Katy Perry, Luke Bryan & Lionel Richie Talk 'American Idol' & Their Histories With the Show

ABC/Eric Liebowitz
ABC's "American Idol" judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan with host Ryan Seacrest.

When the three new judges who will decide the fate of contestants on the ABC revival of American Idol took a very short production break Thursday (Nov. 16) night at the Hollywood & Highland complex in Los Angeles, they spoke to Billboard as a group about the upcoming season. Despite a long day in front of the cameras, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie were in a great mood, demonstrating the chemistry that has already bonded the three superstars.

What was the initial thought that came in to your head when you were first asked to be a judge on American Idol?

Katy Perry: Well, it wasn’t the first call from Idol. It was maybe the 12th call I’ve gotten from Idol. But the stars have never aligned. I’ve never been able to do it. I’ve always been on a tour or doing record promotion. This time I was like planning a tour and they said, “Wait, hold on. Can you do this additionally?” and I thought, “Okay, let’s see.”

Lionel Richie: In my case, I was not thinking about it at all. It was not where I thought I was going and then they called off two magic names, Luke and Katy, and when they said Luke and Katy, I said, “Now that is [interesting].”

Perry: I specifically requested Lionel to be on the panel. I hadn’t hung out with Lionel much but I had met him once at Sunset Tower and I was captivated for hours by his storytelling and his catalog and his context. So when they asked my opinion, I didn’t know Luke, but I thought, “Who would I want? Who would be good? Who has never done this? Oh my God, Lionel Richie. He’s a legend.” So here we are.

Richie: To be honest, Ryan Seacrest has been a part of my friendship group forever. We all are connected in some way with him, so just to have Ryan on board too was magical.

Luke Bryan: With me, I had gotten pretty crafty at saying no to TV opportunities because I was so in love with my touring world. I’ve got that world figured out. You know, I spent the first few years feeling like I was in a washing machine, but then when this came, when I found out that it was ABC and it was a reboot and I knew that Katy was on board, and then they told me Lionel was on board too, I thought, “Okay, let’s get the meetings, get the people that I need to talk to. Can we make it work?”

What is your previous history with American Idol – over the years, did you watch the series?

Richie: I was a mentor [in season 2] and enjoyed it, but I just never thought it would happen like this. This is perfect.

Bryan: I was new to Nashville and American Idol was finding huge country stars and I remember thinking, “Well, dang, maybe I may need to go down there and try out.” I think the only way you didn’t watch American Idol when it came out is that you were living in a cave.

Richie: How many times do you think we were in a hotel room waiting for our next live performance to come around? What are you going to watch? American Idol.

Perry: I think when it was really in its heyday in the early 2000s, that was when music was changing and it was a real platform. Okay, so music did change, right? Now you can put your music out on Spotify. You can put your music out on iTunes. You can put it out on social media. Now it’s too much. We need a filter, and I think, strangely, American Idol is back to be that filter once again. It could possibly bring that person out from all of the options, from all of the choices, from all of the noise that’s going on.

ABC is calling the new season of American Idol season one instead of season 16, choosing not to maintain continuity with the series’ run on Fox. The network has announced the premiere date for the revival: Sunday, March 11.