As the only original “American Idol” judge who remains on the show, Randy Jackson has seen thousands of contestants perform. But the “American Idol” finalist he has worked with the most closely folk/pop singer/songwriter Brooke White, who was on the show’s seventh season in 2008. White and Jackson formed the record label June Baby Records, which in 2009 released White’s second album, “High Hopes & Heartbreaks,” which was executive produced by Jackson. (White’s debut album, 2005’s “Songs From the Attic,” was released on independent label New Millennium Records.)
Now Jackson and White have teamed up again for the Walmart/Procter & GambleTV-movie “Change of Plans,” which premieres January 8 on Fox at 8 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time. White stars in the movie as Sally Danville, a singer/songwriter whose life is drastically altered when her best friend from college suddenly dies in an accident, and Sally and her husband, Jason (played by Joe Flanigan), are appointed the legal guardians of the friend’s four children, three of whom were adopted from Third World countries. Jackson has a cameo portraying himself in “Change of Plans.” Phylicia Rashad has a supporting role as a social worker named Dorothy.
White also performs three songs on the “Change of Plans” soundtrack, which is produced by Jackson. The “Change of Plans” soundtrack and DVD are being sold together as a bonus pack available exclusively at Walmart. “Change of Plans” and “American Idol” were the main topics when Jackson and White recently did a telephone conference call with reporters. During the interview, Jackson revealed a little bit about what viewers can expect in “American Idol” with new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. (Season 10 of “American Idol” begins airing on Fox with a two-part premiere on January 19 and January 20 at 8 p.m. Eastern/Pacific Time.) Jackson also commented on the fact that “American Idol” will be competing on Wednesdays against “Live to Dance,” the new reality show/contest from former “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul.
Brooke, like the theme of the movie, how has life been better than what you originally planned for when you first auditioned for “American Idol”?
White: That’s a funny question. I just said the parallel is quite perfect, actually. It was definitely something that I wasn’t anticipating. It kind of came out of left field. At first, I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t sure if acting was something I even wanted to do. I wasn’t out auditioning or doing anything like that.
My first day on set I hyperventilated a little bit, thinking, “I don’t know if I’m cut out for this.” Then we got to filming and we got a week in and I had been bitten by the acting bug and completely fell in love with the experience. It was better than anything I could have planned for myself, so yes.
Randy, how do you view the future of “American Idol” after the change of plans with the judges?
Jackson: Very good segue. I think “Idol’s” going to do really well this year. I think the addition of Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez have really added a different kind of zest and a freshness to it. I’ve been calling it “Idol Season 10: The Remix.” You take what was already great and you just kind of add a little extra spices to it, give it a whole “Emperor’s New Clothes” kind of vibe, but I think it’s going to do really, really well. I think people will be pleasantly surprised.
Brooke, since acting wasn’t on your agenda, first of all, what was the toughest part about acting since it wasn’t something you had really prepped for at the time?
White: Yes, and literally when I found I got the part I found out I got the part and then shipped off to Toronto within two days. So there was very little time to think or prepare, which was probably in my best interest because I was afraid. But gosh, what can I say was the hardest part about acting? Probably my 4:30 a.m. pick up every day. That was probably the hardest part.
I have to say, there were certain technical aspects I wasn’t super savvy to, but other than that it’s so supernatural just to get in. I think I was concerned about what if I forget, I’ve been known to forget lyrics here or there or whatever, and I was worried I would forget a line or two, but it really isn’t a big deal. You get in there and memorization of dialogue isn’t that big of a deal when you get there. I don’t know. I thought it was more fun than hard.
Since you play guitar, did you get to sing a few songs for the cameras?
White: I actually got to, and we obviously have Randy here on the line, I actually play a singer/songwriter in the movie, which was such a stretch for me, you know. But I was able to co-write three songs, which I actually sang in the movie all three of them, and Randy produced them.
