own material and that by doing his own material once again, he proved himself to be an original and in a lane all of his own. Yes, he looked like a star. Melanie stood up and was really strong and for her it's a matter of material. Marcus Canty is one soulful dude and I feel him. There are all truly contenders and I don't think the winner is obvious. We don't have a clue who the winner will be.
BBB: When you're complimenting a singer, how much of that is result of them paying attention to the mentoring?
LA: I don't compliment them that much. My comments are more geared toward advice, which I try to always give them. I can easily criticize and comment - that's easy stuff. Helping them with advice to do better, that's more important to me.
BBB: How much time do you spend mentoring Canty and Rene?
LA: Some portion of every day. The time we spend is real time. Trust me, we put a lot of time in. The mentor relationship is an honest relationship and all of the mentors and contestants are close, even closer now because there are so few of them.
BBB: Is there any element from the show that will carry over in your day job?
LA: I won't go back to the record company and do things based on how it works for television. But the thing that comes out of the show that can helpful in the record business is, when my artists perform on television, I am going to be much [more involved]: What they perform, how they perform, the set design, the choreography, the costumes. I'm going to be much more hands-on with their performances than I have in the recent past. I started out that way and I kind of got to get back to it.