Randy, can you talk about Brooke’s growth as a singer, what you’ve seen in producing her?
Jackson: Well, you know what’s really funny about people that enter “Idol” and then go through the trials and tribulations …
White: That’s a good way of putting it.
Jackson: What I look for the most is people when they exit the show, how well did they do after and how did they sustain their career and if they grow. Yes, Brooke has definitely grown as a writer, she’s grown as a singer, as a performer. I think she’s leaps and bounds where she was on “Idol” It’s just amazing. That’s the true mark of a real artist, how they grow over time.
We keep hearing that there may be a new Randy Jackson in Season 10 of “American Idol.” What do you say to that, and how do you see what you’re doing this season?
Jackson: Listen, I think what you see now is you see all sides of me. I think before people saw only one side because there was Paula [Abdul]. There was Simon [Cowell]. We all had our different things that we do. So I think you will see a new version of The Dog. There’s maybe a little bit more hair on The Dog, if you will.
In terms of adjectives, are you more business-like? Are you driving the action?
Jackson: No. I think it’s a little bit of everything. I think definitely you will see me take a little bit more of an assertive role because I’m the young veteran on the show, do you know what I’m saying, very, extremely, eternally young veteran on the show.
So I think you’ll see me take a little bit more of an assertive role in just trying to guide it a little bit. I won’t say that I’ve stepped into the Simon Cowell shoes, I don’t think those shoes could be filled, nor would I want to be in them. No, no, no, but listen, I think you’ll see a lot of excitement. I think you’ll be like, “Wow, Dog.” I guarantee you’re going to say that.
Have you made any New Year’s resolutions that are green?
White: That is actually a funny question. I’m actually throwing a baby shower for my friend and decided to send Evites instead of paper invitations.
Jackson: I love that. I’m just trying to get my kids to recycle even more, man, because there’s weekly allowance and I’m saying, “Hey, more recycling, more allowance.”
White: Hey, money talks, right?
Jackson: It definitely helps.
Randy, as far as “Idol” goes, what do you think of all these changes that are coming in, less reliance on instruments, the voting online, the showing of more behind the scenes elements, the save thing, the thing for your life thing? These are all new things this year, what do you think?
Jackson: I think, as I’ve been saying all along, I’ve been calling it “Idol Season 10: The Remix,” and I think we’re just trying to add things that enhances the viewers’ participation and the viewers’ interest even more. I think a lot of these things haven’t quite been confirmed, we’re working them out. We changed the middle rounds a bit, but I think it just makes the show more and more enjoyable now, Season 10.
On the one hand, people might thin about “American Idol” that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Then the other side is, “Well, let’s change it up.” You want to keep people interested. So where do you walk that line?
Jackson: I think that it’s still not completely baby out with the bath water. I think these are just some small changes. I think the biggest changes you’ll see are probably to the middle rounds. So it’s still the show that you know, still the show that you love. It ain’t being changed that much.
Do you think you’re going to be a little bit of a harsher critic this season?
Jackson: I think that I’ll be a little bit more differently assertive.
In what way?
Jackson: I think you’ll see other sides of The Dog, let me just say that, and you’ll go, “Wow, all right, Dog.”
What do you think Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez bring to the table?
Jackson: I think they bring what we have on the phone with us here, the great Brooke White. They bring that artist perspective because they’ve been successful artists for many, many years. I mean, Steven Tyler — 45 years and running with one of the greatest rock bands ever, and we can say that he’s a living legend.
We’ve got Jennifer; she’s got all three sides of the coin: the acting, the dancing and the singing, a true triple threat, so they’re bringing a different kind of awareness to it. What are you going to say as a contestant to Steven Tyler, who’s got a 45 year running career? At the top of the game as an artist. I think today artists would do good to have a 10 year career, let alone 45. I think they bring a lot to it. I think it’s exciting.
Brooke, do you any advice for the “American Idol” contestants?
White: Keep it short and simple. Don’t Google your own name, that’s what I say, and be you. Be you, don’t Google, work hard, have fun.
Randy, what do you think of the contestants so far?
Jackson: I think we’ve got some amazing talent this year. I think better talent than we’ve had in some years. I think we’re going to have a really interesting, successful winner, I’m predicting.
Male or female?
Jackson: I’m going to go with a female.
When you’re saying that, are there any standouts to you?
Jackson: Yes, I think there are some standouts on both sides, we’ll have to see, but I’m thinking it’s a girl’s year to lose.
Can you talk about the current climate that has certainly changed drastically for musicians in the past two years?
Jackson: I think what you have is the record industry’s probably in the worst place it’s ever been, but I think it allows for more creativity now. I think this movie is an example, “Change of Plans.” Brooke is starring in and performing three songs in the movie, and we’ve made a great soundtrack for her with a lot of great artists on it. I think what you have now is there are other ways to get your music out and other ways to try and break an artist and also to continue an artist’s career. So I think this movie is a testament to that. I think all the commercials, all the stuff that you’ve seen is a testament to that.
Let’s take a band like Muse, that’s been around probably 10 years or whatever and they’re on their fifth record or whatever, and they finally break over here with a commercial, a song, and a thing and now all of a sudden they’re everywhere here. It’s like the most important new band, even though this is their fifth album and they’ve been around for a while. I think it helps with new discovery. I think it’s just really trying to find out what are people watching, where is the biggest concentration, and I guess it speaks to that not everyone is listening to the same radio any more.
White: They’re everywhere. The thing that’s different now is that our audiences are very spread out. It’s not like we just have three channels on TV and FM or AM radio. Now between the Internet and video games and TV and Pandora radio, there’s just so many options. So the truth is we have to hit all of those. We have to be everywhere, which is challenging, but as Randy said, it’s an opportunity for us to be creative and step out of the box. Things aren’t going to be the same.
I think you can’t live in denial that things are going to be back to the way they were. It’s just a different climate musically and entertainment-wise, and that’s why we decide to become more multi-faceted. I consider myself, like I was a serious artist, not really looking to act, and then when this opportunity came it was like a well, you never know unless you try. This was the perfect opportunity because it wasn’t like I had to leave music behind. It was an integral part of the film and of the character, so it just made so much sense.
After seeing so many talented singers, what were the qualities about Brooke White that tripped your trigger?
Jackson: I loved Brooke from day one, I think we all did. I was so happy that she was successful on the show and did her thing. Listen, the show’s definitely tough. The pressure on these kids is unbelievable, but as I said earlier to someone, what I look for is growth after people leave the show. What are you going to do now that you’ve got the rocket ship to the top, you’ve got all of this presence in your life and people want to know what you do, what you think, musically where you’re going, you’ve gotten this “Idol” sendoff? What are you going to do with it?
So Brooke has continued to grow as an artist and what excites me the most is always the artist. I’m not much on the pop star thing. That’s never been my thing. I’ve been having a fortunate career all my life, for almost 30 years now, working with real artists as opposed to the pop stars. The difference is artists have long careers; pop stars have the flash in the pan. They’re hot this year, they’re lukewarm the next year, and then forgotten three years later. Brooke is really that artist, and that’s what I love, and she’s talented.
Brooke, when Randy first approached you, what did you think?
White: I would never have anticipated standing on that post-“Idol” that I would be working with Randy. I didn’t foresee it. Things just happened in a strange way. I remember we were actually both at Guitar Center, I was looking for a keyboard and he happened to be there at the same time as me. I don’t know if people watching from their TVs can tell how personable Randy is. He sits and takes his time to talk to everyone and he really was just talking about life after “Idol.” He was just so incredibly positive and said, “Hey, let’s keep in touch,” and before I knew it we started really, actually working together. He helped connect me with my management and has been a major player and supporter in my post-“Idol” life.
As he said, it is very difficult to survive and to stay present after “Idol,” and the trick is becoming an artist because the music business is becoming more and more difficult to sustain as an artist. Randy earlier said you’re lucky if you have a ten year career or more than one hit, and I think I’m really trying to adopt the, maybe not the rocket ship but the climb, and steadily and slowly building a career that I hope lasts. I’ve been super fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him, both on my own record and then to do this movie and the soundtrack. It’s just been a huge surprise and a blessing.
Jackson: Thanks, Brooke. We have a good time. You’ve got to have a good time no matter what you do.
White: Yes, you do.
It’s been a little while since “American Idol” has had a winner who’s sold millions of records. Randy, do you feel that there’s a pressure to get someone big out there?
Jackson: Listen, I’ve said all along, you say these things and you wonder who really listens and if people really want to know the truth, and what did Jack Nicholson say, a great line that Aaron Sorkin wrote, “You can’t handle the truth.” I don’t think people really want the truth because the truth really is in any record whether it’s “Idol,” whether it’s Sony Music with “Glee,” whether it’s Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, you can go down the line, any successful artist, the only success with records is based off of one simple thing: songs.
Not just songs, great songs, hit songs and a great record. So we can attribute the fact that some of these Idols that have won or came in runner ups or whatever that didn’t do well, we can look at those records and probably say they may have thought that these were great records, but the public didn’t think so. Therefore, the public didn’t show up and didn’t buy it.
If we were selling salt and the public didn’t like it, they wouldn’t buy it so it wouldn’t be a success. I think it’s really about the records. It’s not about what the show does. The show gives them the vehicle. I also think the other thing that people mistake is that “Idol” gives you the rocket ship to jump into the brass golden circle with all of the artists that you love. Say you’re a Madonna fan or you’re a Gaga fan, so guess what, you get on “Idol.” You do your thing, you become this dance kind of club kind of artist and you get to duke it out with Gaga and Madonna, so your songs are going to have to be equally as good or better than them in order to win. So it doesn’t give you the win, it gives you the opportunity to jump into the ring.
You and your label and your producers and writers have to do the rest. I always tell people, I don’t care where you find a song, I don’t care who writes it, whatever it is, find the best song you can get because, dude, that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. When it comes out, either they’re going to like it or not, they won’t care who produced, who wrote, what the label is, what show it came from.
White: That’s why “Idol” is so successful is because we’re up on stage singing great songs that have stood the test of time, and that’s the challenge as you come off the show and now you’ve got to compete with that image of yourself singing classic songs.
Jackson: It’s the success with “Glee.” Brooke is right. They’re singing cover songs. They’re singing great songs that are already proven.
White: The familiarity factor. It’s difficult and it’s not easy. There’s a magic that happens when you get a great song, and it doesn’t happen every day and you’re lucky if you get to even have one or write a few.
Jackson: The one thing that’s true, they’re really hard to find. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what the label, whoever’s what, they’re really hard to find. If they weren’t, the music industry would be flourishing right now.
White: Then we’d all be doing it.
Randy, how do you rate Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez as judges?
Jackson: I think they’re doing extremely well. I think that we’ve all gotten some great chemistry, chemistry happened like magic. We had a dinner one night and five minutes into the dinner, it was like we’d all known each other and known each other’s careers before that. I think they’ve become really good judges of talent. I don’t think that there’s any way you can achieve the success that the two of them have achieved in their own careers without being a great judge of talent, because remember you have to judge yourself as well and usually if you’re like me you’re your own worst critic. So I tell every artist never to read their own press, because there are as many people that love you as hate you and you probably are tougher on yourself than anyone will ever be. I think they’ve become really, really good.
With Simon Cowell gone from “American Idol,” do you think with Jennifer and Steven that you’re going to recreate some of that kind of independence on the panel, where people are going to have a different kind of relationship?
Jackson: Yes, I think that you will definitely see a lot more of that this year. I think we lost a little bit of it in seasons past, but you’re right, that was the whole idea. This show, this panel, like Brooke with this movie, the acting cast in this movie “Change of Plans,” it’s like being in a great band.
The thing that I love about bands — and I’ve been in many bands, thank God, some successful ones with the Journey boys and everything — is that you’re bound to like one of us. We’re going to give you so many looks you’re bound to like somebody. So I love that. It’s the same thing with this movie. It’s a great cast in this movie “Change of Plans.” Brooke’s co-starring in it with a bunch of great people, she’s singing songs in it.
White: You may like Phylicia Rashad.
Jackson: Yes, she’s amazing.
White: Who doesn’t?
How did you feel about your acting, Randy?
Jackson: I was kind of playing myself.
White: Which he does very well.
Jackson: Yes, The Dog was always good playing himself. Do you know what I’m saying? I would do it. Listen, I had a good time doing my little cameo in the movie. Brooke was amazing in this film. She did a great job. This is a great family first movie. I think a lot of people will enjoy watching this movie and enjoy seeing Brooke in it.
Brooke, do you have any other acting gigs lined up yet?
White: I do not have them lined up at the moment. I’m just enjoying the release of “Chane of Plans” here, and actually I just saw it for the first time, the full cut.
Jackson: What did you think, Brooke?
White: There are those few moments, like the answering machine syndrome where you hear your voice back and you’re like, “I don’t sound like that, do I? Please don’t tell me I sound like that.” I had some answering machine syndrome, but the majority of it I was just pleasantly, I don’t want to say relieved, I was surprised, I was happy with it.
I think it’s such an endearing, sweet film and it’s all about these little moments between the characters I think that really define the story and just the whole theme of sometimes the change of plans are better than anything that you could have come up with yourself, like this acting gig.
Are you going to plan to watch it again when it airs on TV?
White: If I’m home from New York. I’m going to be on a flight back so if I make it home in time, I’m definitely planning on setting my DVR so I can watch it and see it on the TV.
Jackson: I’m going to watch it. I’m going to sit and watch the movie with my family, man. It’s a great family film. Brooke did an amazing job in it. She sings three songs in the movie that I produced and co-wrote the songs and it’s really, I mean, change of plans, we’ve all had that in our lives, right?
Who else is on the soundtrack?
White: Actually, Michael [Johns] co-wrote one of the songs with me.
Jackson: Yes, he co-wrote one of the songs. We got a group called the Canyons. Sarah West is on it. There’s a bunch of other great new artists. There’s Steven Manuel. There’s a bunch of Charlie Peacock artists. It’s a very cool soundtrack.
Brooke, what was it like working with Phylicia Rashad, and was there anything that surprised you?
White: Yes, I have to say at first I was so intimidated because she’s like a queen, she’s regal and so refined, and obviously legendary, but she couldn’t have been more warm. Actually, she really would sit me down and just talk to me about the business, and she’s not just an actress, she’s a real performer on many levels, she also sings, and I really connected with her. She’s hilarious. She’s got a great sense of humor. I can’t believe that I, on my first acting gig, got to work with Phylicia Rashad.
Randy, in terms of “Idol” alumni do you think anyone else has the acting chops that could do what Brooke did?
Jackson: Brooke is amazing in this film. I think she probably even surprised herself seeing that she could do it and be this comfortable and good at it the first time out. Yes, I think a bit of being a great performer is a bit of acting in it, so I think there’s a lot of these kids. Adam Lambert certainly could do that. He’s had a bit of a stage career before. I could see Chris Daughtry doing stuff. I certainly could see Kellie Pickler. I could see Carrie Underwood. I think there’s a lot of these kids that could, yes.
Season 10 of “American Idol” has been billed as something to find the total entertainer. Is there anything on this season that approximates an acting challenge?
Jackson: No, there’s nothing of that, but as I said, when you see Gaga, when you see every great performer like that, you’ve seen a bit of acting.
White: Yes, it’s a character. They’re creating a character.
Jackson: Yes, it’s quite a bit of acting. So I think a lot of these people could lend themselves to this very easily. Now that we have the triple threat on the agenda for Lopez, she’s an actress, dancer, and singer, so I think you see a lot of that go on. Madonna’s done some acting too as well. You see a lot of that.
White: What about connecting at the end of the day? I think whether you’re on a stage or you’re on a screen it’s about really making an authentic connection, and that’s what we have to do. Not that it’s easy, but that’s what it’s all about.
Are there any plans to celebrate the 10th season of “American Idol”?
Jackson: Oh, yes. Look, man, Ryan [Seacrest] and I are going to throw so many parties, dude, it’s going to be dizzying. I tell you, we’re going to throw down, man. I’m saying, what, come on, season 10 remix.
Randy, “American Idol” is going head-to-head on Wednesday nights with “Live to Dance,” the new reality show from your friend and former “Idol” judge Paula Abdul. Have you talked to Paula about that at all? Do you think it will be a friendly competition, or will the claws be coming out?
Jackson: No, we didn’t speak about that. We spoke a couple of weeks ago. She’s doing great. I know she’s excited about her show “Live to Dance,” so I’m excited for her. Look, it’s going to be friendly competition and fire. I’m sure both shows will do well.
How would you describe Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez’s approaches with the contestants and with critiquing them?
Jackson: Listen, I think they’re doing an amazing, amazing job because people often hesitate when it’s an artist giving a critique, an artist that is still constantly on the charts all the time and in the headlines. But I think they’re doing a really, really good job and giving them honest critiques. I think Steven has been very funny. I think Jennifer has been very loving. It’s going to be fun. I think people will definitely enjoy this. I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised.
Brooke, what type of roles do you think you’d like to pursue next?
White: That’s a really interesting question. I don’t know. I think this role was very close to who I am, I think.
Jackson: Yes, perfect.
White: It was a dead ringer. Sally can’t cook. I can’t cook. Singer/songwriter. We were very similar in certain aspects, but it would be interesting to try something a little out of the box for me. I’m not really sure but I would be willing to, I don’t know it would be interesting to try something that’s just a little bit out of the, I don’t know, the Brooke box. I don’t know what that means exactly, but it would be an interesting to try to be a different type of character, I guess.
What is it about “American Idol” alumni that enables them to be successful in other avenues besides singing?
White: I guess. You know what, really, “American Idol” gives us a massive advantage, and that is to be seen, not just heard, but to be seen. We’re really presented to people not just as singers but as people. I think that gives us a connection. When you’re in people’s living rooms week after week you really do make that connection with people.
So when you come off the show, it’s amazing, when I see people on the street they ask me funny things, like, “Are you still a nanny?” or “So you still play barefoot?” or “Did your husband cut his hair? Really funny questions. “I’m sorry that you missed your sister’s wedding.” People pick up on these little personal elements about who you are and so I think because of that it lends more opportunities to us.
TV and film and commercials, those things are opportunities that come, those are the doors that open from “American Idol,” and we’re very, very fortunate. The trick is just to keep them opening and to keep walking through them. And thanks to Randy, and I mean this, thanks to Randy he’s been a big part in keeping those doors open for me, so I’ve been really fortunate.
For more info:
“Change of Plans” website
“American Idol” website
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Interview with Randy Jackson for “American Idol” (2010)
Interview with Simon Cowell for “American Idol” (2010)
Interview with Kara DioGuardi for “American Idol” (2010)
“American Idol” Los Angeles press conference (2010)
Interview with Steven Tyler for “American Idol” (2011)
Interview with Randy Jackson for “American Idol” (2012)
“Change of Plans” news and reviews
“American Idol” news and reviews